Donna Tartt and Douglas Coupland on why we tell stories
In recent months, I’ve been working on the novels of Douglas Coupland, (an author I return to again and again), for a talk i’m giving at the ELF next week. In particular, I’ve found Andrew Tate’s book on his work exceptionally helpful. It’s packed with great insights and help. But the very last paragraph of the whole book has been buzzing round my mind since I read it.
Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002), a writer who, like Coupland, emerged in the early 1990s, has argued that a good novel
‘enables non-believers to participate in a world-view that religious people take for granted: life as a vast polyphonous web of interconnections, predestined meetings, fortuitous chances and accidents, all governed by a unifying if unforeseen plan.’
For Douglas Coupland, a writer who is open about his sympathies to a theistic perspective, but who is also clear that he cannot ‘join the revival tent’, fiction has become such a space of religious possibility. The uncertainties of the postmodern world have inspired him to negotiate the possibilities of finding truth, rather than that to reject it as an obsolete quest. For Kevin Vanhoozer, ‘[p]ostmodernity has opened up breathing space once again to consider what is ‘other’ to our theories. In this case, ‘the other’ is the return of a reinvigorated and – to many raised in a secular-materialist environent – deeply troubling theological vocabulary. Indeed the moral project of Coupland’s fiction might best be described by the hope of one of his characters in Life After God:
‘You know – I’m trying to escape from ironic hell; cynicism into faith; randomness into clarity worry into devotion’.
Andrew Tate, DOUGLAS COUPLAND (Contemp. American and Canadian Novelists), MUP, 2007, p157