Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Canadian Book Challenge: All Families Are Psychotic - Douglas Coupland

Title and author of this book? What the subhead says. (That came out a little obnoxious, didn't it?)

Fiction or nonfiction? Fiction

What led you to pick up this book? Two things led me to pick up this book: 1) I'm participating in The Canadian Book Challenge, and this book is fulfills my requirement for British Columbia. 2) I joined Aaron's book group on Facebook, and this was his first selection.

Summary: The Drummond family has been estranged for quite some time, but they're all together now in Florida to witness their daughter and sister, Sarah, an astronaut, launch into space. This family runs through catastrophes like pigs through the corn. For starters, Janet, the mother of the Drummond clan and her husband's new trophy wife, Nickie, contracted the HIV virus from Janet's son, Wade on the same day 3 years prior to the opening of the novel in an incident that is purely FUBB. Reunited, with the addition of 2 pregnant women (Wade's wife and Bryan's girlfriend) in tow, this family spends the next three days instigating or participating in every illicit activity available, with the exception of Sarah. She's safely cloistered at Cape Canaveral, awaiting takeoff, getting updates from her family and planning something for space that shows she's truly a Drummond.

What did you like best about this book? Douglas Coupland and I are almost exact contemporaries -- he's 19 days younger -- so his cultural references hit me with a crystalline perfection. Another thing I liked is that All Families Are Psychotic reminds me of the Bluth family in Arrested Development. I wonder, did the creators read this novel as they were conceiving the series? Bryan from this novel reminds me so much of Buster Bluth. Finally, setting this totally whack family in the totally whack state of Florida (I think I'll be shaking my head over the 2000 election for the rest of my life) was a hilarious stroke of genius.

Have you read any other books by this author? Coupland is one of those authors I've always meant to read. All Families... is my first time out with him. I'd like to try another. I'm taking suggestions; Aaron has already suggested JPod.

What do you think of the main character? Janet seemed a little cartoonish, then she seemed to get more human, especially in her interactions, past and present, with Wade, her eldest child. Then, towards the end of the novel during the family's encounter with Gayle and Lloyd, she seems to be veering towards cartoon-land again.

Any other interesting characters? Wade's all right, but everyone else is an unlikeable cartoon character. It was fun to see the self-named Shw, Bryan's pregnant anarchist girlfriend wreak havoc. She reminds me of an older version of Maeby Funke in Arrested Development.

What about the ending? Not what I'd hoped. A little too neatly wrapped up. Trust me, this family cannot be contained!


kookie said...

I'm a little wary of Coupland because he can be a little 'experimental' at times, but you comparing this family to the Bluths has me very intrigued! I loved 'Arrested Development'.

Anonymous said...

This sounds hilarious, and would probably make a very good movie :)

raych said...

Hey, thanks for dropping by! Sometimes I think I'm running that book blog just for my own benefit, so I don't forget the books I read (mind like a sieve). I read your review of Polysyllabic (Something - I forget and I can't go back now because I'll lose this comment) the Nick Hornby book, and I laughed out loud. I will definitely be stopping by in the future.

Bookfool said...

I read Girlfriend in a Coma and loved it.

John Mutford said...

Hey wasn't the family from "Diff'rent Strokes" the Drummonds? Then, knowing Coupland's fascination with pop culture, that probably wasn't accidental.