Title: Hey Nostradamus!
Author: Douglas Coupland.
Genre: Fiction, school shootings, religion, violence, multiple narrators.
Publication Date: 2003.
Summary: The novel follows the stories of four victims of a fictional school shooting in North Vancouver: Cheryl, a very religious victim of the shooting, who, finding herself in Purgatory, recounts the events of the shooting, discusses her views on God, and divulges about the boy she secretly married in Las Vegas shortly beforehand; Jason, Cheryl's husband, who spends the next several years trying to cope with the shooting and its aftermath, as well as his own problems with his much-preferred brother, sister-in-law, and religiously fanatical father; Heather, a court-stenographer that breaks through the barriers to become intimate with Jason until he goes missing, and who begins to be approached by a psychic claiming to be hearing Jason from beyond the grave; and Reg, Jason's father, trying to reconcile himself with Jason's disappearance, losing both his sons, and the finally-realized downfalls of his own religion.
My rating: 8/10
♥ I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world - spaghetti, binder paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley - is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well.
♥ Math class was x's and y's and I felt trapped inside a repeating dream, staring at these two evil little letters who tormented me with their constant need to balance and be equal with each other. They should just get married and form a new letter together and put an end to all the nonsense. And then they should have kids.
♥ In homeroom I sat at my desk and wrote over and over on my pale blue binder the words GOD IS NOWHERE/GOD IS NOW HERE/GOD IS NOWHERE/GOD IS NOW HERE. When this binder with these words was found, caked in my evaporating blood, people made a big fuss about it, and when my body is shortly lowered down into the planet, these same words will be felt-penned all over the surface of my white coffin. But all I was doing was trying to clear my head and think of nothing, to generate enough silence to make time stand still.
♥ The world is a glorious place, and filled with so many unexpected moments that I'd get lumps in my throat, as though I were watching a bride walk down the aisle - moments as eternal and full of love as lifting of veils, the saying of vows and the moment of the first wedded kiss.
♥ Dear God,
I'm going to stop believing in you unless you can tell me what possible good could have come from the bloodshed. I can't see any meaning or evidence of divine logic.
♥ I don't worry too much about Sterling, as he's in heaven. Animals never left God - only people did. Lucky animals.
♥ It always seemed to me that people who'd discovered religion had both lost and gained something. Outwardly, they'd gained calmness, confidence and a look of purpose, but what they'd lost was a certain willingness to connect with unconverted souls. Looking a convert in the eye was like trying to make eye contact with a horse. They'd be alive and breathing, but they wouldn't be a hundred percent there anymore. They'd left the day-to-day world and joined the realm of eternal time.
♥ Oh, Jason. In his heart, he knows I'll at least be trying to watch him from beyond, whatever beyond may be. And in his heart, I think, he's now learned what I came to believe, which is, as I've said all along, that the sun may burn brightly, and the faces of the children may be plump and achingly sweet, but in the air we breathe, in the water we drink and in the food we share, there will always be darkness in this world.
♥ For what it's worth, I think God is how you deal with everything that's out of your control. It's as good a definition as any.
♥ Joyce, beside me on the bench seat, having chewed her tennis ball into fragments, is obviously wondering why we should be parked so close to a beach yet not be throwing sticks into the ocean. Joyce never runs out of energy.
Joyce, honey, hang in there. Papa's a social blank with a liver like the Hindenburg, and he's embarrassed by how damaged he is and how mediocre he turned out. And yes, your moist-eyes stare is a Ginsu knife slicing my heart in two like a beefsteak tomato - but I won't stop writing for a little while just yet.
♥ Well, I've seen all the photos a million times like everyone else, but they just don't capture the way it felt to be there - the sunlight and the redness of the blood: that's always cropped out of magazines, and this bugs me because when you crop the photo, you tell a lie.
♥ Oh, God, it's religion all over again; it's my father's corrosive bile percolating through my soil and tickling my taproot. Be as pious as you want, people are slime, or, as my father might say, we're all slime in the eyes of God. It's the same thing. And even if you decided to fight the evil, to attain goodness or religious ecstasy, not much really changes. You're still stuck being you, and you was pretty much decided long before you started asking these questions.
♥ But most of all I remember making sure that I got my injection every day right on time, at noon and midnight. After I got it, I had a five-minute window when I didn't have to think about Cheryl, alive, dying or dead.
♥ The conventional wisdom is true as regards faces: by mid-adulthood, what's inside you becomes what people see on the outside. Car thieves look like car thieves, cheats look like cheats, and calm, reflective people look calm and reflective. So be careful. My face is like yours, but I ended up turning it into the face of failure.
♥ I fidgeted with his water decanter, which seemed to be made of pink pencil eraser material. Why does everything in a hospital have to be not just ugly, but evocative of quick, premature and painful death?
♥ And Joyce is smiling at me. Dogs indeed smile, and Joyce has every reason to smile. It's a beautiful world and she's part of it and yet...
... and yet we humans are not a part of it.
Look at us. We're all born lost, aren't we? We're all born separated from God - over and over life makes sure to inform us of this - and yet we're all real: we have names, we have lives. We mean something. We must. My heart is so cold. And I feel so lost. I shed my block of hate but what if nothing emerges to fill in the hole it left? The universe is so large, and the world is so glorious, but here I am on a sunny August morning with chilled black ink pumping through my veins, and I feel like the unholiest thing on earth.
♥ In the end, I think the relationships that survive in this world are the ones where the two people can finish each other's sentences. Forget drama and torrid sex and the clash of opposites. Give me banter any day of the week. And our characters were the best banterers going.
♥ So now I'm back in the courtroom supposedly documenting this frivolous and endless land deal trial. These men should all be tarred and feathered and be flogged as they walk naked down the street for screwing around with the lives of common people the way they do.
♥ I'm also seven years older than Jason, but after about thirty-three, we're all the same age in our heads, so it's not the big deal it looks like. As least not from the inside looking out. And as Jason was almost thirty-three, we were almost the same. And anyway, a few decades after your first kiss and your first cigarette, I don't care if you're rich or poor, life leaves the same number of bruises on you.
♥ One fact I know from being a stenographer is that just anybody can do just about anything for just about any reason. Crime is what got me into stenography. I wanted to see the faces of people who lie. I wanted to see how people can say one thing and do another. It's all my parents ever did with each other, as well as with all their family members. I thought being closer to liars and criminals could help me put my family's lies into better perspective - but of course that never happened. At least I sometimes had entertainment.
♥ But I do know that as a species we're somehow hard-wired to believe lies. It's astonishing how willing we are to believe whatever story we're tossed simply because we want to hear what we want to hear.
♥ Jason once told me that eye contact is the most intimacy two people can have - forget sex - because the optic nerve is technically an extension of the brain, and when two people look into each other's eyes, it's brain-to-brain.
♥ But to spit things out in a list like this is humbling. Lists only spell out the things that can be taken away from us by moths and rust and thieves. If something is valuable, don't put it in a list. Don't even say the words.
♥ People like that woman make it clear just how asinine it is to believe that human beings have some kind of built-in goodness. These days I think that everybody's just one spit away from being a mall bomber. People say sugary nice things all the time, but believe none of it. See how many weapons people have stockpiled; inspect their ammo cache; read their criminal records; get them drunk and bring up God; and then you really know what it is you have to protect yourself from. Forget intentions - learn the deeds of which they're capable.