"I feel like that one Scrabble tile that has no letter on it".
-Douglas Coupland (Liz Dunn), Elanor Rigby
Inspired by Sometimes Sweet's Literate and Stylish series, i've decided to share my favorite book, Elanor Rigby, by Douglas Coupland, and what this book means to me. I also blame the following on the fact that I am taking creative writing this semester, and it is causing me to reflect on my favorite books even more than I already do. We've been talking about what makes a person pick up a book and keep reading it. For me, I need to relate to the character to get something out of it. Somehow learn more about myself, or people in general. (I'm a sociologist, i'm fascinated by people.)
This is a book that I share no hesitation in proclaiming as my favorite. Ever since I read the first page years back, this book became a part of me. I feel like this book is me, in that I wholly relate to the protagonist, Liz Dunn, and in finding myself in her, I am able to learn more about myself.
I identify so wholly with the main character, Liz Dunn, that I feel as if Douglas Coupland looked inside my brain to my innermost thoughts, made sense of them, and arranged them more eloquently so that I could better make sense of myself. Liz's musings so closely mirror my own that reading them gave me an ecstatic euphoria. Finally, there was someone who understood the "endless brain-churning buzzing and second guessing and non-stop short-term planning that accompanies the typical lonely life".
This is the first time i'd ever come across anything exploring loneliness. Which, Coupland perfectly describes as "our species' curse-it's the gun that shoots the bullets that make us dance on a saloon floor and humiliate ourselves in front of strangers". He really explores all it's facets and implications of living a lonely life in this work.
By nature, i'm an introspective introvert. I naturally gravitate towards spending my time alone. Being a social outcast throughout my life has only further exacerbated this 'problem'. Though, as I get older, I begin to see that being a 'loner', is not my problem, but rather, that of societies.
Elanor Rigby has helped me to see this, being able to relate my experiences to what I read on the page. This past semester I wrote an essay on the healing power of confessional poetry, and the following excerpt helps to succinctly make sense of the power in reading of one's experiences on the page. While it is speaking to poetry, I find the same to be true of any creative work, such as (in this case) novels, or films, etc.
Poetry is giving sound and rhythm to silence, to darkness, giving it a shape, turning it to light. When we read a poem that speaks to our experience, there is a shift, a click within. Someone has understood our darkness by naming their own. We feel less alone. Therapeutically, the "I" of us gathers energy and insight. Our world expands.
Though the one difference between Liz Dunn and I is that while she tries to blend in, I do everything I can to stand out. Since I don't fit in down to my very core, since I feel so internally and fundamentally different from others, I try to reflect that in how I present myself. From when I dyed my hair and dressed in all black through my teen years to dying my hair bright red now, and dressing in bold colours and patterns. (Of which I blame partly on my middle child syndrome of attention depravation.) It's also a way to weed through people, by taking my inner turmoil and manifesting it on the outside, people that are unworthy are less likely to approach, and I don't have to worry about getting hurt.
However, more than just finding myself on the page, Coupland excells at taking real characters, everyday people that happen to go through extraordinary circumstances. I don't want to give away what Liz goes through, incase you haven't read the book, but I will say what I love about it. While, out of this world and extraordinary, what these character's go through feels so realistic due to the honesty of the characters. (Another great example of this is Coupland's, Girlfriend in a Coma).
While I know this isn't a book blog (is that even a thing?) I just wanted to share this wonderful book, and how very much it means to me. As the years have gone by (5 since I first picked up this book), I've only grown closer and more in love with this book. It is what I turn to most when i'm in need of comfort, experiencing what Liz explains as, "time sickness"...
But thanks to this book, all I have to do is read these words to remember that 'this to, shall pass'. As you can see from these photos this book is marked up it's fair share. Nearly half the pages are dog-eared to more easily find a source of comfort and wisom when I have what Liz calls a "loneliness blizzard, those sweeps of loneliness that feel not just emotional but medical".
So I guess what i'm saying here, is that this book is a testament to what I personally love about literature. That I can find myself in someone else, though yes, Liz Dunn is a fictional character, I am able to find some comfort in that her author, Douglas Coupland must feel some degree of what she does, and has survived it. Which comforts me to no end.
And yes, this post is much longer than I had originally intended.