Saturday, March 1, 2014
Player One, by Douglas Coupand - book review
I read this book in French, which is dumb because it was written in English originally, but I found it in a bookstore and couldn't resist, so here we are. A lot of terms had me shaking my head in confusion, before realizing that the terms had no translation. New words don’t spread virally in French culture like they do in English-language cultures around the globe. For instance, there’s no French translation for “MILF” (the translator used “maman sexy”, which is poor and guts the expression of its acronym funniness). New words aside, the translation has a good rhythm to it and doesn’t bog down the dialogues like many English-French translations do.
The setting is an airport bar, where as fate would have it a mixed bag of people find themselves for various reasons: an autistic young woman, an ex-preacher, an alcoholic barman. As fate would further have it, some catastrophe hits, it's not properly explained and doesn't need to be, suffice to notice that oil prices have skyrocketed, media broadcasts have stopped, there are toxic chemicals blowing outside and the people inside the bar can't leave. Eventually they are joined by a religious nut and a scared teen.
Oh, and one of the characters is Player One, who is inside the bar's video game. He's a pompous ass, but he's cool.
Conversations flow between the motley group, touching on the state of the world, obviously, since it's ending or seems to be, and eventually sink down into their personal histories as the setting favors the end-of-world cathartic confessions. There is such a variation in the characters' outlook and constitution that it becomes apparent that only a catastrophe forcing people into this space and threatening their very being will overcome cultural and ideological barricades, creating odd yet touching bonds, like a contained nuclear explosion revealing other states of the matter at its core.
I really enjoyed the paradoxical converging of the different mindsets and found the characters believable and engaging.