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I was only recent introduced to Douglas Coupland by a pal of mine who pestered me for months to try his books. Now I'm glad she did. "Life After God" has a somewhat experimental feel to the narrative, but it's a successful experiment if it is.
Coupland explores the concept: "You are the first generation raised without religion." Or more specifically, how human beings (all of which are born with a drive to believe in something -- religion, politics, art) respond to the material-driven world. Meditations on what separates humans from animals, imagining a nuclear explosion and how it would immediately impact the people who die in it, a philosophical bout with depression, and how people respond to their "lives after God."
Disregard the initially off-putting title of the book, because that title really doesn't reflect what the book is about. At the end of one short story, the narrator concludes, "My secret is that I need God." Not the way religious fanatic Dana does, which is more needy and superficial, but rather in a deep and primal way. And Coupland doesn't go overboard trying to explain it to the readers -- he just writes it and lets it sink in.
It has a slightly odd format; the pages are tiny, and the parts of each short story are more like connected vignettes, some only a few sentences long. And it's sprinkled with cute little drawings, like Coupland doodled on his manuscript. (Rain, boxes, computers, matches, and a parakeet with a key in its beak, among others) As in Coupland's other books, there is a sort of unhappy optimism to these stories, and Coupland's musings about how a lack of emphasized God has affected our ability to love and believe.
"Life After God" is not exactly an ordinary book. But it touches very well on hard-to-write-about topics and its messages lingered for a long time in my mind.
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on September 9, 2006
"Life After God" is a genuinely morose, sad, melancholic collection of stories dealing with loneliness, isolation and unhappiness. Most of its characters are numbly horrified by where they find themselves in life.

The stories here deal with that in-between world of the childishness of youth and the maturity of adulthood -- and how the people existing in that world make the transition. Some simply take the step, while others -- the people here -- can't help but pause and reflect, to question it, to wonder if it's even sensible.

Coupland's premise seems to be that this young generation of the '90s, so deadened by irony, so empty and unfeeling, experience this crushing loneliness because they are without religion (which is something I don't agree with, since I side with Marx and think of religion as nothing more than an opiate).

Coupland does understand his characters, though, and as someone who's just a bit younger, I identified with them (even when I found them pretentious and dramatic). There are times when I felt like Coupland was stealing my thoughts. Showing me conversations I've had about the worries and insecurities in my life.

The greatest thing about "Life After God" are the staggering and utterly true thoughts Coupland drops here and there, which are so perfectly accurate, they leave you gut-punched.

I probably enjoyed the final two stories the least, and "In The Desert" the most, but "Life After God" is an excellent story collection that displays Coupland's considerable talent.
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on September 15, 2006
This splendidly written book captivates the reader with compassion for the main character as he stumbles through the mistakes and beauty he has created in his life. The book follows the journey of a person who is trying to discover who he is in the midst of a fallen world, void spirituality and broken dreams. I'm a huge fan of the author, Douglas Coupland, and I feel that this is by far his best work. It will make you laugh, cry and ponder this crazy thing we call existence.
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on August 7, 2006
Two things stuck with me from the book Fight Club: (1) the line "Your father is your model for God" and (2) I wish I'd read it before I visited Blarney Castle.

The reason I bring up "Fight Club" is that "Life After God" posits "You are the first generation raised without religion," and "Fight Club" says men today are a generation raised by our mothers. So, I guess the problem boils down to "Where's Poppa?"

My friend Todd loaned me this book after I graduated college. I felt really hollow then, like a robot that required pop-culture and irony to survive. All the characters in "Life After God" feel hollow, and it was comforting to read about them. I felt less alone afterward, and somehow the book gave me hope for a better future, even though it features a story about the apocalypse.

