All Families Are Psychotic

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Psychosis: any form of severe mental disorder in which the individual’s contact with reality becomes highly distorted.

Douglas Coupland, the author whom Tom Wolfe calls “one of the freshest, most exciting voices of the novel today,” delivers his tenth book in ten years of writing, with All Families Are Psychotic. Coupland recently has been compared to Jack Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald, yet he is a man firmly grounded in the current era. The novel is a sizzling and sharp-witted entertainment that resounds with eternal human yearnings.

In the opening pages, 65-year-old Janet Drummond checks the clock in her cheap motel room near Cape Canaveral, takes her prescription pills and does a rapid tally of the whereabouts of her three children: Wade, the eldest, in and out of jail and still radiating ”the glint”; suicidal Bryan, whose girlfriend, the vowel-free Shw, is pregnant; and Sarah, the family’s shining light, an astronaut preparing to be launched into space as the star of a shuttle mission. They will all arrive in Orlando today – along with Janet’s ex-husband Ted and his new trophy wife – setting the stage for the most disastrous family reunion in the history of fiction. Florida may never recover from their version of fun in the sun.

The last time the family got together, there was gunplay and an ensuing series of HIV infections. Now, what should be a celebration turns instead into a series of mishaps and complications that place the family members in constant peril. When the reformed Wade attempts to help his dad out of a financial jam and pay off his own bills at the fertility clinic, his plan spins quickly out of control. Adultery, hostage-taking, a letter purloined from Princess Diana’s coffin, heart attacks at Disney World, bankruptcy, addiction and black-market negotiations – Coupland piles on one deft, comic plot twist after another, leaving you reaching for your seat belt. When the crash comes, it is surprisingly sweet.

Janet contemplates her family, and where it all went wrong. “People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people's family. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own.” During the writing, Coupland described the book as being about “the horrible things that families do to each other and how it makes them strong.” He commented: “Families who are really good to each other, I’ve noticed, tend to dissipate, so I wonder how awful a family would have to be to stick together.”

Coupland’s first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, became a cultural phenomenon, affixing a buzzword and a vocabulary to a generation and going on to sell over a million copies. The novels that followed were all bestsellers, and his work has continued to show a fascination with the digital, brand-conscious, media-dense culture of contemporary North American society, leading some to peg him as “an up-to-the-minute cultural reference engine.” Meanwhile, his deeper interests in how human beings function in this spiritual vacuum have become increasingly apparent. For example, the character Wade contemplates his father: “What would the world have to offer Ted Drummond, and the men like him, a man whose usefulness to the culture had vanished somewhere around the time of Windows 95? Golf? Gold? Twenty-four hour stock readouts?” Janet, on the other hand, nears a kind of peace with life: “Time erases both the best and the worst of us.” All Families Are Psychotic shows Coupland being just as concerned for the grown-ups as for the kids.


Chapter One
Janet opened her eyes — Florida's prehistoric glare dazzled outside the motel window. A dog barked; a car honked; a man was singing a snatch of a Spanish song. She absentmindedly touched the scar from the bullet wound beneath her left rib cage, a scar that had healed over, bumpy and formless and hard...
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Praise for All Families Are Psychotic

"[All Families Are Psychotic] works because Coupland writes as sweetly and cleanly as a vapour trail." —Elle Canada

"[Douglas Coupland’s] focus is always on the moral implications, on human relationships and feelings. There is an almost spiritual aspect to his work that makes it emotionally compelling, and redemption is always at hand to pull his vision back from the brink of apocalypse. But more important perhaps, Coupland can write beautifully. . . . we shouldn’t ignore writers like Coupland who have vision and a thing or two to say. . . . Coincidence features heavily, there is the usual cast of zany characters, an outlandish series of events, the signature cynicism and wry humour - and transcendent moments of epiphany. . . . Coupland Country is ultimately a funny, quirky, compassionate and forgiving place to inhabit.” —Toronto Star

"With All Families Are Psychotic author Douglas Coupland has completed a seven-novel mission: he’s finally moved his characters out of the rumpus room. . . . offers a better view of our glittering, behemoth spaceship Earth than most offerings by the usual literary crowd. . . . Coupland ought to be our guide to today’s chilled, illed psychonauts of inner and outer space." —Quill & Quire

"There is wit à la early Pynchon or McGuane or Elmore Leonard, and the story does hum along - amazing twists and turns, snappy dialogue, meditations on the future, on postwar concerns: technology, feminism, consumerism, crime, junk culture, genetics." —The Globe and Mail

"Subtly subversive." —Georgia Straight

"As rich as an ovenful of fresh-baked brownies and twice as nutty. . . . Everyone with a strange family — that is, everyone with a family - will laugh knowingly at the feuding, conducted with a maestro’s ear for dialogue and a deep understanding of humanity. Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man." —People Magazine

"[Douglas Coupland] has ventured past his trademark satirical style to write an outright farce. . . . [He] has written what is probably his best novel to date. . . . The intricate pacing [is] more like 17th-century drama — John Webster, Ben Jonson or Molière — than slacker sitcom, which is truly a revelation. . . ." —L.A. Weekly

