Wednesday, October 18, 2006

jPod - Douglas Coupland

The Basics: jPod, Douglas Coupland, 2006, 516 pages, hardcover.

How I found it: I have followed Douglas Coupland's work since I read Generation X in second year English Literature. I really enjoyed that book and a few of his other ones, including Microserfs, which is a sort of companion book to this one. I though Microserfs was a little weak so I'm not sure why I was drawn to this one. (I really do enjoy his non-fiction stuff though, like Souvenir of Canada, Terry and City of Glass.)

What's it about?: Like Microserfs, jPod follows the lives on young computer programmers. This time in the dot-bomb era we follow video game programmers instead of employees at a startup. Coupland works in all the pop culture cliches he can in a not too thinly veiled parody of EA's Burnaby sweatshop. Along with all the programmer stereotypes, Coupland also includes plot points that tie in all kinds of other contemporary Vancouver archetypes, from biker gangs to Asian human-smugglers to mom and pop shop grow-ops. Coupland also gets all "meta" on us and includes himself as a character is in novel.

Did I like it?: I was willing to give this a book a shot because I had liked Generation X so much. Like every other one of Couplands books, however, this one disappointed me. Plainly put, the man can't tie up a plot to save his life. His plot devices are contrived and poorly thought out. Here, he is striving so hard to be hip and put in all kinds of up to the minute pop culture references that he begins to be annoying. This summer I saw an "art installation" of his at St. John's The Rooms (a museum and gallery complex). The installation consisted of stream of consciousness pop culture musing printed in 72 point font in a circle around the walls of a large room. The sign at the door to the exhibit mentioned that it was not suitable for children - maybe that is why when I looked at it only the dirty words and references to pornography stood out to me. There was also a smaller room with the walls covered in seemingly random numbers. Looking up to the top corner we noticed the sequence began with 3.14... Wow Doug, how unique and innovative! My biggest beef with this book, besides the crappy plot and Coupland's incessant desire to prove how cool and with it he is was the pages and pages of wasted space. In this space Coupland attempts to show in an avant garde way, how overwhelmed by words we are in our society. Therefore he devotes 155 pages (yes I counted, so you don't have to) to such fascinating sections that include a reproduction of a Nigerian scam email, the back of a Doritos bag, pi to 10,000 digits, etc. I'm glad I borrowed this book from the library since I would feel pretty cheated if I had bought the book and spent money on 155 pages of crap that doesn't relate to the book. Perhaps when I become a successful author my publisher will let me do whatever I want and waste money and trees in the name of "art".

Will you like it?: If you are a fan of Coupland's you may like this book. It is not that bad and is on par with some of his other crap, such as Microserfs and Girlfriend in Coma. If you are a computer nerd like so many people I know (and love) this book may be interesting since it attempts (and I think fails) to caricature your world. Otherwise, I warn the general public away from this book. I know Coupland is supposed to be a celebrated Canadian writer... but really the title is rather undeserving. Sorry, Doug.

But don't take my word for it: Some generally positive reader reviews on, a review from BoingBoing (a website that the characters of jPod might actually read), one from the UK's The Guardian, a fairly positive review from the Globe and Mail that calls Coupland a "superb comedian" (WTF?), and an amalgamation of reviews from metacritic, including one zinger from NY's Village Voice that sums up how I feel.

No comments:

Post a Comment