Posts tagged ‘vancouver’

April 11, 2012

The Dark and Concealed Vancouver – Wendelyn Ramos

by capreviewroom

Dead Girls, written by Nancy Lee is a collection of eight independent short stories that all connect to one another through a serious current event that is haunting their city of Vancouver. The eight short stories: Associated Press, Sally, in Parts, Valentines, Dead Girls, East, Young Love, Rollie and Adele, and Sisters deal with topics that can be uncomfortable for some readers. Lee’s decision to incorporate prostitution, drugs, addiction, poverty, and death into her short stories definitely makes Dead Girls a book that stirs up controversy and interesting discussions.

 The setting for this collection primarily surrounds the downtown east side of Vancouver that highlights the dark and concealed poverty of the city. As a resident of Vancouver, you come to a realization of what is happening around you and what is usually not spoken of. Lee unquestionably chose to expose the truth about Vancouver’s downtown east side and not sugarcoat anything. An advantage I found as a reader and as a Vancouverite was the ability to visualize a majority of the setting in the short stories. For example, in “Sisters” the short story Grace is introduced to Harbour Centre, “ ‘You should go to Harbour Centre,’ he says, pointing up, up. ‘You’ll see it all from there.’”(282) From living in Vancouver, I the reader was able to visualize in my mind what the view Grace would be able to see and have a better understanding as to why it is a good place to see all of Downtown Vancouver.

Lee’s style of writing and point of views in each short story differs which reminds the reader that each story is independent and is not intended to be read as one entire novel divided into chapters. In “Associated Press” the short story is written in second person where as in “Young Love” the short story is in first person. A unique style of writing Lee uses is in her short story “Sally, in Parts.” Lee’s way of using Sally’s body parts to tell the story makes this short story from the eight really stand out. Lee’s variety in her collection gives the reader a fresh start when reading each short story.

The eight short stories share a commonality by the way the decisions the characters make shape their lives. Lee shows the honest truth of women getting steered into the wrong direction and the short stories show what can happen when temptation gets in your way and how it can take a toll on your life. With the different themes and life lessons in each short story, Lee is still able to have the serious current event linger throughout Dead Girls. With this hidden plot, the collections of short stories come together as a whole. The depiction of prostitution and murder plays a key role in bringing a sense of urgency and intensity into the already dramatic and engaging stories. Although some may agree that this book is primarily steered towards females, these intense and provocative stories will surely impact any reader.

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March 20, 2012

A City Without Boundaries

by capreviewroom

The subject of loss is not an uncommon theme in story-telling. The loss of love, loss of connections we’ve once had, and the loss of one’s self are both troubling and fascinating in the right context.  Few books are able to hold a reader’s undivided attention, but Nancy Lee’s Dead Girls is surely one of those books. The raw, explicit and detailed accounts of the numerous short stories contained within, beckon the reader forward to absorb the collection as a whole.

Where most readers pick up a book and are transported somewhere in the world they have only dreamed about, “Dead Girls” hits home with local readers, as Lee describes the views of the city from the top of the Harbour Centre in “Dead Girls” to “the point dimly lit by the glow of the Lion’s Gate Bridge” in “East”. Readers are given the opportunity to connect with the stories on a much more personal level. Simply knowing the area in which the stories take place in, add a sense of realism and insight to each story.

While each story in Dead Girls features different characters of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experience, the common theme throughout is loss, and the different ways in which people cope with loss. From divorce to a sisterly bond that cannot be broken, Lee does not tip toe around a subject. The intended adult audience is presented with work that stimulates similar memories of that of each character. Whether or not the reader can relate to the character is another story, “I wondered how much I had taken that day, the Dexedrine, the tigers, the Ativan, the Percocet” but Lee showcases each character in a way that we never find out why the character is the way they are, but the reader never second guesses the believability of the character.

From a pill-addicted nurse, to a night out with no direction, to a marriage torn apart from a missing daughter, Dead Girls is a collection with no set agenda. Each story does not build on its predecessor, yet each piece is such an important part of the overall collection. Dead Girls is a fantastic book, and one that begs multiple readings. Lee’s uninhibited views of dealing with loss and the darker side of the city of Vancouver are captivating and provocative. Dead Girls will leave you thinking long after you put down the book.

Liam Scott-Curr

April 10, 2011

Not Your Typical Novel

by alessandranakhleh

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.

April 6, 2011

“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

April 6, 2011

Welcome to the world of JPod!

by karmill

The novel JPod, by Douglas Coupland, is set in Vancouver, and centers around EthanJarlewski, his co-workers and other characters in his sphere of being. Ethan and his 5 co-workers, coincidentally all with a last name beginning with J, work at a large game design company, and have been grouped together in a cubicle arrangement called JPod. The story is mainly told from Ethan’s point of view, and follows his interactions with his co-workers, his mother who operates a marijuana grow-op from her home in the British Properties, his father who is a movie extra and whose passion is ballroom dancing, his real estate agent brother, a shady Asian businessman, and his boss. The action bounces from JPod and the video game they are developing, the games they play amongst themselves to avoid boredom, Ethan’s mother’s business problems, his father’s affair and resulting problems, a trip to China to rescue his kidnapped boss, his budding relationship with his co-worker Kaitlin, and eventually the unusual resolution and conclusion which includes a surprise character.
When a reader first opens the cover of the book, he finds that there is a narrative printed on the inside of the cover and continuing onto the facing page. The usual title page and publishing information does not appear until 2 pages later, and then printed sideways on the page. Also, scattered apparently randomly throughout the book, the reader will find pages which have large blank spaces and bold written characters and words, pages with the first 100,000 digits of pi, one intentionally blank, and various other pages which look different. Coupland uses this defamiliarization technique to get the reader to see things from a different perspective, to draw attention to what is usually ignored. Coupland sets the story in Vancouver, which is made obvious by allusions to places, events, directions, landmarks and things related to and relevant to Vancouverites. Coupland describes Ethan driving from the campus where he works to his parents’ home in the British Properties by taking two left turns and two right turns, which is correct if one knows where the campus is. Coupland discusses Chinatown, a drive out to Abbotsford, grow-ops and the heavy influence of Asian business and culture, all of which are very much Vancouver. Coupland also includes himself in the novel as a character, which is referred to by and interacts with all of the others.
When I read JPod, I found the blank or random word pages, the author’s invitation to play a game along with JPod (i.e. Find the non-regulation three-letter word in the list of allowable Scrabble three-letter words.) to be a distraction from the story, and I wanted to get on with the plot. I can see that Coupland wants to emphasize a different way to see things, but I felt that this method was somewhat juvenile, like he was trying to show how clever he is. However, all in all, I enjoyed my trip into the fantastical world of JPod.