The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. L.P. Hartley's immortal dictum is but one of many lasting observations in his classic coming-of-age novel about sex and class, The Go-Between[Kindle], recently rereleased with an introduction by Colm Toibin. Two years ago in a longish essay in the Guardian, Ali Smith praised the book as "a modern kind of sublime." Although Hartley was named for Virginia Woolf's father Leslie Stephen, VW snubbed him and he was excluded from the Bloomsbury set. One boyfriend was Lord David Cecil and the Oxford Times reports, "Hartley’s homosexual enthusiasms occasionally spilled over dangerously into his relations with his servants." Among the crowning highlights of his sixteen or so novels (and at least six books of short fiction) are the three wonderful works about a brother and sister collected as Eustace and Hilda [Kindle]; the final volume won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Appointed a CBE in 1956, Hartley died in 1972, two years after The Go-Between film starring Alan Bates and Julie Christie. Twelve years ago a publisher unleashed Hartley's macabre stories.
When he was thirty, Douglas Coupland published his first novel which permanently named the post-Boomers Generation X. In the twenty years since, he's written thirteen more novels, nine works of nonfiction (most recently a biography of Marshall McLuhan and the official guide to the Vancouver Olympics), and plays, screenplays, and tv scripts (a miniseries called Extinction Event). In 2010 he delivered the Massey Lectures in Canada, following in the footsteps of Noam Chomsky, Jane Jacobs, Carlos Fuentes, Margaret Atwood, and Martin Luther King Jr. Ever the intellectual renegade, Coupland's "lecture" is a five-hour real-time novel called Player One: What Is To Become of Us that takes place in an airport cocktail lounge amid a global catastrophe. His next novel is Worst. Person. Ever.
Beyond the 22 books and many scripts, Coupland is a visual artist. Recently he designed the Monument to the War of 1812 in Toronto, the sculptures in Canoe Landing Park, and Canada's national monument to fallen firefighters to open in Ottawa in March 2012. He lives with David Weir in Vancouver, where they bought the midcentury house behind theirs for a high style project loved by the NYT. He says he works seven days a week and has never taken a vacation.