“Unordinary Vancouver”

by jessicamethven

JPod by Douglas Coupland is a novel formed around the everyday life of Ethan Jarlewski. Ethan works at a game design company with five other individuals. They call their group of six JPod because all of their last names start with the letter “J”. Ethan’s family is far from average; his stay at home mother has a marijuana grow-op operating in her basement, father is an unsuccessful actor, and brother Greg is a real estate agent involved with Kam Fong’s Asian sweatshop factories, and illegal immigration. Ethan’s trip to China eventually causes his life to change drastically. During his mission to bring back his boss Steve Lefkowitz (a recently addicted heroine addict), Ethan encounters Douglas Coupland. This encounter proves to be life changing not only for Ethan, but also for characters surrounding him. 

There are many characters involved in JPod. Coupland is able to group characters together, creating less confusion and making it easier for the reader to follow. The plot seems very casual, everyday life but the actual events that occur are far from ordinary. His mothers accidental murder of Tim the biker causes Ethan to help his mother burry Tim’s body in the British Properties. This later appears in the story when the characters are at Kam’s housewarming and Ethan becomes aware his house is the house Tim’s body lies beside. This proves to be one of the many far from average everyday life events.

The setting is very realistic and personal to me. I am able to identify where the characters are because I actually know places discussed in the novel. The setting gives the story a sense of realism, although the events are so uncharacteristic of everyday life. The consistent references to Aldergrove, Second Narrows Bridge, China Town, and the British Properties allows readers living in Vancouver to identify with what Coupland is talking about; this creates a bond between the reader and the novel itself.

Coupland’s writing style causes a sense of confusion throughout the novel. His deliberate placement of pages that seem completely unrelated to the story test the readers’ attention span and patience. He is able to incorporate small games that the characters in JPod play. This is a way for Coupland to involve the reader into the lives of the characters. Evil Mark’s game requires participants to search through twenty-two pages of numbers to find where he has substituted the letter O for the number zero. The reader is able to make the choice on their own if they want to participate in this or not. Literally involving the reader is not a typical writing style for novels. I thought this was very clever of Coupland to do, giving the option to play an intertwined game with the characters.

Although the length may seem intimidating at first, Coupland’s aimless use of pages shortens the read significantly. This novel is a perfect for someone looking for a funny, casual, unexpected, unbelievable read. I would definitely recommend this to people who get bored while reading novels, and especially to those who live in Vancouver itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                     Word Count:511

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