Hey Nostradamus! (Review)

Hey Nostradamus! (Review)

rom the brilliant cultural writer Douglas Coupland comes this (as always) social commentary of the cheap-landscapes and aimless-times we live in (you might remember him from his breakout work, Generation X, the book which defined that term decades ago). As always, he’s a good writer to produce a book you can curl around when you feel the world is tragic, stupid and pointless.

So Hey Nostradamus! is told from the points of view of four primary characters. And they are:

Cheryl, in 1988, a young high school girl who is comfortably religious, a member of a group of high school evangelicals, and secretly Vegas-married to her boyfriend Jason because she desired to be wed before they shared sex. And currently she’s under a cafeteria table experiencing that very-American moment, the high-school mass shooting. We can hear her earnest prayers (and those of the students around her) as each of them wait for one of the three gunmen to get around to killing her. And, yes, they do. She dies.

Switch to Jason, in 1999, the young widower of Cheryl, drifting through an aimless life, rebelling against his father Reg (with his unforgiving iron-clad faith with which he labels his son a murderer because he bashed out one of the gunmen’s brains with a rock) and getting nowhere. His drug use is a problem and at one point, in a muddle of memories, he does something wrong which pisses off some crime element and he is nearly killed (this time, when he escapes, he shows mercy to the person tasked with killing him). His section is the largest element of the book and contains the most observations about American life and American religion.

And then there is Heather, 2002, with whom Jason had a relationship with. They met in a store shortly after Jason’s section and started a goofy game where they would make up stories and descriptions of make-believe characters, cartoonish and sweet. Of course, you might notice the word “had” that I started this section with. Jason is now missing, seemingly vanished, and Heather is desperate to find him. And that’s when an admittedly-fake psychic calls her and begins relating these strange cutsy stories to her, stories that nobody could have known outside of Jason and herself.

And finally Reg in 2003, who rounds out the book with his discussions with Heather, a man who has lost both sons (Jason and the other), whose religion has slowly been ground down and now faces doubts. And, after all the horrible things he said and did, I was really curious to get around to his POV.

The book has a number of interesting shocks and surprises, as well as interesting points about religion and the people it serves. And then there is always the Coupland look at our strip-mall, casual-drug and violence-filled American lives. Really, I did enjoy this tale of four short stories that form a fifth – and greater – story by their collection. Worth a read for those not hidebound to romance or scifi or whatever. Check it out.