Worst. Person. Ever. is Douglas Coupland’s first novel in three years, the last being the experimental real-time Player One. With classic Coupland themes, such as communication, the passage of time and death, Player One was a great novel with exactly the right amount of the surreal.
Worst. Person. Ever. is the first constantly laugh-out-loud novel that Coupland has written. All his books feature humour, but never as across the board as this. The story follows Raymond Gunt, a cameraman from London, who treats everyone appallingly. He is, in turn, treated appallingly. When given a break by his ex-wife, in the form of a job shooting a reality TV show in Kiribati, he needs an assistant, but has no friends. Gunt brings along Neal, a homeless man obsessed with new wave and post-punk music.
The humour comes from either Gunt’s brilliantly filthy mouth, or the situations he manages to get himself into. Fans of John Niven’s Straight White Male will recognise elements of that novel’s protagonist in the combination of sexual and bodily fluid words as insults.
Somehow, even though Gunt never does anything nice for anyone else, readers will like him. That is Coupland’s masterstroke; taking a man who teases people to death, and making the reader enjoy him rather than just completely loathe him.
Douglas Coupland’s familiar surreal notes penetrate the novel. Bombs, transsexuals, world war and bizarre sex are everywhere here. But the most striking technique of Coupland’s is the aside of information about whatever the characters are talking about. This device, which resembles excerpts from Wikipedia, are used to great comic effect. It could be a piece about allergies after someone eats a nut, it could be an explanation of a sex position. These deadpan explanations work really well, even if it times the reader questions how accurate they might be.
If there is a message, as there usually is in Coupland’s work, it’s unclear here. However, Worst. Person. Ever is just too much fun. Watching Neal, previously homeless, rise above Raymond is very funny, and every comic set piece is executed perfectly. Fans of Coupland will be glad to know that, though different, this is a very well written and hilarious novel. Readers of John Niven and Irvine Welsh looking for a good, unkind, filthy laugh will do well to seek this out upon its release on October 3rd.