"The ink was not distilled from crows, but from black cormorant feathers and brought all the way from Fukushima because the birds in that prefecture were rumoured to be mute..."
Stuck in Pearson International with four hours to kill, I fandangle my way into the Air Canada Exec-u-lounge where the couches are plush and oversized and the drinks are free and plentiful. Air Canada looks after these things, I'm told. The cashews, the cheese bistro, and all this polished air.
I shouldn't be too surprised, then, to find Douglas Coupland sitting just a few chairs over, tapping away at a laptop. He's leaning into the black leather couch like a jockey on a hobbyhorse. He is inches away from a drink, a telephone, an Internet jack and a stainless steel table lamp. It looks like he's been here before. We'd met once, almost 10 years ago, when he was flogging a NEW novel through Calgary. The book was Microserfs, a cautionary tale about working for Bill Gates. I remember the book:
"They mow the lawn every ten minutes at Microsoft. It looks like green lego pads."
I remember the event. The trade rep had dropped Coupland off at a downtown library, on a Monday night, without giving him anything to eat.
What the man needed at 7 p.m. was one thing: instant food.
Instant food, I learned, is actually two things: coffee and bananas. So I ran the errand myself.
Try finding a cup of coffee and a banana on a Monday night in downtown Calgary when you've got 400 people waiting in an auditorium for the author. Find the coffee (black, no sugar) and the banana or you won't get another big-time author event in the History of Bookselling. These little embarrassments have a way of getting back to publishers. You've got five minutes.
It ended well. A Chinese restaurateur sold me two bananas. While Coupland percolated through his reading and safely digested his banana on stage, I ate one, too. He did his act, then I did mine. We sold a few books and parted friends.
Ten years later, at Pearson International, I figure he owes me one. Why not say hello? He might like to tip a beer and wax on about those good old days. SO, I GRAB A RICKARD'S RED AND walk over to his oversize couch.
Coupland looks up. He smiles. He listens. He begs a few minutes to call his editor. And then, he sits down for a chat.
So here they are, Douglas Coupland's tips on writing, on French, on Love:
Got Writer's Block? "Go for a four hour drive to Kamloops. Stay in a tiny hotel, drive back. The process of driving through a small place releases you."
Write at Night: "I sit in bed using a couple of old David Bowie records for a desk. They're decorative and a useful reminder that if Bowie can put out all that stuff, then so can I. I average about 450 words. I write every day.
It's the only order you should have in your life."
The Perils of Writing at Night: "I sit in bed and write. My arm, look! It won't go back as far as the other. It1s the sort of thing that happens to violinists who use the same muscles for all their lives. Look! That's how far back it goes!"
Another Thing: "It's also useful to know what you don1t do very well and then Don't Do It. Like opening the mail, you know. I know it's not good for me.
Just the process of opening the mail weirds me out. Nothing against anthrax or anything, I just don1t like the idea of it. Gives me the willies."
About France: "The French are preoccupied with this American Dream discussion. Why can't they find their own dream? A French dream?"
On Learning French: "Just imagine Peppy le Pew speaking with CHEESY AND HYPERBOLIC accent. Do that, and suddenly everyone will be giving you compliments on your pronunciation."
On love: "Sometimes we are forced into directions we were meant to find."
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