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By Zoe Whittall
April 16, 2010
11:35 AM

Filed under News

Coupland submits novel (!) for 2010 Massey Lecture

The author of this year’s Massey Lectures, Douglas Coupland, has broken with tradition by submitting a 50,000-word novel instead of the usual lengthy essay. According to House of Anansi Press president and publisher Sarah MacLachlan, the manuscript, which is currently being edited by senior non-fiction editor Janie Yoon and CBC Ideas producer Philip Coulter, is titled Player One: What Is to Become of Us?

MacLachlan, who finalized details with Coupland in Vancouver earlier this week, says the idea was his alone, but that she’s all for it. “We don’t dictate anything to the lecturer … we just need it to come in around 50,000 words,” says MacLachlan. “We’re often completely surprised. Who would have thought Margaret Atwood would write about debt? When you ask a guy like Douglas Coupland to do a lecture, one shouldn’t be surprised when it’s innovative.”

According to Coulter, one of the novel’s central characters is a 19-year-old girl who has grown up online. “[It’s about] how the Internet and the people who grew up in the Internet generation have a different concept of time,” he says, adding that Coupland will design the cover himself.

The project began with Coulter and former Anansi publisher Lynn Henry at the helm, with Yoon taking over after Henry’s recent move to Doubleday Canada. Once Coupland delivers his second draft in May, Yoon will take over the substantive editing and Coulter will begin working with Coupland to adapt the novel into five hour-long lectures to be aired on CBC Radio from Nov. 8–12.

According to Coulter, the hope is that Coupland will attract a slightly younger demographic than previous Massey Lectures. “The classic Massey audience is older than Doug’s audience, and asking him to do the lectures was a clear decision [on our part to reach] a younger audience.”

Lecturers are chosen by a loose committee currently comprised of MacLachlan, Yoon, and Scott Griffin from Anansi, Coulter and Bernie Lucht from CBC Radio’s Ideas, and John Fraser and Anna Luengo from Massey College. “We’re usually working a few years ahead,” says Coulter, adding that the 2011 Massey lecturer will be journalist and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik.

The Massey Lectures were established in 1961 to honour Vincent Massey, Governor General of Canada. Former lecturers include Michael Ignatieff, Jane Jacobs, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Lewis, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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