Hey Nostradamus!: A Novel Hardcover – 2003
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Considering some of his past subjects--slackers, dot-commers, Hollywood producers--a Columbine-like high school massacre seems like unusual territory for the usually glib Douglas Coupland. Anyone who has read Generation X or Miss Wyoming knows that dryly hip humour, not tragedy, is the Vancouver author's strong suit. But give the guy credit for twisting his material in strange, unexpected shapes. Coupland begins his seventh novel by transposing the Columbine incident to North Vancouver circa 1988. Narrated by one of the (murdered) victims, the first part of Hey Nostradamus! is affecting and emotional enough to almost make you forget you're reading a book by the same writer who so accurately characterized a generation in his first book, yet was unable to delineate a convincing character. As Cheryl Anway tells her story, the facts of the Delbrook Senior Secondary student's life--particularly her secret marriage to classmate Jason--provide a very human dimension to the bloody denouement that will change hundreds of lives forever. Rather than moving on to explore the conditions that led to the killings, though, Coupland shifts focus to nearly a dozen years after the event: first to Jason, still shattered by the death of his teenage bride, then to Jason's new girlfriend Heather, and finally to Reg, Jason's narrow-minded, religious father.
Hey Nostradamus! is a very odd book. It's among Coupland's most serious efforts, yet his intent is not entirely clear. Certainly there is no attempt at psychological insight into the killers' motives, and the most developed relationships--those between Jason and Cheryl, and Jason and Reg--seem to have little to do with each other. Nevertheless, it is a Douglas Coupland book, which means imaginatively strange plot developments--as when a psychic, claiming messages from the Beyond, tries to extort money from Heather--that compel the reader to see the story to its end. And clever turns of phrase, as usual, are never in short supply, but in Cheryl's section the fate we (and she) know awaits her gives them an added weight: "Math class was x's and y's and I felt trapped inside a repeating dream, staring at these two evil little letters who tormented me with their constant need to balance and be equal with each other," says (writes? transmits?) the deceased narrator. "They should just get married and form a new letter together and put an end to all the nonsense. And then they should have kids." --Shawn Conner
“Tempered with Coupland’s wry wit and acute observations, it adds up to an irresistible read.”
“[One of] two of the most interesting novels of the year…. [It’s] inclusion would certainly have made the Giller’s or the Governor-General’s a more interesting list.”
—Noah Richler, National Post
“Fate is the psychological trigger in this often-hilarious novel, and Coupland knows when to trip the emotional safety catch.”
“…[I]n Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland has fashioned his most serious and mature novel so far, mixing his youthful, exuberant prose with a certain compassion and restraint we haven’t seen from him before.…The leading literary voice of the most cynical generation lets it all out in a blaze of spirituality, terror, high comedy and soul-searching, and does it all in a way that is caring and clever, heart-breaking and hilarious, tough and tender. Hey Nostradamus! is not only Coupland’s best novel, but also one of the best of the year.”
“In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the “equation that makes it all equate.”
“…profoundly topical…[R]eligious angst has never been made so entertaining.”
“Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
—Canadian Press, Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)
“ …[Coupland] gets us thinking about spirituality and the meaning of life, and no matter how bad things get, when you put the book down you can’t help but feel hope, which is a comfort.”
“…moving and tenderly beautiful….replete with Coupland’s breathtaking observations on consumer culture.”
“The sharply observed immediacy of [Coupland’s] prose continues to impress.”
—Pat Donnelly, The Gazette
“In…Hey Nostradamus! Douglas Coupland, the Vancouver-based author of Generation X, tells the devastating story of a Columbine-like high-school massacre and explores questions of faith, hope, and good and evil.”
—The Calgary Herald
“Issues of religion, faith, violence, alienation and trust are explored…. Coupland’s writing is brilliant.”
—Christina M. Hinke, The Examiner, The Daily News (Halifax), The Nugget, The Intelligencer, The Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)
“Poignant, page-turning prose.”
“Being the literary king of pop..., readers again are treated to the author’s sometimes bizarre style of mixing details of popular culture into some very deep thoughts about the meaning of life.”
