The Gum Thief

The first and only story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office supply superstore.

In Douglas Coupland’s ingenious new novel–sort of a Clerks-meets-Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf–we meet Roger, a divorced, middle-aged “aisles associate” at a Staples outlet, condemned to restocking reams of twenty-lb. bond paper for the rest of his life. And then there’s Roger’s co-worker Bethany, who’s at the end of her Goth phase, and young enough to be looking at fifty more years of sorting the red pens from the blue in Aisle Six.

One day, Bethany comes across Roger’s notebook in the staff room. When she opens it up, she discovers that this old guy she’s never considered as quite human is writing mock diary entries pretending to be her–and spookily, he is getting her right. She also learns he has a tragedy in his past–and suddenly he no longer seems like just a paper-stocking robot with a name tag.

These two retail workers strike up a peculiar and touching epistolary relationship, their lives unfolding alongside Roger’s work-in-progress, the oddly titled Glove Pond, a Cheever-era novella gone horribly, horribly wrong. Through a complex layering of narratives, The Gum Thief, highlights number-one bestselling author Douglas Coupland’s eye for the comedy, loneliness and strange comforts of contemporary life.

On every page of this witty, wise and unforgettable novel, Coupland reminds us that love, death and eternal friendship can all transpire where we least expect them. And that even after tragedy seems to have wiped your human slate clean, stories can slowly rebuild you.



I’m the dead girl whose locker you spat on somewhere between recess and lunch.

I’m not really dead, but I dress like I want to be. There’s something generic about girls like me: we hate the sun, we wear black, and we feel trapped inside our bodies like a nylon fur mascot at a football game.

I wish I were dead most of the time. I can’t believe the meat I got stuck with, and where I got stuck and with whom. I wish I were a ghost.

And FYI, I’m not in school any more, but the spitting thing was real: a little moment that sums up life. I work in a Staples. I’m in charge of restocking aisles 2-North and 2-South: Sheet Protectors, Indexes & Dividers, Note books, Post-It Products, Paper Pads, Specialty Papers and “Social Stationery.” Do I hate this job? Are you nuts? Of course I hate it. How could you not hate it? Everyone who works with me is either already damaged or else they’re embryos waiting to be damaged, fresh out of school and slow as a 1999 modem. Just because you’ve been born and made it through high school doesn’t mean society can’t still abort you. Wake up.

Let me try to say something positive here. For balance.

Staples allows me to wear black lipstick to work.

–Bethany
from The GumThief


From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

Right from the get-go we’re deep in Coupland country with The Gum Thief: the über-now pop culture references, the casual, deliciously snide vernacular, the loopy, neurotic characters you can’t help but love, and of course, the latenight conversational tone of Coupland himself, whose writing reads like a phone call from an old friend. No one else quite captures the dystopian malaise of our post-postmodernist consumer-junkie culture quite like he does. Call it CoMo: Coupland Modernism.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Coupland shines, the story is humorous, frenetic, focused and curiously affecting.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Gum Thief is solidly funny, verging on poignant…An innovative, fast-paced story without the bells and whistles of JPod, but just as topical and lively and relevant. Another Coupland gem.”
- The Globe and Mail

Praise for JPod
:

“[JPod] is a work in which his familiar misgivings about life on the technological cusp are again invoked, but also one in which the skills he’s been developing as a novelist pay off, where his satirical streak and his social consciousness finally stop fooling around with each other and settle down together… . JPod is a sleek and necessary device: the finely tuned output of an author whose obsolescence is thankfully years away.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Imagine a cocktail of The Office, Weeds and Wired magazine, shaken not stirred … The master ironist just might redefine E.M. Forster’s famous dictate ‘Only Connect’ for the Google age.”
USA Today

“Coupland once again nails the zeitgeist of the age… . The best thing about JPod is its characteristic good writing … and its dark, unflagging wit.”
Calgary Sun

JPod is a seriously funny book … a rolling thunder of sustained comedy, first page to last, as it sends up and skewers the shamelessness and amorality that define our era… . Coupland’s timing is impeccable: JPod is the right book at the right time.”
The Globe and Mail

“Coupland is possibly the most gifted exegete of North American mass culture writing today… . JPod is without a doubt his strongest, best-observed novel since Microserfs.”
The Guardian


From the Hardcover edition.