- This quality relates to my statement in lecture that the significance of the work of fiction is independent from what the author says or believes his or her work is about. It is a quality of fiction that the writing of it brings out capacities in the writer of which he is unaware -- and is incapable of summoning by an act of will.
- If I had to be academically precise in describing the nature of this prophetic quality, I would say that the true literary genius possesses an ability -- innate, trained or both -- of insight into human nature, social trends, and that dimension termed by Aristotle "theology."
The example before us is our Coupland course text, Hey Nostradamus! When it was first published, its setting of a Columbine-style shooting in a Vancouver school laid the author open to a charge of cheap sensationalism. Obviously, it is only in violent, blood-thirsty, gun-legal America that dissafected teenage boys commit random fatal violence: Canada is a pacific, tolerant, nice place where violent acts are improper.
Three years after Coupland wrote Hey Nostradamus!, here was this headline from the Vancouver Province: "'Epidemic' of Teen Swarmings." The Vancouver Sun had this headline: "Two Males Stabbed Near Metrotown Last Evening." Again, that is just one day: look at the media and find never ending repetition. ("Drive by shooting in Chilliwack" from last month, e.g.) The first time I taught this novel, I presented in lecture local newspapers collected over the weeks of the lectures which splashed across their front pages: a boy kicked into a coma by another random swarm of teenagers; yet another trial for the killer of Reena Virk; four Mounties killed by a man with guns; and a local teenager who stole twelve dollars of petrol, deliberately ran over the attendant and purposely dragged him -- screaming -- to a slow, hideous and agonising death for over five miles.
Far from cheap sensationalism, Douglas Coupland writes uncannily wise prophecy. His novels could be mandatory Canadian reading.