Review: Worst. Person. Ever.

It didn’t take long to read Douglas Coupland’s Worst. Person. Ever. He has a breezy, snarky style, turns a clever phrase, and keeps his plot twisting and turning alluringly.  The short chapters are like potato chips, easy to down and pick up the next. It would have been a great book to have on a transcontinental flight.

There are a lot of similarities between Person and Irvine Welsh’s Filth. Both feature reprobates from the United Kingdom.  They take some joy in taking the reader on a tour of the seedy side of their point of view character’s psyche, and both take no prisoners doing it.  Coupland, however, is writing a more superficial book.  There’s none of the subtext and misdirection that turns Filth on a dime in the last third.  None of these characters change meaningfully, nor do they ever garner much sympathy.

There are pleasures to be had in Person, for sure.  This is some quality snark and some snappy dialogue. The coincidences bring a demented bit of Dickens into the mix, and there are moments of enjoyable satire.  But as a whole, Coupland’s targets are a bit to east to skewer and his brush too broad for me.

More importantly, his characters are all pretty insufferable.  While it’s always clear who he’d like us to be rooting for, I wasn’t ever convinced.  I didn’t connect with any of these characters.  Hiaasen also writes some broad and often unlikeable characters, but he always sinks enough of a hook in me so that I have a stake in their fate.  I don’t much care what happens to any of the characters in Person.

I don’t regret reading Person at all – it was good fun while it lasted.  I suspect I won’t remember it in a month, though.

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