Canadian author Douglas Coupland, the man behind the game-changing novels Generation X, Microserfs and JPod, knows a thing or two about zeitgeist.
Given that, owing to the sluggish speed of the publishing industry (no offense), he probably come up with his ideas several years before his books come out, he also knows something about what comes next. (So much so that he was asked to be part of the "ideas summit" think tank that came up with futuristic but realistic concepts for Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie Minority Report.)
So when Coupland pens a new book, you best pay attention.
Here’s 7.5 things we learned about the world from his highly amusing latest effort, Worst. Person. Ever.
1 | Raymond Gunt is a fictional character
But that doesn’t stop the titular narrator of this tale from having a Twitter feed (@raymondgunt).
Despite letting slip the odd "sidewalk" or "mall", he’s also a pretty accurate portrayal of a Londoner. He swears a lot, kicks a homeless man in the shin and describes the city’s buses as "failure crystalised into the form of two storeys of metal, painted red, hurled out into the world to hoover up losers from the streets".
It’s no coincidence that his surname is rhyming slang for something...
Coupland says that the character could only be English. Yes, this is how the rest of the world views us.
2 | The Pacific Trash Vortex is an actual thing
Imagine: a whole lost manmade continent, formed out of plastic polymer gloop and millions of tonnes of rubbish pumped into the sea. It really exists.
We also learn of the nearby Republic of Kiribati (pronounced “KIRR-i-bas”), an island nation "comprised of 32 atolls and one raised coral island… It straddles the equator and borders the International Date Line to its east."
This means it is among the first nations on Earth to experience each day – and tragically, due to its low altitude, also the first nation expected to be entirely submerged due to global warming.
OK, so far you’re probably not feeling too positive about humanity. You may soon be rethinking how you feel about the rest of the animal kingdom, too.
3 | You do not want to know what “potted meat” is
Coupland describes it as being made of "cooked meat product, often creamed, minced or ground, which is poured into cans, sealed and heat-processed."
He goes on to say that it often includes “non-skeletal meat”, namely: "organs and glands, as well as extremities such as feet and tails or retinas or eyelids or udders."
3b | You definitely do not want to know what goes into Chinese-origin tinned meat
Coupland supposes its ingredients include "hitchhikers", "cat food too scary for cats” and “broken dreams".
4 | The age of consent in Vatican City was, until recently, 12
According to Coupland, in the Mexican state of Nayarit, Bolivia and Yemen there is no fixed age of consent (although sex is only permitted within marriage in Yemen).
5 | A knork is like a spork, but the combination of a knife and a fork rather than a spoon and a fork
It’s sometimes known as a "Nelson fork" after the admiral, who favoured one after losing an arm in battle in 1797. The word is a portmanteau, like "Brangelina", another word you learn here, if you didn’t know it already ("portmanteau" that is, not "Brangelina").
6 | "Pussy fatigue" is apparently a real thing, too
Coupland suggests you treat it with "Fatigued to Fantastic! Adrenal Stress EndTM"
7 | Like cockroaches, reality TV shows will likely withstand nuclear fallout
Coupland supposes that a lot of things will actually survive the deployment of a nuclear warhead, including human beings.
He goes on to explain that between 1946 and 1962, a whole portion of the Pacific, called the Pacific Proving Grounds, was utilised by the US for above-ground nuclear testing, including the Bikini Atoll – "yes, that’s where the word ‘bikini’ comes from".
The survival of reality TV shows is actually something Coupland might consider a positive, especially Survivor, which he claims to have seen every episode of.
Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland (William Heinemann) is out now.