The Gum Thief

The Gum Thief

Book - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
The first and only story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office supply superstore.

In Douglas Coupland’s ingenious new novel–sort of a Clerks-meets-Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf–we meet Roger, a divorced, middle-aged “aisles associate” at a Staples outlet, condemned to restocking reams of twenty-lb. bond paper for the rest of his life. And then there’s Roger’s co-worker Bethany, who’s at the end of her Goth phase, and young enough to be looking at fifty more years of sorting the red pens from the blue in Aisle Six.

One day, Bethany comes across Roger’s notebook in the staff room. When she opens it up, she discovers that this old guy she’s never considered as quite human is writing mock diary entries pretending to be her–and spookily, he is getting her right. She also learns he has a tragedy in his past–and suddenly he no longer seems like just a paper-stocking robot with a name tag.

These two retail workers strike up a peculiar and touching epistolary relationship, their lives unfolding alongside Roger’s work-in-progress, the oddly titled Glove Pond, a Cheever-era novella gone horribly, horribly wrong. Through a complex layering of narratives, The Gum Thief, highlights number-one bestselling author Douglas Coupland’s eye for the comedy, loneliness and strange comforts of contemporary life.

On every page of this witty, wise and unforgettable novel, Coupland reminds us that love, death and eternal friendship can all transpire where we least expect them. And that even after tragedy seems to have wiped your human slate clean, stories can slowly rebuild you.



I’m the dead girl whose locker you spat on somewhere between recess and lunch.

I’m not really dead, but I dress like I want to be. There’s something generic about girls like me: we hate the sun, we wear black, and we feel trapped inside our bodies like a nylon fur mascot at a football game.

I wish I were dead most of the time. I can’t believe the meat I got stuck with, and where I got stuck and with whom. I wish I were a ghost.

And FYI, I’m not in school any more, but the spitting thing was real: a little moment that sums up life. I work in a Staples. I’m in charge of restocking aisles 2-North and 2-South: Sheet Protectors, Indexes & Dividers, Note books, Post-It Products, Paper Pads, Specialty Papers and “Social Stationery.” Do I hate this job? Are you nuts? Of course I hate it. How could you not hate it? Everyone who works with me is either already damaged or else they’re embryos waiting to be damaged, fresh out of school and slow as a 1999 modem. Just because you’ve been born and made it through high school doesn’t mean society can’t still abort you. Wake up.

Let me try to say something positive here. For balance.

Staples allows me to wear black lipstick to work.

–Bethany
from The GumThief

Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, c2007
ISBN: 9780307356284
0307356280
Branch Call Number: FIC COU
Characteristics: 275 p. ;,23 cm.

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jtkretzschmar
Dec 08, 2013

I read this book on a recommendation from a friend and it was truly worth it. I generally steer clear of any Coupland novels because I don't enjoy them very much. I think it must've been age related because I found this book to be truer and more engaging then most I've read. I put 'JPod' another one of his, on my to-read shelf because of this novel.

K_ROK Jan 10, 2013

Loved this book, couldn't put it down and was amazed at how well Coupland developed Bethany as a character. Steve and Gloria were very entertaining as well. Give this book a chance and you will be happy that you did. ;)

j
Jenmat
Jun 29, 2012

Classic Coupland. I loved Steve And Gloria, the story within the story.

t
tegan
Jul 13, 2010

Coupland does it again with The Gum Thief. The two central characters, Roger and Bethany, are both dealing with the monotony of working at the big-box store Staples. They exchange ideas and stories through a diary and letters. Coupland manages to weave a story within a story within a story in this novel - it is brilliant. And the two integrated stories are actually quite amusing, which is not always the case with Coupland. This novel is a fast-read and you will find your self grow attached to Roger and Bethany. You can't help but sympathize with Roger, the middle-aged failure and Bethany the young directionless goth girl.

c
Chookie
Jul 20, 2008

Couldn't finish this book. Pick this up only if you are in the mood to read about unhappy, disaffected people who feel sorry for themselves.
P.S. - I have enjoyed other Coupland novels.

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