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Literature / Worst. Person. Ever.

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Worst. Person. Ever. is a 2013 novel by Douglas Coupland concerning the unfortunate escapades of a crude schmuck named Raymond Gunt. Approached by his ex-wife Fiona, he’s hired to work as a B-unit cameraman for Survival on the Pacific Island of Kiribati. Delighted at the prospect of sex with the hypothetical female residents and cast and legally enslaving someone as his “assistant”, Ray takes on a homeless man and heads to the airport. Unfortunately for him, the universe seems to have other plans...

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This novel contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lacey becomes very obsessed with Ray, after the two have sex during his Ecstasy trip. Although she’s only abhorrent to Ray, who begrudgingly admits she’s attractive, because of their previous antagonism and his determination to bed Sarah.
  • Abusive Parents: If Ray’s to be believed, his mother stole money from him, leeched off the system, and made him into an errand boy on the threat of physical violence. Given her unpleasant and intrusive personality, there’s likely some truth to this.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The punchline of the infobox describing Singapore’s Chewing Gum Ban, where chewing gum was banned over concerns of sabotage and vandalism, is “Yes, this really happened”.
  • Always Someone Better: Neal’s role in a nutshell. Even when it’s something to humiliate Ray, like being forced to perform the Angry Dance from Billy Elliot, Neal upstages him.
  • Asshole Victim: The story runs on the principle of Raymond being one, whose misfortune is often self-afflicted.
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    • If Sarah is right, Matt Bradley was an example, making his fatal heart attack prompted by Raymond unmourned.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Unfortunately for Ray, Sarah’s Unsettling Gender Reveal kills any chance of a relationship. But while being stuck in a raft with Fiona isn’t quite a picnic, he’s at least able to connect with his kids, who earnestly want to help their father.
  • Black Comedy: Ray’s bad luck streak does wonders for the story.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Worst. Person. Ever. loves to humiliate Ray in this manner. A spectacular example follows Ray’s witnessing of an atomic bomb detonation in the Pacific Trash Vortex. When the plane cartwheels, Ray understandably voids his bowels. Like everything else, it’s rubbed in his face.
  • The Chew Toy: Ray fits this role to a T. And fate isn’t exactly nice to the Survival contestants, considering a number of them get casually killed off.
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  • Country Matters: Oh, yes, there are characters who lampshade what Ray’s last name rhymes with.
  • Crapsack World: Besides the behavior of the protagonist and the main cast, characters get killed in ludicrously inane ways, a nuclear detonation drives the world around them into a suicidal panic, and there is much mileage from the suffering the Survival contestants will be put through.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Sarah, Ray’s subject of lust in the story, gives him an Unsettling Gender Reveal and laughs at his expense.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted. Even if Ray does love his mother to some degree, he uses Stuart insulting her as an excuse to beat him up.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ray is utterly shocked that Kyle and Emma turned out as nice as they did, considering their parents. He also resists entertaining incestuous thoughts about his daughter for long, and more or less wants to keep them from becoming like him. Well, aside from bonding over looting supplies, anyway.
  • From Bad to Worse: Ray has the absolute worst luck, even when he’s not provoking karma. The plot also takes a bad turn, when Jennifer’s atomic bomb detonation in the Pacific Trash Vortex triggers a worldwide nuclear panic.
  • Grossout Book: Let’s just say the universe seems to get a kick out of making Ray crap himself.
  • Hidden Depths: Because of his various experiences as a homeless man, Neal has assorted bits of knowledge and is a fairly skilled paramedic (which becomes a Running Gag).
  • Jerkass: Besides Kyle and Emma, the story is full of them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ray and Fiona reveal this side of themselves, when it comes to their children.
  • Karma Houdini: While karma gnaws on Ray, it seems to ignore everyone else. Especially Neal, who often joins in Ray’s underhanded acts, but always comes out on top.
  • Kavorka Man: Neal’s luck with the ladies continuously baffles Ray.
  • Kick the Dog: When Ray isn’t being goaded into something, he’s not above stealing food from starving contestants and helping frame a cabbie they antagonized for assault. Almost everyone else has these sorts of moments, too.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Ray initially takes on Neal as an assistant, so he can have someone to abuse and enslave without repercussions. Instead, Neal reaps all the benefits while Ray suffers. This also applies to a number of times Ray’s pride or poor judgment comes back to bite him.
  • Ms. Fanservice/Mr. Fanservice: Invoked with the Survival casting
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Lusting after Sarah for much of the story, and given Stuart’s antagonism towards him, Ray aspires to eliminate Stuart in order to have her for himself. The trope also strangely comes up when, following a bad trip, Ray is forcefully paired with Lacey and feels she has to die, so that he and Sarah can be together. Lacey is later killed when the boat carrying her and others is struck. And despite knocking Stuart into the water, Ray’s attempt at romance with Sarah is foiled when she reveals herself to be male to humiliate him.
  • Never My Fault: Sarah instigates a panic among the islanders by claiming a sunburnt and stoned Ray as an AIDS victim, and predictably blames him when they’re forced to leave. And, true to form, this is another of Ray’s negative traits.
  • No Sympathy: The entire cast towards each other, save for Ray and Fiona’s kids Kyle and Emma, whose concern for their father shocks him.
  • Parental Incest: Ray briefly struggles with this, upon meeting his daughter Emma for the first time. This trope also ruins Ray’s orgy fantasy, when his mother seems interested in watching have sex.
  • Potty Emergency: On three occasions, Ray is taken out of commission by a macadamia nut allergy and is humiliated by the disgusting aftermath. Although the second time is something of a Chekhov's Gun, since he uses the allergy to escape being carried off by security.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The title, fittingly for its protagonist and his situation
  • Running Gag: The novel has a few. There are the infoboxes, Neal’s interest in fused eating utensils, Ray’s insistence he’s a nice guy before making an ass of himself, Ray’s obsession with the red plastic piece, Neal’s likewise obsession with The Cure T-shirt, and the plot’s determination to make Ray crap himself.
  • Sadist Book: And how. If something really bad can happen to Ray, it will.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Ray and Neal often have discussions of this sort, like their debate on whether or not Ray’s crap transcends dimensions.
  • Scrapbook Story: Of a sort. Coupland wrote the novel in the style of the biji, an Ancient Chinese literary style characterized by the inclusion of notes, letters, criticisms, and other such snippets as the author saw fit. This is primarily accomplished through the incorporation of sardonic infoboxes, as well as footnotes, news articles, and a recipe for Chili Cicada with Rice.
  • Take That!: A number of the infoboxes have a punchline of this sort, such as likening martini shakers to fedoras. Ray’s also rather vocal about his dislike of Americans and American culture.
  • Too Dumb to Live: More than once, Ray’s suffering comes from refusing to quiet down or resisting people’s goading.
  • Unreliable Narrator: A Running Gag in the novel features Ray insisting he’s a humble man, which is readily contrasted by his id-driven behavior.
  • Villain Protagonist: Raymond Gunt is a crude misogynist who’s not above stressing someone until they suffer a heart attack, or stealing the food supply from starving contestants. And for most of the narrative, he’s merely seeking to satisfy his sadistic and hedonistic whims.
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