JPod by Douglas Coupland

    6 June 2006, early morning

I bought my copy of JPod at a reading of the book. I didn’t know much about the book, or Douglas Coupland, beyond the fact he had written a book called Microserfs. This was the first time I had paid pretty much full price for a book in ages. Since JPod was reviewed by the Globe and Mail, it is on sale at Amazon for 40% off. I probably should have bought it there. (Still, I can take heart in knowing that my cousin would have been proud of me supporting Pages, who were selling the books during the reading.) JPod is very different from the books I have been reading recently. It is funny for starters, which Hemmingway and Baldwin rarely are. So in this way it was an enjoyable read. It’s nice to read something that doesn’t leave you depressed. The problem though is the book doesn’t feel like it has any substance to it.

I didn’t feel any sort of attachment to any of the characters in the book. This actually might be a function of the characters themselves; they are all thoroughly apathetic, amoral, twenty-somethings. They really aren’t likable. They are memorable insofar as they are quirky.

That said, the book is very much character driven. The plot for the book is more or less non-existent, and isn’t as important to the story as the characters and their various neuroses are. The story centres around Eathan, a video game programmer. He works at a nondescript game company in Vancouver, in an area known as the JPod (because your last name starts with a J if you are working in that chunk of cubicles). Him and his fellow JPodders are working on a skateboard game that gets repurposed into a skateboard game with a kid-friendly turtle. The working life of these characters is portrayed in all its soul-sucking glory. Beyond the video-game programmers, the reader is introduced to Eathan’s dysfunctional family: a pot growing mom; a people smuggling real-estate agent brother; a ball-room dancing wannabe actor. Coupland himself shows up in the novel. The first few times it is actually funny. (The last couple times, not so much.) The book is very surreal and absurd. There are hints of real life hidden within all the exaggeration and caricature. I suppose it does make for an interesting read.

As I said at the start, I did enjoy reading the book. I’m not sure if it is a classic or any such nonsense, but it is entertaining. The book has a nice cover. It’s probably worth checking out.

 

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