Spoiler Free Douglas Coupland The Gum Thief

Roger is not where he wants to be, working at Staples well past the age where that would have been noble. Bethany is Roger’s much younger co-worker who discovers that he’s a writer, or at least he’s attempting to be. What follows is a collection of letters and emails written by the characters that move the story along revealing the world as we know it.

For a novel published in 2007, The Gum Thief is either surprisingly or depressingly prescient. And I say that with the full knowledge that 2007 was not that long ago even though it feels like another generation ago.

This novel is novel in its concept. Yes, it’s Roger writing his first novel Glove Pond which we get to read, but it’s also Roger writing to Bethany, or Bethany writing to Roger, or Bethany’s mom DeeDee writing to Roger.

Author Douglas Coupland

Author Douglas Coupland

There are a few other characters who get to write emails or letters in this book, but I’ve introduced the main three. From these perspectives, we get some classic Coupland observations that I would like to share with you now, in the hopes that they either make you think, brighten your day, or encourage you to pick up this book for yourself. Any of those outcomes is great, by the way.

“A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age–regardless of how they look on the outside–pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.”
This is actually the first sentence in the book on page one. It doesn’t quite establish the tone for the rest of the book, but it’s not far off.

“…People armed with shopping carts who know what they want and where they’re going will always cream clueless people standing in the middle of aisles holding vague shopping lists.”
This feels like a metaphor I’m likely to return to often. It’s succinct but speaks volumes about the world we inhabit.

“I look back on when I was younger, back in the 1990s, and how naive and goofy everything was back then, but it was like this happy bubble, a time snack, a little patch of bliss before the shitstorm.” Ahh, yes, the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

“God only knows how many trillions of memories are stored inside us–memories we’ll never retrieve simply because we don’t have a device that allows us to browse them properly.” The human brain is more complicated and sophisticated than we give it credit for, but perhaps our lack of its understanding is a feature and not a flaw?

“Write me–but I don’t know where I’ll be, so there’s no address to give you. Isn’t that all of life compressed into a sentence?” Yes, yes it is.

I loved this book, but then, I’ve become a fan of Coupland, so I guess it’s time for me to determine who would enjoy this book beyond fans of Coupland.

People who enjoy speaking of ennui will enjoy this book, along with writers and creators. Academics may or may not like this book depending on how far towards tenure their career path has taken them.

But, most of all, anyone who is lost will enjoy this book as a refreshing and warm blanket reminding you that you are not alone.


Read the Secret File of technical information and quotes from The Gum Thief.