September 28, 2008
The Gum Thief By Douglas Coupland Bloomsbury Pounds 7.99
By LAURENCE PHELAN
The Gum Thief is an epistolary novel largely consisting of the diary entries which two employees of a Vancouver branch of the office supplies store Staples leave for one another to find. Roger is a middle-aged, divorced alcoholic, who "was about as human as a box of discounted tax software" before he began corresponding with his muse, Bethany, a 24-year-old goth who lives with her mother and for whom, "there's such a difference between the world I grew up expecting and the world I got". With Bethany's encouragement, Roger begins writing his novel Glove Pond, a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf-kind of bleak farce. The extracts of this work in progress contain The Gum Thief's biggest laughs as well as most of its pathos.
Circular and basically plotless, The Gum Thief must rank among the more minor of Coupland's dozen novels, but it is still a touching story about the transformative power of writing and the value of human connection. And it still has on most pages images or ideas capable of making either the head or the heart race.
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