The Age of Earthquakes
23 February 2017

Shumon Basar
Douglas Coupland
Hans Ulrich Obrist

I still remember the table at Costco in Billings, MT, full of the cut rate books. They were why I loved going to Costco, because it meant I was getting a book. I specifically remember picking up Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs there, with the Legos on the cover.

I started reading Michael Crichton novels in 5th grade (Jurassic Park, naturally for an 11 year old– also the year I decided I was an atheist), and had demolished most of the Dune books and John Grisham’s, ermm, oeuvre by the time I was in high-school.

Still, Microserfs sticks out in my mind as the first adult book I’ve read. I quickly got my hands on Generation X, Life After God, etc.

My favorite parts of those early Coupland novels were the experimental use of typography, the illustrations, the general play with the form of the book. I have to admit that as his books got more traditional I slowly tuned out. I would occasionally pop in and see how he was doing– I seemed to always buy one of his books when I was going home for Christmas, so Coupland became something like a high-school friend that I would see or wouldn’t when I was in town.

But, like I said in my review of Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise, I’m a total sucker for any book that follows the Medium is the Massage‘s format, and The Age of Earthquakes is simply that. But distinctly of the now. Poignant and hilarious, slipping between facts, neologisms and micro-fictions on top of illustrations and collages, it describes the modern world in a way that seems usable, or at least malleable.

I’m filing it next to Medium is the Massage and Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things for useful books to thumb through when facing despair and/or writers block.