Douglas Coupland likes crowdsourcing. I should know, because he crowdsourced me shortly after the first part of this interview. His ‘in conversation’ partner for the launch of one of the two books he was in town to promote dropped out at the last minute, so I was asked to help him stage a dramatic reconstruction in the shiny new London branch of Foyles; we both played slightly drunker versions of ourselves. In the pub afterwards, I briefly cameoed in a video he made using the slow-mo function on his iPhone, panning round the table as the staff of Black Dog Publishing danced and waved their hair around at their best approximation of double speed. In playback, I remember it having an analogue TV static effect: we’d made black and white confetti from the endpapers of a signed copy of Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.
Coupland is probably most famous for a succession of fourteen novels, which, from 1991’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture to 2013’s Worst. Person. Ever. define and often satirise successive generations’ relationships to technology. The lobby of the Shoreditch branch of Ace Hotel, where the original version of the interview took place, might have been populated by laptop-wielding Coupland characters. ‘Ace Hotel is a collection of individuals’, its website explains, ‘multiple and inclusive, held together by an affinity for the soulful. We are not here to reinvent the hotel, but to readdress its conventions to keep them fresh, energised, human.’
The staff found us a less energised room upstairs, and after we’d got some enamel cups of water, I put my embarrassingly low-tech Dictaphone on the table next to Coupland’s iPhone, and got out my copy of his latest book, Everywhere is Anywhere is Anything is Everything. Coupland was an art student before he was a writer, and the book in question is a catalogue – published by Black Dog – of his visual work, with written contributions by curators and friends including Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michael Stipe. It accompanies a touring exhibition of Coupland’s art in Canada under the same title, the premise of which seems to be the globally homogenising effects of technology. (Ace Hotels, their website continues, are also available in Palm Springs, Panama, downtown LA, Portland, New York and Seattle.) I found him witty and inventive; whether in prose, visual art, email – where we conducted the second part of this interview – or ‘meatspace’, the way he blends fascinated analysis of his surroundings with ambitious, open creativity is impressive and infectious.