Thursday, October 09, 2008

Double Play

I needed something frivolous and fun after The Road, and JPod by Douglas Coupland certainly filled the bill. This is only my second outing with Coupland, so I don't know if he's a one-note writer, or the two books I've read have just been similar. JPod feels like it it should be subtitled All Families Are Psychotic, Too!

The 20-something narrator, Ethan, works for a company in Vancouver that designs software games. He's a programmer stuck in JPod, where everyone has the same last name. The best part of the novel was when the six JPod workers, who have a lot of free time, make up bizarre contests, like writing ads to sell themselves on eBay or writing to Ronald McDonald to explain why they are the ideal mate for him. I was a little less amused later in the book when the JPodders were challenged to find the non-prime number in a string of numbers that goes on for more than ten pages, but was gratified to get that list of 972 3-letter Scrabble words (with one phony).

Ethan's parents were cartoony as hell, straight out of Arrested Development. I couldn't really get interested in them (even though they were Boomers) because it seemed like Coupland was trying too hard to make them do as many strange things as possible. Another thing that made me feel meh was when characters would refer to Douglas Coupland novels, then later on, he showed up as a character in JPod. Much too sitcom-ish.

I loved all of the pop culture references. Since Coupland and I are almost exact contemporaries, (19 days apart) his references and my schemata hit it off immediately. I also found myself wanting to needlepoint a pillow with Ethan's comment about humidity: I hate humidity. It feels like a thousand strangers touching me. I wish I'd had that back last summer while I was melting.

I'm willing to read another novel by Coupland. What can you recommend of his that is chock-full of pop culture, lots of smartasses that you'd almost recognize from real life, but goes a little easier on the presence of flat and cartoonish characters that run all over Hell's half-acre? Also, please -- no more self-referential stuff. But I wouldn't mind another Scrabble list.

Getting this one read felt good, because it helped me out with 2 challenges: The Second Canadian Book Challenge and The Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

12 comments:

raidergirl3 said...

Jpod is a sitcom on CBC, they made a TV show out of it. I haven't watched it though.

Hey Nostradamus! was very good, I liked Eleanor Rigby. Both were less flippant and had sadder themes like loneliness (ER).

I hate Scrabble.
We had a version called Numble, which only used numbers and had to be sequential and multiples of three? something like that.

Sandra said...

I just read The Road and I can't stop thinking about it. I even dreamt about it for a few nights, and every time I cook or eat something, I think about how much the characters in the book would have loved to eat my food scraps. That book really has some staying power.

Bybee said...

Raidergirl3,
I'm trying to find a copy of Eleanor Rigby for the second Canadian Challenge.
I like Scrabble, but I'm sure I'd hate Numble.

Bybee said...

Sandra,
I know...the book really works on a person, doesn't it?

Book Zombie (Joanne) said...

Great review! I loved JPod, another Coupland I loved was The Gum Thief.

Bookfool said...

The two Couplands I've read were similar in style and theme, but the storylines were quite different. You might want to try Girlfriend in a Coma, next, to avoid the psychotic family thing -- it' involves a group of friends, rather than a big nutty family. Eleanor Rigby does involve a slightly wacky family.

Jessica said...

I adore Coupland and I've read everything of his except "Microserfs," mainly because an ex recommended it to me as his favorite book. Isn't that annoying? I should just get over it.

I think my favorite is either "Girlfriend in a Coma" or "Life After God." But then I also loved "Miss Wyoming." And "The Gum Thief." Actually I loved them all. Bah. Just pick the one with the fewest pages and cross your fingers.

Dewey said...

I liked Eleanor Rigby. I've only read a couple of his books, but I have a bunch on TBR Mountain. Not Jpod, though, fortunately.

Jill said...

I also liked Miss Wyoming but I read it so long ago I don't remember why. This review made me think I should try another of his books. I always love books with weird families, maybe I'm making up for having had the most normal family life ever.

bkclubcare said...

I haven't read any Coupland. Congrats on getting closer to challenge-completion.

John Mutford said...

I haven't read this one. As of right now I'm pretty ambivalent about the guy.

Wanda said...

I haven't read any Coupland yet ... I'd probably start with Eleanor Rigby. You wouldn't give a book a great title like that if it wasn't as good as the song, right?