Dear Vancouver Public Library,
No, I really mean it. Thank you. I know we haven’t spoken in a while, what with me being a stressed out post-secondary student and you being a 22-branch multifaceted organization stretched out across the Lower Mainland. I didn’t mean for us to lose touch or anything. I could give you a list of reasons why I just don’t have time for recreational reading anymore—and believe me, there are plenty of them—but let’s just cut to the real reason, shall we? It’s not you, Vancouver Public Library; it’s me. You probably already know what I’m referring to: that Douglas Coupland book I took out almost two years ago. The one a friend recommended to me and I spent months neglecting? Despite a return date that has long since passed, I still had it until recently.
Give me a chance to explain myself, though. At the start of 2011, I entered what I could only describe as a literary rampage. Coupland novels were like candy to me, as I chewed through critical darlings such as All Families are Psychotic, mowed past Miss Wyoming, and struggled through the likes of Generation A. If Coupland was on the cover, I wanted to read it. But around the seventh novel, my seemingly perpetual motion machine lost steam and my focus faltered. Luckily, The Gum Thief was the only book left checked out from the library, and yet I still couldn’t muster myself to conquer it. I’d become too disenchanted by the Coupland trademarks I had once craved. Existential crises-riddled characters, enlightened monologues from characters with the cranial capacity of dirt, and the endless waves of stories within stories that, despite echoing old favourites like Breakfast of Champions, left me desperate for even a whiff of plot development.
I realized I had a problem. I needed to break up with Coupland and end the now parasitic relationship.
Unfortunately—and I really didn’t mean for this to happen—you got mixed up in all of this. By the time I renounced the Church of Coupland, The Gum Thief was already unreasonably late. I couldn’t just return the book, because it had already cost me so much time and money; I couldn’t finish it, because the plot was too contrived. I was in the year’s most stubborn stalemate with myself and the only progress happening was on how much I owed on my library account.
Autumn came and I finally managed to finish the book, thanks to a steep drop-off in customers at my seasonal job. If it weren’t for those hours spent alone in a steel food cart with no one to comfort me except The Gum Thief, I wouldn’t have been able to finish that awful, shitty book. So thanks, terrible weather.
In all honesty, I’ve just been too darn embarrassed to come see you since finishing the book. It doesn’t help that I moved to Burnaby and was able to join a new circuit of public libraries, but they could never replace you.
The amnesty program you launched last week really helped me a lot in moving forward. Though I had no real reason to return the mundane mess that is The Gum Thief, I’m glad I did. Maybe now I can fully move on from this.
I’m still not reading as much as I used to, though I’m with a new library now and they treat me good. They don’t have the same impressive range of books and multimedia items available for lending that you had, but then again, who does? Say hi to the Central Branch for me and take care of The Gum Thief; hopefully whoever reads it next won’t be as sick of Douglas Coupland as I am.