Book review: Polaroids from the dead by Douglas Coupland


The introduction was pretty straight forward. You come to understand a bit about the content of the book as well as getting to know Douglas’ artistic vision for this specific piece of fiction/non-fiction more. That’s how he describes this book to be, an “extension” of the truth. Trying to define the 90s is hard but I appreciate the effort.

The first chapters I dove into stories about different group of friends living in the 90s, doing 90s stuff… going to concerts, taking drugs and being kinda’ i-dont-care’ish. I quickly re-visit the memory of how building a narrative around pictures that doesn’t have a very very clear one can guide/misguide you.

It does take some love for thinking beyond (so to say) to appreciate Dougs style of telling stories. I can imagine that it might be somewhat frustrating if you’re an extreme non-fiction reader (I do put myself into this category of people). I 99% of the time do NOT like reading fiction. I leave “made up” storytelling for moving pictures or still pictures, but it’s good to re-think once opinions now and then to keep up to date with current preferences… cause they do change over time. I did often find it a tad bit stressful that I didn’t read any backed up “facts”.

The second chapter we leave the obvious red thread of chapter one with druggie teens going to concerts. We now enter a chapter that focuses on individuals more. Here Doug seams to be all over the place. Please note that this review is from a viewing point of a person that (still) does not enjoy fiction as much as facts when it come to books. I think he’s recalling stuff from his personal life in this chapter. It’s more personal then the “observant” chapter one. I don’t know… by this point I’m pretty much fed up with this book. But I really like to finish this little task since it’s not that many pages left to it.

Chapter three is probably the most interesting if I have to pick one. It gave me a sort of realization of how much America has NOT changed when it comes to celebrities and that whole subject. It gave me tools for analyzing today’s pop culture a bit more, it gave me “stuff” to compare and conclude how far ahead we have moved in this area in our civilization. At this point I don’t really differ from American pop culture and Swedish pop culture. Sweden is so effected by what happens in the US that it’s a joke to separate them in this specific subject. Not saying it’s a bad thing… just sayin’.

So,the book is very oriented around what happened in America during the 90s rather then what happened globally. It addresses (or rather) builds stories around actual media recognized events taking place in the US during this time period as well as mentioning typical 90’s details such as band t-shirts, the “importance” of CD’s for the youth etc.

All and all I wouldn’t read it again even if I got payed. I always try to learn something from everything and think positive, it’s good to have an open mind. But boy did I suffer though it in all honesty. It’s recommended for Americans that want a nostalgic trip while looking at something that has been, from somewhat a different angle.

I picked this book up because I thought it was something useful about Polaroid photography. Something practical. It wasn’t. With that said it was nice to have read it to see if I fancy fiction now that it’s been a few years since I said that “long books based on fiction is such a waste of my time”. I’ll try it again in a few years when I’m older and not so obsessed with questioning “facts”.

– Much love B


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