By Douglas Coupland
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781596911048, 448pp.)
Publication Date: May 16, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Very evil....very funny
A lethal joyride into today's new breed of technogeeks, Douglas Coupland's new novel updates Microserfs for the age of Google.
Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers are bureaucratically marooned in JPod, a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver video game design company.
The six JPodders wage daily battle against the demands of a boneheaded marketing staff, who daily torture employees with idiotic changes to already idiotic games. Meanwhile, Ethan's personal life is shaped (or twisted) by phenomena as disparate as Hollywood, marijuana grow-ops, people-smuggling, ballroom dancing, and the rise of China. JPod's universe is amoral and shameless - and dizzyingly fast-paced. The characters are products of their era even as they're creating it. Everybody in Ethan's life inhabits a moral grey zone. Nobody is exempt, not even his seemingly straitlaced parents or Coupland himself. Full of word games, visual jokes, and sideways jabs, this book throws a sharp, pointed lawn dart into the heart of contemporary life. JPod is Douglas Coupland at the top of his game.
Douglas Coupland is a novelist who also works in visual arts and theater. His novels include Generation X, Microserfs, All Families Are Psychotic, and Hey Nostradamus! He lives and works in Vancouver, Canada.
"To Coupland's credit, the technologically sophisticated but socially alienated universe that he anticipated in 1995 is an even more tangible and complicated entity in 2006 -- a time when people really do speak in regurgitated sound bites from "The Simpsons," and are labeled autistic simply because they are shy, and are granted preposterous job descriptions like being part of a "world-building team" when they possess little control over the world in which they live -- and that gives him license to revisit this territory in JPod." -The New York Times "Coupland returns, knowingly, to mine the dot-com territory of Microserfs (1996)-this time for slapstick. Young Ethan Jarlewski works long hours as a video-game developer in Vancouver, surfing the Internet for gore sites and having random conversations with co-workers on JPod, the cubicle hive where he works, where everyone's last name begins with J. Before Ethan can please the bosses and the marketing department (they want a turtle, based on a reality TV host, inserted into the game Ethan's been working on for months) or win the heart of co-worker Kaitlin, Ethan must help his mom bury a biker she's electrocuted in the family basement which houses her marijuana farm; give his dad, an actor desperately longing for a speaking part, yet another pep talk; feed the 20 illegal Chinese immigrants his brother has temporarily stored in Ethan's apartment; and pass downtime by trying to find a wrong digit in the first 100,000 places (printed on pages 383-406) of pi. Coupland's cultural name-dropping is predictable (Ikea, the Drudge Report, etc.), as is the device of bringing in a fictional Douglas Coupland to save Ethan's day more than once. But like an ace computer coder loaded up on junk food at 4 a.m., Coupland derives his satirical, spirited humor's energy from the silly, strung-together plot and thin characters. Call it Microserfs 2.0. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information."-Publishers Weekly "Bored and zany computer programmers think of themselves as characters in a Douglas Coupland novel. The young video-game designers portrayed here resemble the nerds in Microserfs (1995), and their spokesman-narrator has relatives who recall the eccentrics in All Families Are Psychotic (2001). Assigned to the same corporate pod because their names end in "J," the Vancouver six hate the video game they're producing, called "BoardX," use their modest creativity in time-wasting foolery and decide to sabotage the game by encoding in it a crazed Ronald McDonald. Twentysomething narrator Ethan has "respite" from the laborious weirdness of work by tending to his wacky family-a ballroom-dancing father obsessed with having a speaking part in a movie, a marijuana-growing mother whom Ethan helps bury a body, a brother who sells mansions to Chinese gangsters. At one point, Coupland enters the novel as a character and contracts for the rights to the other characters' lives for, ultimately, this novel. The book itself has a game-like quality: Randomly scattered through the text in various formats and fonts are mock advertisements, quizzes, product placements, interviews and lists-many, many lists, including iterations of the number pi and 58,894 random numbers (both sets of lists go on for pages). It's hard to believe there are enough cubicle clones and bored gamers to give Coupland an audience, but it's even harder to imagine anyone else reading more than a hundred pages of this novel. "J" is for juvenile, jaundiced, joyless, jumbled junk." -Kirkus Review No, "JPod" is not the next version of iPod; it refers to a group of geeks with last names starting with J cubicled together in a distant quadrant of a giant Vancouver video-game corporation. Coupland revisits the digital kingdom he so shrewdly depicted in Microserfs (1995) in a zeitgeist-trawling satire about twenty-first-century cyber obsession. JPoder Ethan Jarlewski narrates in deadpan geekspeak, reporting on life in gamer land, where he and his fellow designers--each precocious, cynical, oddball charming, and possibly a touch autistic--invent hilariously clever trivial pursuits to avoid work. But Ethan is often distracted from fun with porn sites, math problems, and an evil cyber version of Ronald McDonald by the crazy demands of his off-the-charts family. There's a South Park edginess and surrealism to the frequently violent escapades of Ethan's actor-wannabe father, gun-toting and pot-growing mother, and real-estate salesman brother, who gets them all entangled with the gangster Kam Fong. As both actual and cyber mayhem crest, Coupland, himself a character in this rampaging comedy, reminds us that no matter how seductive the virtual realm is, it is real life that requires our keenest attention. -Donna Seaman, Booklist "The perfect vehicle for [Coupland's] funny and poignant evocations of near-term nostalgia...there is brilliance at work in "JPod."--LA Times
"Zeitgeist surfer Douglas Coupland downloads his brain into Jpod." -- Vanity Fair
"Jpod is a sleek and necessary device: the finely tuned output of an author whose obsolescence is thankfully years away..." -- New York Times Book Review
"The master ironist just might redefine E.M. Forster's famous dictate "Only connect" for the Google age."--USA Today
"a willful, joyful satire that revels in the same cultural conventions that it sends up." -- Rocky Mountain News
"Perhaps it's time to admire [Coupland's] virtuoso tone and how he has refined it over 11 novels. The master ironist just might redefine E.M. Forster's famous dictate 'Only connect' for the Google age."--USA Today
"Coupland is mining territory that has been largely ignored by the literary set…the novel shows Coupland did his homework."--Washington Post
"No one has Coupland's ability to spot cultural outliersthe little gems of nonsense that can both jar you and impart joy. Coupland is his generation's most interesting curator."
"Hilarious, maddening, overstuffed"--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Coupland remains king of the perfectly placed pop-culture detail."
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org