Coupland’s Pod

by aliwhitee

Douglas Coupland’s JPod, Ethan Jarlewski and his five co-workers work for a Vancouver gaming and software developer in a pod of cubicles that is their home for 14 hours of the day. Their pod is their team within the company; the half dozen of them thrown together by the incidence that all of their last names begin with the letter “J.” They do as little work as possible, and revolt against the marketing directors wishes to insert a turtle into their skateboard game by spending their time surfing the net for shocking things, writing up descriptions to sell themselves on eBay, freezing office items with liquid nitrogen, and adding a secret Ronald McDonald to the video game. Ethan’s home life is just as strange; his mother has a successful marijuana growing operation in the family basement, his father is trying to break into the movie business and has an affair with Ethan’s old classmate, and his brother is into get-rich-quick schemes which include smuggling Chinese immigrants.

Throughout the novel Ethan is called upon by both his family members and his pod members for help, whether it be to help bury a dead biker or house illegal people in his own apartment. He therefore appears to act as a unifying force that unknowingly holds together the complicated lives of the people around him. One character whose existence surprises the reader is Coupland himself, who appears at various points in the novel. This introduction of the author by the author in a work of his own novel seems to be a somewhat of a joke by a writer who enjoys them. Another interesting occurrence in the novel is the use of seemingly random pages filled with words and numbers that makes the reader unsure as to their significance in the otherwise straightforward story. Although these situations are surprising and to a great extent unheard of, Coupland is probably one of the few writers that could pull it off effectively.

Moreover, Coupland accurately depicts the dialogue of the early 21st century cubicle worker, the feelings of desolation mixed with irony. “All ideas are stillborn. The air smells like five hundred sheets of paper. And then it’s another day.” However, this is definitely not your typical novel, and therefore it is difficult to know if it would be accepted by all readers. Fans of Coupland will be pleased with JPod’s twists and deceivingly simple story lines, along with the mysterious pages with questionable relevance. Some readers, on the other hand, may be offended by Coupland’s depiction of 21st century workers and others will spend much of the book not really knowing what is going on. It is definitely not a book without risk, however Coupland’s innovation and unique style makes it an interesting and worthwhile read.




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