—The Toronto Sun
“This novel is a compelling read...it has unquestionable virtues and is well worth attention.”
“Hey Nostradamus! has little to do with apocalyptic predictions and everything to do with searching for hope and redemption.”
“Coupland’s eighth novel is a successful break from his norm and is a moving and memorable book.”
—Imprint, University of Waterloo Student Newspaper
“Coupland displays his knack for magnifying the lives of ‘statistically average’ individuals and showing us the universality of their experiences, their dreams and their suffering...In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland takes an insightful look at religion, loss and forgiveness and how everyone is always looking for, as he puts it, the ‘equation that makes it all equate.’”
—The Calgary Herald
“Coupland has become a master of suspense and pacing. Hey Nostradamus! is a cannily crafted page-turner. There’s always the feeling that something is just around the bend: catharsis, comprehension, a good plot twist...The story is riveting, with just enough fucked-up touches to make it surreally believable...this is an excellent, skilfully written story.”
“Coupland is justly famous for his social satire. He has the ability to capture the ethos of a time through the most mundane details.”
“The book lets the reader ponder deeply...the questioning of faith and belief systems that takes this novel to soaring heights. As Plato would see it, Douglas Coupland may be a seer of sorts — a truth-teller leading the way out of darkness.”
‘His best novel yet… an outstanding work that crackles in every sentence.’
‘Coupland can really write — his prose, pithy and aphoristic, occasionally deepens into lyricism… Worth reading, if only for the superb drama of the school shootings and for the subtlety and charm of Cheryl’s narrative voice.’
‘It’s a leap sideways from the acid irony which has shaded some of Coupland’s earlier novels. Instead, from the pen of one of the coolest authors on the planet has come a work of suffusing humanity.’
‘Hey Nostradamus! is Coupland’s first novel to feature a full complement of three-dimensional characters… He seems to have reached a new plane of philosophical awareness… It is a measure of Coupland’s new-found objectivity that he grants Reg the final word. The masterful concluding section of the book presents a pitiful portrait of a wretched, broken figure who has come to realize that he terrorized others as a means of extinguishing the terror within himself… Somewhere deep in Coupland’s consciousness is a little door marked “greatness”. He may slip through it yet.’
‘A moving novel… Coupland uses a multiplicity of voices to work out his sense of the joyous abundance and hopeless inadequacy of human existence, all refracted through the trauma of the massacre. This is a much deeper analysis of violence and social exclusion than the solemn commentary one usually reads about Columbine high school and similar events, and one which lingers in the mind long after the theorizing has dissipated, like a still photograph.’
‘Coupland has come of age in Hey Nostradamus! — a controlled diamond-tip that drills to the heart of the human condition…. At turns harrowing and uplifting, it never ceases to engage the heart and mind, and leaves us safe in the knowledge that even through so much raw devastation, time does heal.’
—Sunday Tribune (Dublin)
‘Hey Nostradamus! is a cathartic read, because Coupland is clearly not a writer prone to sitting alone in his ivory tower. His world is a fully interactive one that allows him as easily to slip into the skin of a pretty young girl as that of a stubborn old man.’
‘Drily witty at times, but also serious, involved and compassionate… the work of an author who has reached a new level of maturity, more skilled at crafting characters and restrained enough to apply his famous wit unobtrusively.’
‘Four perspectives, one brilliant author’
‘Douglas Coupland has surely reserved his place at the top table of North American fiction.’
—Independent on Sunday
‘The four narrators of Hey Nostradamus! are all searching for meaning. There is Cheryl, frozen in time at 17, a mixture of naivety and pragmatism; Jason, fated to conform to the label of “the boy who never got over it”; lonely, sensible Heather, who falls in love with Jason, and Jason’s tyrannical religious father Reg… A penetrating novel about faith, grief, love and the possibility of redemption, as readable and engaging as Coupland at his best.’
‘Tough, accomplished and subtle, it addresses all the big issues — God, suffering, miracles, family life, why bad things happen to good people — without ever becoming grandiose or pretentious. This is far too wise a book to offer answers, but it affirms that seeking them is a necessary part of our humanity.’
