Douglas Coupland donates archives to UBC
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:36PM PDT
One of Canada's most famous and eccentric authors is giving people the rare chance to take a look inside his creative process.
Douglas Coupland, the author best known for his seminal work ‘Generation X,' is donating an extensive collection of his archives to keep on permanent display at the University of British Columbia.
And it's a lot.
"There's like 72 banker's boxes filled with stuff," the 49-year-old told ctvbc.ca from his home in West Vancouver, B.C.
"My house was beginning to look like that TV show ‘Hoarders.'"
The archives include a collection of personal records and mementos dating back to 1980. There's visual art, fan mail, press clippings and paper collages from the internationally renowned cultural icon.
What is bound to be one of the most sought-after pieces on display is the first hand-written manuscript of ‘Generation X,' scrawled on loose-leaf notebook paper and strewn with margin notes.
The author said sending away the items for archiving was rather cathartic.
"When you move from house to house it's not the physical labour that's hard, it's every single object you have an attachment to. It was really hard to send it all out but once it was out the door I felt about 200 pounds lighter."
The process of getting Coupland's most prized archives has been an eight-year journey for Ralph Stanton, the head of the UBC Library's Rare Books and Special Collections.
He heard about the university's desire for Coupland's work in 2002, the very first time he sat down at his desk.
"There was a note there from the English department saying he's the most important Canadian author and we must have his work," Stanton said.
"Turning that scrap of paper into a reality was pretty exciting for me. This is our first major literary archive of the 21st century."
The university first approached the author in 2006. Last summer they collected 122 boxes and about 30 metres of textual materials from his home and office and began the process of cataloguing.
"When I went to his house for the first time it was like ‘holy mackerel,'" he recalled.
Stanton believes the author's manuscripts, including those of ‘Miss Wyoming' and ‘All Families are Psychotic,' will garner the most attention from readers.
But the recent acquisition of printed works is expected to be just the beginning of a long-term plan by the university and the author. Coupland plans on donating much more work, calling the process "ongoing and exhausting."
Next up: electronics.
"In the old days it would have just been paper, invites – that kind of thing. Now the big ticket items are going to be the electronics," Coupland said.
That includes various laptops containing decades of writing and personal correspondence.
Coupland will also hand off personal photographs and, he hopes, the large piles of unidentified cords that occupy a box in his home.
"It's like toxic evil linguine," he said, pausing the interview to feed a pet chipmunk outside.
"It's a cord that you have no idea where it comes from. Like a Latvian power adapter. These things hold such importance in your life when you have them and then later you just wonder -- where did that come from?"
Coupland will receive an honourary degree from UBC on May 27.
Since publishing ‘Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture' in 1991, Coupland has gone on to write another 19 books, including last year's ‘Generation A.'
His 2010 biography of communications theorist Marshall McLuhan was recently published as part of Penguin Canada's Extraordinary Canadians series.