“Like, a million years ago we made ‘Jpod,’” Doug Coupland tells me from his living room in North Vancouver, talking about the short-lived 2008 TV series based on his 2006 novel of the same name. “So it was in the writing room, and we had to dispose of the bodies. And we had like four or five high-functioning creative adults in a room, all of them trying to figure out the best way to get rid of bodies, and the lesson we learned is that getting rid of a body is very difficult in our culture. . I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but it’s a lot of work. “

Eventually the writers room came to the conclusion that it would be best to keep it in one of those Thule cargo containers on top of the car that looks like the shuttle from “Star Trek” to give yourself some time to calm down and decide. what to do next. .

I wouldn’t have thought that unusual but clearly sensible learning would have been as central as it is for “Binge,” which is such a fun, upbeat, and involving 60 very short stories, but it is a lot. People are stuffing bodies into Thules so much throughout these 272 pages that I almost ask Coupland if he had gotten a product placement deal with the Swedish exterior supplier.

Now I think I should have done it because if someone in Canadian letters from the Mordecai Richler bottle story that brought you Absolut could have made such a deal, it would be Coupland.

This is not a dislike. It’s what makes Coupland as endlessly fascinating as he is.

It is not like other writers.

Binge, by Douglas Coupland, Random House of Canada, 272 pages, $ 29.95

He tells me that he considers his work to fit into four squares: fiction writing, non-fiction writing, fictional art, and non-fiction art, the latter being the way he describes his public art design and practice, which is considerable ( did that toy soldier in memory of the War of 1812 on Bathurst St. and Lake Shore Blvd. W., for example).

You can describe them as squares, but looking at them from outside your head, they look a lot more like those yin and yang tadpole shapes that roll up together to form a whole. His work in all those realms informs each other, which gives his commercial work an emotional weight (you wouldn’t have thought that two toy soldiers, one standing and the other lying on the ground, could be as poignant as it is), and what he calls his work of fiction, more purely artistic, commercial appeal.

And “Binge” is attractive. The 60 stories, most of almost exactly three and a half pages each, catch you, not so much with hooks as with spikes, little pricks that take you from one story to another, stories that may appear at first glance to be disconnected, but that they end up being so intimately linked to each other that they are incestuous. Characters move in and out of these stories, sometimes as narrators, antagonists, or background actors in someone else’s story. Some of the interlacing are obvious, others you need to pay a little more attention to catch them. I’ve only read it once, but it seems like the kind of book that rewards a second reading.

Coupland is a collector of voices in this book. And in life, he is a collector of much more, and he sees everything as the product of the same mental habit.

“I’m turning 60; I’ve seen a lot of people lose their curiosity about life and I don’t think I want to lose their curiosity, ”he says. “I like to collect random things, seemingly random things on eBay. But there is a logic to it, and it is a deeper part of yourself to say, ‘Explore me! Explore me! ‘”

Coupland sees his work in fiction writing, non-fiction writing, fictional art, and non-fiction art informing each other, giving a job like his toy soldiers installation in Toronto an emotional weight.

It’s also what makes this relatively short book, made up of extremely short stories, seem as much an epic, like Hugh Hood’s multi-volume book “The New Age,” or perhaps a bit more like “Tales of the City.” of Maupin. Characters enter and exit each other’s lives so intimately and through so much action (dramatic, emotional, comic) that stories and people become larger than they appear at first.

But because this is Coupland, he’s also very entertaining, he doesn’t take himself seriously, treats tragedy like it’s a nuisance, and takes life-changing events in stride, like they happen all the time. Which, of course, they do.

“Even if an idea doesn’t work in context, it always ends up being something else’s DNA, often better or bigger,” he says.

At one point in one of the stories, someone mentions the concept of sonder. It’s a powerful concept, and one that, in Coupland’s trademark style, he’s borrowed from a YouTube channel called John Koenig’s “Dictionary of Dark Sorrows.” The word, invented by Koenig, describes the feeling you get when you realize that everyone around you, on the subway, on the street, all over the world, has an inner life that is just as complicated as yours.

The eminently compulsive “Binge” is as concise and true an expression as you are likely to see. And despite being light enough to read and enjoy in one sitting, it packs a punch.

Bert Archer is a Toronto writer who can occasionally entertain on Instagram @ world.of.bert.


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