Volume 93, Issue 70

Thursday, February 3, 1999


Winnipeg trio plans to live up to name

Sunny skies ahead for Travis

Coupland's Miss Wyoming wins the competition

Coupland's Miss Wyoming wins the competition

Douglas Coupland, author of such widely acclaimed fiction as Generation X and Girlfriend in a Coma, has returned with a sprawling new novel which weaves a web of beauty pageants, disappearances and vision quests.

Set in the present southwestern United States, Miss Wyoming chronicles the lives of has-been beauty queen Susan Colgate and John Johnson, a morally bankrupt Hollywood film producer.

After a chance meeting at a Los Angeles eatery, Susan and John's lives become inextricably knotted, forming the foundation of the plot's quick development.

Susan has spent her life forced to compete in beauty pageants by the ceaseless prodding of her overbearing mother, Marilyn.

When Susan finally breaks free of her mother's control, her unhappy life as a second-rate sitcom-star-turned-rock-singer's-wife begins. Sliding further into her unhappiness, Susan takes advantage of an obscure opportunity and sinks into anonymity.

Coupland intertwines the story of John into the unwinding of Susan's life. John is a movie producer who has achieved modest success by making big budget action movies starring B-grade actors. However, somewhere along the way his soul comes untethered, forcing him to cast off his possessions in order to embark on a vision quest. Coupland is in his element at this point – in virtually all of his books, at least one character endeavours on an introspective journey.

Besides Susan and John, Coupland has invented a myriad of characters who punctuate the book. Marilyn leads the way and is joined by Chris, Susan's rock star husband who is actually gay and Randy Montarelli, a die-hard Susan Colgate fan who is thrust into the plot amid a cucumber facial.

For fans of Coupland, Miss Wyoming is worth the wait. He abandons the short, essay style prose found in Life After God for the deeper, more developed plot style of Micorserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma. With the help of a new editor and publisher, Coupland continues to write solid, pointed commentary on modern society.

The author's truest gift is his outstanding ability to create characters. He continues to be the master of building tragic figures who make the conscious decisions to change their lives and find deeper meaning. They are poignant, desolate and uninspired, but Coupland remains unapologetic about creating people whose lives do not live up to their once-held promise. By not allowing them to become mired in cliché, it becomes obvious that Coupland is deeply connected to his characters.

Although the book is enjoyable, the weaving of two stories into one is distracting at some points. Coupland also relies on flashbacks to tell a large portion of the story, which causes some confusion between what is present and what is past.

Still, his use of flashbacks, as well as other literary devices remains strong. Only Coupland can write a simile so dead-on, the reader can actually see it in their head.

Miss Wyoming is definitely another success for Coupland. He continues to be the pre-eminent writer of his generation, taking the world that he sees and exploring it through the microscope of his pen.

–Matt Pearson

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