Along with being an active designer and famous author, Douglas Coupland can be described as a man with a vivid imagination. Or, at least how I can begin to describe him with regard to JPod, a novel written by Coupland and later published by Random House of Canada during 2006. Creating real life, but not at all typical situations for his characters, readers are taken on a long journey in just over five hundred pages. Narrated by main character, Ethan Jarlewski, Coupland tells a story of the reoccurring individuals in Jarlewski’s life; his co-workers, family and close friends, along with their not-so every day dilemmas. Described by my classmates as “annoying” or “difficult to pay attention” to, I could not help but disagree, as JPod kept me fully entertained from page one. Coupland’s sense of humor effortlessly translated to his writing urging me to continue flipping each page, allowing the book to fully consume my day. Yes, I can easily agree that perhaps Coupland’s storyline was a tad unrealistic; Jarlewski’s mother killing and burying a man she had a relationship with, his brother smuggling illegal immigrants into Canada, his father with a secret younger girlfriend, or his boss being kidnapped and brought to China, aren’t mainstream problems an average man would face in a short time period – let alone during a life time. But I can honestly say; I don’t think Coupland was aiming for an average novel. Based at a Vancouver video gaming company, Coupland exposed his readers to an online feel his characters were more than likely experiencing. Theoretically spamming the novel with their junk mail and time-wasting pages filled with useless numbers, Coupland added a modern twist to what could have been a standard novel, allowing his work to be extremely unique. Separating the novel into three parts, Coupland is able to expand his story in terms of time, fast-forwarding through to the future when need be. Critics would say Coupland could also be viewed as selfish towards the end of the novel by adding himself as a character into Jarlewski’s fictional life. This egotistic act by Coupland tops off an unrealistic novel with an even more impractical (but highly enjoyable) ending. I would recommend JPod to folks of all ages. Tactfully flowing from page to page with ease, readers are taken into the lives of each character while staying in the comfort of their own home.
Countless multivolume works, dissertations, scholarly and non-scholarly articles have been written in attempts to understand the current phenomenon of Generation I, the Internet Generation. University professors, Psychologists, and Social scientists have tried but have achieved little success in this venture. In 2006, along came a visual artist by the name of Douglas Coupland, who changed the landscape and architecture of appealing to a newer, somewhat misunderstood generation forever.
A national bestseller, JPod is the ninth novel written by Coupland in his authoring career. It explores the connection one has with life and family while encompassed by a world of accelerated technological advancement. JPod samples through the mass media diet currently being consumed by youth today as Coupland investigates and rummages through consumer culture and writes about it with authenticity and a touch of irony.
JPod begins with the sporadic life of Ethan Jarlewski. He is a video-game programmer on the verge of developing the next “big thing” in the gaming industry: an edgy skateboarding turtle named Jeff. Ethan and his five co-workers are stationed together in jPod, a nicknamed derived from the fact that all of them happen to share the letter “j” as their last initials. However, rest assured, Coupland does not give us any sort of ordinary work environment for our narrator. JPod is running rampid with office pranks and outrageous antics that distract from absolutely anything work related. From auctioning one another on eBay to inventing a hug machine to cope with stress, our JPodsters are a bizarre and entertaining ensemble.
Written with the architectural brilliance of an artist, JPod is a handbook for a generation.
Word Count: 282
Douglas Coupland’s JPod is a unique read. It is different because it is easier to read than most novels of this length. Characters are briefly developed and more pages are devoted to describing insignificant events that occur in the workplace; very little time passes on each page. Many events are described in great detail that are just the characters wasting time at work. The language used in the story is appropriate for the target audience. Today’s reader can comprehend the technological shot hand used and relate to the modern day challenges the characters face.
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.
One of the most interesting and entertaining novels I have ever read, Jpod is one of those fictional novels that places much allusion throughout the pages of this five hundred page book. Written by Douglas Coupland, it is most interesting generally for its knack of breaking the rules of writing a novel page to page, with repetitive sentence structures. And by sentence structures, I mean the constant use of ink being jotted row after row filled with words. Jpod breaks the binds of traditional writing, by inputting abnormally large fonts that are completely irrelevant to the main plot on pages, sometimes even on multiple pages at once (the use of pie, for example). This creates a comical sensation that traditional novels don’t normally give, for the reader does not know what to expect to pop out into his/her face the moment the page is flipped to the next.
Jpod has a city/suburban setting, taking place in multiple locations from an expensive home in North Vancouver, all the way to a SARS-ridden factory deep in China. The main protagonist, Ethan Jarlewski, is an average geek that works for a video game designer company, with a weakness of tumbling over and lending a helping hand to anyone that utters the word “help me”, no matter how law-abiding and degrading these tasks are. His fellow colleagues, all whose birth names start with the letter ‘J’ as well, are all as mentally “stable” as Ethan is, and I emphasize stable for the pure notion that autism is popular and practically invisible to these nerds. Other characters that are introduced, such as Ethan’s parents, Kam Fong the Chinese people smuggler and gangster, and Steve, are all coherent to the main plot, and add to the distress calls Ethan goes through page after page. Coupland inserts several characters in one book, mainly to show how people react to one another’s different personalities and ideals, such as Ethan (geek) towards his mother (drug dealer and murderer), which is a mixture of respect and confusion. These personality traits are explored through the many uses of allusion, which helps by putting certain characters in settings that they are not comfortable in, and seeing how they react away from their comfort zone.