‘Beautiful and melancholic, like the sight of birds migrating at the end of summer, Hey Nostradamus! shows Coupland doing what he’s best at: creating characters who are questing but foredoomed, romantic but sad, all of them floundering between desire and requital.’
‘As definitive as Generation X, and more affecting’
—Rod Liddle, Arena (UK)
“Douglas Coupland gets better and better … [Hey Nostrodamus’] final pages are the most powerful words Coupland has ever written.”
Praise for All Families Are Psychotic:
“As rich as an ovenful of fresh-baked brownies and twice as nutty. . . . Everyone with a strange family -- that is, everyone with a family -- will laugh knowingly at the feuding, conducted with a maestro’s ear for dialogue and a deep understanding of humanity. Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Nevertheless, I remain drawn to the novels of Douglas Coupland, who like me is from Vancouver. That despite his being an extreme example of "write what you know"--his characters are pretty much all young, white, and middle class; they live in the Western United States or just across the border in Canada; when they travel, they go to Vegas or Oregon or Seattle, never to Alberta or New York (forget about Japan or Madagascar); they all talk and think in some variation of semi-ironic, simile-heavy, pop-referencing Coupland-speak; their themes are sudden loss, pointless death, loneliness, running away, and vague dread, even from the afterlife; their tales often start strong and then slowly vaporize rather than coming to a strong conclusion. Clanking devices indeed.
Somehow, though, I don't care. His novels are better than his non-fiction, which (while entertaining) feels dashed-off, undisciplined, and improperly researched. In fiction, he takes advantage of those same tendencies to write with a strange propulsion, even when his characters are doing nothing but sitting and thinking. The stories are short but dense. His eye for detail evokes the true feelings of a place. Even his weakest books, such as "Shampoo Planet," "Girlfriend in a Coma," and "Miss Wyoming," have something to say, although neither the reader nor the writer might know exactly what that is.
"Hey Nostradamus!," from 2003, is an extreme example.Read more ›
The novel told through the eyes of four people, and each person was strongly impacted by the narrator before him or her. The story begins with two high school sweethearts, Cheryl and Jason, who love each other immensely and get secretly married (both because they love each other and because they want to have sex without committing a sin).Read more ›
It is written from four seperate points of view, stretching in time from 1988 to 2003. Each character brings something new to the table in terms of angle and perspective, and helps to give the reader a well defined picture of the characters.
Spiritually speaking, all the characters have different beleifs and concepts of faith raging from Jason's (the novel's main character) antediluvian father Reg to the religiously disinterested Heather, who herself claims to be "weak on religion". It is through these religious differences that Coupland focuses on interpersonal relationships, a common theme of his and ultimately what the book falls back upon. He paints a strong, rather emotional, picture of how religious persuasions can influence and be influenced by, major events in our lives.
The book is certainly well written, Coupland is no doubt one of the better pop writers of the time, although it did leave me wanting a little more. Whilst the subject matter is rather emotional, I was expecting to be a little more overwhlemed by the book, quite possibly a flaw in my expectations rather than the novel itself. Having said that, it is a highly engaging book that will entertain you and make you think, if not about your own beliefs, then about how you consider other people's.
Most recent customer reviews
My favorite story ever. The product was an old library book, but the quality was good.Published on Aug. 7 2014 by Viktor Zhou
While I enjoy Coupland's work and respect his vision, I often find his writing fails to touch me on an emotional level. This book is the exception. Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2007 by Sainte-Carmen
Upon reading the first few pages of this book, I had no idea what to expect... and the more I read, the more I had no idea what would follow... Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2006 by Natalie R. Dinn
This book was anything but boring. I always enjoy the unique writing-style of Douglas Coupland. He has never disappointed me. Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by Victoria Taylor Murray
"Hey Nostradamus!" has an atypical structure, each of its four chapters being narrated in first person by a different character. Read morePublished on March 8 2004 by Matthew Cuthbert
I thought this book was a return to form for Coupland as many of the other reviewer's here have mentioned. Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2004 by Amazon Customer
Well, Hmm...I just finished this novel and I'm not sure what I thought. I didn't like a lot, but I certainly didn't dislike it. Read morePublished on Dec 28 2003 by Robert Wellen