"Although the Drummonds appear to be self-destructing, author Coupland reveals himself to be, somewhat surprisingly, an optimist. For him, the new millennium is an era full of promise and potential miracles, despite the seemingly terminal state of the world." —Booklist

"Taking whacks at Florida is a bit like shooting a whale in a barrel, but Coupland does it with precision and originality. . . . vivid and true." —Washington Post

"True to Coupland's style, the book reads lightning fast. The author punctuates his narrative with clipped dialogue and punchy exchanges that advance the palpable sense of unease and tension running throughout. . . . The entire book brews and builds like a roiling tropical storm." —

"Chirpy, bright and strenuously zany." —The New York Times

"Coupland mines tabloid territory for sensationalism, which he then undermines with ironic self-awareness. The can-you-top-this atmosphere will keep Coupland's Gen-X readers (the ones who religiously watch Cops for the laughs) totally amused.” —Publishers Weekly

“It seemed paradoxical that a writer so revered for his hipness resembled, in practice, nobody so much as Jane Austen.... In the resultant unravelling there isn’t a boring page.” —The Literary Review

“He gets beneath their skin, convincing us that their lives of Gothic chaos contain their own perverse logic – a postmodern take on Tolstoy’s maxim that ‘all unhappy families are alike in their unhappiness.’ For a writer so immersed in the slippery textures of our time, Coupland reveals old-fashioned concern for the nature of our social interaction. He questions why we value what we do, and the price we pay to get it. He confronts our imprisoning luxury, with its Faustian freedoms. His hi-tech flights of fancy conceal a baffled humanist; one who echoes G. K. Chesterton’s remark that ‘people are much more eccentric than they are meant to be.’” —Sunday Express

“Coupland manages to balance the more weighty strands of the story with an absurdly satirical vision, without compromising either. At the same time, he mines the present with such intensity that it seems like science fiction. This strange, often miraculous fusion has you laughing, thinking and crying all at once, and suggests that Coupland’s writing is becoming more mature than ever.” —Evening Standard

“The most frightening element of the novel gives the lie to the truth of its title. Fantastic characters and a beyond-belief plot are insurance policies for white knuckles all the way, punctuated with belly laughs.” —i-D Magazine

"…being broken is a way of being together. Despite the meltdown of the family, this book lets us know that we don’t need to worry. . . . Coupland’s novel is ultimately optimistic. Like Anne Tyler, he intertwines the garish and unmeaning events he describes with a thread of hope, sometimes contained in a reminiscence of childhood, sometimes projected into a possible future. . . . Coupland presents us with a heroine rising above the mess of modern America, an honestly trusting person moving through the downbeat style and the defeated, disconnected world of modern America." —Times Literary Supplement

“[Douglas Coupland] is on an incredible creative roll. His last four novels . . . are so good and so distinctive that they seem to me to mark a genuine seismic shift in the literary landscape. Could it be that not everyone is as convinced of Coupland’s brilliance as I am? . . . . This is high melodrama: divorce, dysfunction, inter-generational sex, marital infidelity, life-threatening illnesses (everyone has at least one) and spacemen. But Coupland does not tell it in the florid, intense style of the melodrama queen. The tone is rather cool and slow, almost like a song played a beat behind the bar. . . . sophisticated . . . dreamlike.” [full review also compares Doug to Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami] —The New Statesman

“Coupland has been growing stronger with each subsequent book and has since Girlfriend In A Coma been making his pitch for best young writer in America (despite being born and brought up in Canada's Vancouver) —The Sunday Herald

Praise for Douglas Coupland

“Reading his increasingly assured prose is like watching a teen idol take on Hamlet and pull it off.” —Toronto Life

“The self-wrought oracle of our age.” —Saturday Night

“Douglas Coupland continues to register the buzz of his generation with a fidelity that should shame most professional Zeitgeist chasers." —Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review

Miss Wyoming

“Equal parts love story and absurdist parable, it seamlessly meshes Coupland’s trademark ironic detachment with an unapologetic romanticism that has been absent from his previous work. The intelligence and humour of Coupland’s prose engages the mind while the unabashed yearning of his characters hooks the heart.” —Maclean’s

Girlfriend in a Coma

“To call Coupland the John Bunyan of his set would not be hyperbole…. Girlfriend approaches an eccentric jeremiad worthy of Kurt Vonnegut.” —The Washington Post

Polaroids from the Dead
“He bravely commits himself to material that is rich and deeply felt.” —The New York Times


"The novel’s real fun is in the frequent and rapidly fired pop-culture references that spin the ’70s, ’80s, and ‘90s … and Coupland uses them with relish.” —Entertainment Weekly

Life After God
“Coupland has at his disposal a dazzling array of tools with which to shape the emotions of his readers: the whimsy of a latter-day Jack Kerouac, the irony of a young Kurt Vonnegut, the poignancy of early John Irving.” —Bookpage

Shampoo Planet
“Having called Coupland's first book a Catcher in the Rye for our time, I repeat myself. Nobody has a better finger on the pulse of the twenty-something generation.” —Cosmopolitan

Generation X
“A groundbreaking novel.” —Los Angeles Times