The plotline itself is both plausible and questionable. One key fact is that Ethan seems to be on an awkward/non-negotiable streak when it came to family and friend problems. Ideally Ethan does what his instincts tell him to do and goes along and helps the people close to him, but in reality to the readers, he is merely depicted as a geek with not enough backbone to refuse. The events that take place are real events that do happen in Vancouver (drug-related murders, third-world smuggled people entering your life, rescuing an employee you don’t even like from the depths of China, etc.) but the chances that they happen all at once within such a short time are very low, and make Ethan’s life seem more exciting.
This novel is quite the exciting book to read, and if you’re the type that enjoys a little change from the boring, traditional novels and with a plotline relevant to modern day problems, then this book is worth picking up from start to finish.
JPod, a phenomenal book written by Douglas Coupland. The story primarily revolves around video game technology. The gaming company is producing a game being created by the main character, Ethan Jarlewski and his fellow co-workers. Working with his workers to produce the video game, BoardX, overlooked by Steve, the “head of marketing” (17). This reading will captivate all readers, regardless of their interest in video games or technology. One will be whisked away from familiar local landmarks of Vancouver to the harsh, humid weather of China, without having to buy plane tickets.
The story looks in depth of the Jarlewski family, which are a dysfunctional bunch. The father, Jim Jarlewski, is an on and off actor, playing small roles in films, primarily as an extra and as a voice actor. Greg, the elder son of the family, works as a real estate agent overseas and locally in the lower mainland. Then there is Ethan, who works at a video game company, with his co-workers forming JPod, where the J is the last names of all his workers. Lastly, is the mother, Carol, who runs a Marijuana grow operation underneath the basement. With the types of influences, such as Marijuana grow-ops, criminal activity, it reveals the shady side of the lower mainland.
In the story, there are many famous, popular culture influences that are mentioned widely throughout. How can there be a story, without some type of love/romance being included. We have the typical young love of Kaitlyn and Ethan, and the odd love triangle involving Steve’s infatuation of Carol, and Freedom. Then there’s the criminal activity of Kam Fong, the Chinese businessman, where tries to fix problems that numerous characters have on their hands.
As a whole, JPod was enjoyable and a refreshing read. This is one of the books where it is difficult to put down. An annoying area of the story is Douglas Coupland appearing during numerous scenes of the book. By giving the author the power to make himself a character, anything can happen, and believe me, interesting things did happen. The way Coupland incorporates all the characters into the story is creative, where the reader gets a sense of each character’s role and their certain quirks they possess. It’s very intelligent how an author incorporates himself into a book, but by making his character an arrogant and obnoxious, takes away some parts of enjoyment when reading.
Vancouver’s Douglas Coupland delivers in his fictitious novel: Jpod. A tale about six video game programmers whose last names all begin with the letter “J”, Coupland’s clever use of humor and wit make these ordinary people seem extraordinary. The flaws of the characters are exaggerated for comedic effect while the setting of Vancouver makes it easily relatable to readers. Filled with unconventional and almost unrealistic (yet, still hilarious) plot elements, Jpod approaches the border between novel and sitcom; which is appropriate because Jpod was produced as a short lived TV series.
Although lengthy, Jpod is an easy read and page-turner. With our protagonist, Ethan Jarlewski, we are taken on a hilarious journey filled with comedic detours. Things that could happen to normal people? Debatable. Ethan and his team are creating a turtle character to insert into their current project: a skateboarding game, yet finds that balancing his personal and work life a little chaotic. One day, Ethan’s mother calls for his help and unaware of the situation, Ethan shows up to find “the beefiest, scariest death star of a biker I’d ever seen”(23). When asked what happened, his mother responds that she “electrocuted him…he was trying to extort me into giving him a share of a crop…what an asshole”(23). Death is usually quite a big issue to the norm, but in Jpod, it is taken with comedic stride and Ethan simply just helps his mother bury the biker evoking a lighthearted atmosphere for the reader. We also find out that a computer glitch has resulted in those with the last names that start with a “J” to work together in a cubicle pod where there is no escape. The newest addition to Jpod, Kaitlin tries to resign, only to realize that the only way out is death – by helium, in the case of Marc Jacobsen that is. Readers find themselves not wanting to put the novel down, while the characters are bound to the cubicle, wanting to escape.
Another interesting component to the novel is with the formatting. Aside from the actual narrative piece, we get pages with huge font of various texts, including: shipping labels, Chinese writing, and pages and pages of pi. These strong visuals only enhance the experience of Jpod making it much more than just a story on paper.
From his mother running illegal operations, his over-achieving brother smuggling immigrants in his home, to heroin addicted Steve returning to Canada, there is never a dull moment in the world of Jpod.