I decided to see if I couldn’t break my recent case of reader’s block by re-reading a book I loved back when I was in college: Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. So far, my little ploy is working – I’m over 100 pages in and I haven’t gotten bored with it, so it looks like that for the first time in awhile, I may be sticking with a non-comics book for the duration. Yay me.
There’s been a downside, though – unexpected, although honestly, I should have seen it coming.
Have you ever gone back and tried to re-experience the things you enjoyed as an angsty teenager / early-twentysomething? They don’t always hold up so well, do they?
Don’t get me wrong… it’s still a decent book; otherwise, I wouldn’t waste my time reading it. The story, though not particularly dynamic, is compelling, the characters are mostly interesting, and I certainly appreciate the craft of Coupland’s writing style. He has a dandy way with a phrase sometimes. The dialogue, though? Yeesh.
Here’s what I compare it to: did you ever have a stoner roommate who’d get really high and then prattle on endlessly about all manner of nonsense, all the while convinced he or she was actually being really profound? Yeah, the dialogue not only does all that, but it drinks the bong water when it’s done.
See, the book is about this group of people who all are coders and bug-checkers for Microsoft. One of them gets this idea for some admittedly cool sounding software (It’s a game! It’s a design tool! It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!), so they all leave MS to start their own company. It’s very early 90s. Anyway, in between all of the action (such as it is), they talk. A lot. About the computer industry. About coding. About logic. About human-as-computer metaphors. About Lego. About The Mary Tyler Moore Show. No one can just talk about, to use an example from the book, wanting to try Crystal Pepsi. They have to comment upon the increasing number of transparent products in modern society, and whether or not this indicates a decline in the spiritual substance of the world (or some such malarkey). No one ever gave that much thought to Crystal Pepsi - not even the people at Pepsi.
Maybe at one time I found this sort of “human nature meets junk culture” discussion vaguely interesting, but now I find myself wishing Coupland would lay off the pipe and go outside to get some fresh air for a few minutes (and while we’re on the subject, maybe he could stop eating all my Cheetos, too).