Friday, September 9, 2011

ELEANOR RIGBY by Douglas Coupland

Liz Dunn is an overweight, mousy, lonely woman (hence the title) with a secret in her past that not even her siblings know about. She had a son when she was 16, following a school trip to Rome. The 20-something-year-old son, Jeremy, after surviving a string of unpleasant foster homes, turns up in a hospital with Liz's contact info on his MedicAlert bracelet. Jeremy then moves in with Liz, shocking her family and coworkers. It goes without saying that Jeremy gives Liz a new lease on life, just as his is beginning to deteriorate, due to MS. Liz doesn't remember the details of Jeremy's conception, presumably at a drunken orgy, but all is eventually revealed with a satisfying, though farfetched, conclusion. My question is this: Why is Liz so lonely? She may be unattractive, but she's not particularly socially inept, she has a good job, and she's certainly not basking in the pleasures of solitude. Why does it take a catalyst like Jeremy to get her to take an interest in life? What's the significance of the fact that both Jeremy and Liz can sing a song backwards? Then there are 2 other events that puzzled me. As a child, Liz discovered the dead body of a man dressed and made up as a woman. What impact did this supposedly have on her? Did it change her perspective on death? Or on life? Or on her life in particular by perhaps reinforcing dissatisfaction with her body, as the corpse appeared to be dissatisfied with his gender? Or none of the above. Also, an object that appears to be a meteorite drops into her path and eventually causes an international incident. Ultimately and ironically, the object shortens her life, just as she is beginning to participate.

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