I guess the key thing is that the book sparked me to feel again, shaking up some long dormant emotions. It's a quick read that I usually recommend to depressed friends.
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on September 2, 2005
About 8 years ago I spent the night at a friend's house one night and had severe insomnia, so I picked up this book from her bookshelf and started reading it. I had never even heard of Douglas Coupland before. The book was so good that I read it the whole way through that night. It's very intense and hit me at a difficult time in my life. It was like reading the Bible- manna to my soul. I have gone on to read every Coupland book I could find, and they are all touching and engaging. I even met him at a book signing here in DC. He's not how I imagined him- he's very unassuming. Anyway, this book is great, just like all of his.
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on March 16, 2015
This brief collection of well written episodes, reflections, and images was included on a list of literary works that were said to promote serious thought about religion.Must admit the injunction to remove the dust jacket before reading the book gave me cause for pause. Is the author a control freak, or does he have a sense of humor? Still not sure. The characters are all coping in their own ways with disappointment in life, love, and mortality. The disillusioned narrator's halting analysis of himself vaguely suggests an unfulfilled human need for relationship. From the fragments, it appears that the narrator wants to believe in God (maybe even Jesus and salvation) but religion is simply not part of everyday life. He may ultimately find some sense of God by meeting a stranger in the desert as well as in confronting the beauty and harshness of nature Memory and a reawakened imagination seem to help, too. Although Coupland identifies the disillusionment of the narrator and his friends with one generation (Gen-X?), said to be the first to be raised without God in a material age, I assume any reader could identify with the humanity of the characters, appreciate the images,and probably catch the implication that we are spiritual beings, not just physical. To me it feels something like Beat Poetry with a touch of Emerson. That falls far short of Christian hope, but it's sort of a step in the right direction.
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on April 3, 2000
Forget the more famous "Generation X." The collection "Life After God" is Coupland's best work by far. This collection of stories is related by theme and narrative voice; while the characters change from story to story, the point of view remains the same, and Coupland uses the same narrative voice throughout. And what a voice it is! Funny, Perceptive, Sad, resigned to the past yet yearning for a better future--a future which the author fears might always elude him. The characters in "Life After God" are more like real people than the characters in his other books, who often assume the roles of cultural stereotypes and morph into cliches. In different ways, the characters in "Life After God" are all dealing with loss--the loss of a lover, of a sister, a childhood friend, one's own idealism. And there are no happy endings. At best the characters manage to accept their losses and find a sliver of hope to carry them through the rest of their lives. Coupland's prose is lean and poetic; his eye for detail manages to convey much about a character or a situation through the use of one or two objects. His monotone prose reflects the flat, wounded states of his characters' souls. Each of these stories is heartbreaking in its own way. Despite his reputation as a novelist, short fiction seems to be Coupland's natural medium. His storytelling talents are average at best, but his observations of character and feeling are superb. It is the latter which makes "Life After God" such a moving experience.
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on May 2, 2013
Douglas Coupland is one of my all time favorite authors. I have all his books and while I was going through the Nerd Cave and decluttering I became a bit nostalgic and wanted to go back and read the books that meant the world to me growing up. I decided to read this book because I have this permanent memory of this book speaking to me during a certain phase in my life. I have not touched this book in over 10 years easily if not more.

After reading this book I don't know that it is always a good idea to read a book again. I feel like this book was part of a moment in my life that should not have been tampered with. The second reading of this book did not speak to me the way it once did. I am married, have three kids, love my job and life. I don't feel lost in a society where I am trying to figure out who I am and what I want to become. That was an earlier self. During that time this book connected with me through the stories. I did not connect to it this time because I am in a different place and different time.

This does not deter from the greatness of the book. I still read it in one sitting. I cannot wait for his new book and will probably go back and reread his other books just because I love this writing that much.

It is perhaps not a book designed for those who are not lost souls. He has always been rendered as the Salinger of our generation. Everyone has to grow up sometime. I have done that, but the book will always hold that special place in my mind. I just did not need to hear the words again.
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on December 25, 2015
Many first person books are designed to help you put yourself in the shoes of the character and feel what it might be like to be in his shoes. This book accomplishes that better than most any book I've ever read.

You will notice some oddities about the style of the book. The doodles, the shape of the text in places. They are there intentionally to through you off and break the old familiar program of just reading the book, and make you think on another level. This book does a marvelous job of getting you to examine what life might be like if you were this dude.

If some bad theology is going to get on your nerves and make you scream, then this book will bother you, however the point of this book isn't so much to highlight theology, but to highlight that that we experience the world from within ourselves. How our emotions and our brain work will mix with our experiences to give us the unique life we have. We are all trying to figure life out, and no two of us get the same impression of it.
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on August 16, 2000
This book, like most by Douglas Coupland, is a fast-paced, easy read. The book that I read was very compact (more wallet-sized than like a book) and hard-back, so its small pages passed by in a flash of wonder and amazement.
In a collection of six poignant short stories filled with colorful and full characters, Coupland addresses issues that affects us all: bravely looking at death, change, the passage of life; wondering who you are or waking up to suddenly realize that you don't know where you're going, or that you don't like who you are.
Despite the atheistic title, the characters all are in search of God, and toward the end one of his characters admits that he "needs" God, but can't seem to allow that secret to come out. But how can we find any reality in the world of fast-moving cars, of freedom of movement and blindingly fast change, of religious fanatics, televangelists, a world tempered by drugs and a search for meaning, any meaning?
Coupland's answer comes out in the beauty of nature and the wonder of our relationships with the people around us. Although his characters can't relate to the Jesus-lovers of organized religion, they are all reaching out for something bigger than themselves, something that "the first Generation raised without Religion" has a difficulty grasping.
I have long felt that Douglas Coupland and his insights are perhaps the closest that popular culture gets to Truth spelled out on paper. This book has all the profundity and all the questions of his preceding books, in a very unassuming and readable manner. Pick it up: you'll read it in a single afternoon.
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