Douglas ‘Buzz’ Coupland’s new novel, ‘Generation A’, takes as its premise the disappearance of bees, much discussed in the press in the wake of hive collapse. The tale is told in an unfolding multi-part personal/police statement/autobiography mode. It works mostly well until the storytelling parts in the second half, which are really OK in themselves, but a great chance for some structuralist play was missed I feel. The links are there, but I am not sure Buzz knows how to join up the sides of his hexagon as well as he might have. A few weeks more work could have been good. Nevertheless, this book is as readable as the other DC highlights (eg ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, and the magnificent ‘All Families are Psychotic’). The distraction of the cover art gimmick (design your own colours for the jacket – I chose yellow!) and the lame title, dissuades the reader, and perhaps the author, from engagement with the covert security forces aspect of the scenario as written. War on terror meets eco-catastrophe is the topical theme of our times, yet this is not yet the novel that breaches the impasse of mere commentary. Terrible thing to say about literature, but I wanted it to do more – and instead, well, a meditation on celebrity is the danger here: I almost yawned at those parts. Although the boy’s own adventure espionage aspects are well rendered, they do not approach the necessary allegorical harshness required to compete with texts like Paglin and Thompson’s Torture Taxi. We live in dangerous times, and need a dangerous literature to engage. More cross pollination would not have hurt this text, I can’t help but feel there’s something a little flat about the landscape. All those rendition flights, and the stereotyped mad scientists, and the detention regimes, are treated with lightness and humour, and – fuck me with the tourette’s character’s PDA – I’m still not laughing over the war. I’m not over it, sorry. And getting all misty for the bees isn’t enough, no matter how much the Calvino inspired narrative game appeals (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller… echoes strongly here). I like Coupland in a Canadian way, its good, it should be read, but there could be more than a lame colouring-in participatory aspect to the reading.
Do you like the yellow cover I’ve designed? – no creativity there then. We are doomed. Buzz buzz buzz.
And do you remember the opening credits of of the 1985’s Luc Besson film ‘Subway’?
“To do is to be” — Descartes
“To be is to do” — Sartre
“Doo, bee, doo, bee, doo” — Sinatra
That’d be name dropping then, Cristopher Lambert – even if Jean-Hugues Anglade was in it, Lambert was good here. But speaking of Anglade, couldn’t his co-star from ‘Betty Blue’, Beatrice Dalle, play ‘Diana’ in the movie of Coupland’s book? Shahrukh Khan as ‘Harj’ (though not Sri Lankan, still… but drop the ridiculous Apu routine). Kurt Cobain as ‘Zack’ of course… Am I dreaming up an impossible cast? There are five roles. I probably need to get all hexagrammatical here too:
Ever wonder why bees use hexagons to make beehives? Two reasons. First, bees want to enclose the largest possible space with the least amount of wax. With this in mind, a circle would be best. So why don’t they use circular combs? Because hexagons are the shape with the most sides that “tesselate”. In other words, if you put a bunch of hexagons next to each other there will be no spaces between them. No shape with more than six sides will do this.