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>Double Play

>I needed something frivolous and fun after The Road, and JPod by Douglas Coupland certainly filled the bill. This is only my second outing with Coupland, so I don’t know if he’s a one-note writer, or the two books I’ve read have just been similar. JPod feels like it it should be subtitled All Families Are Psychotic, Too!

The 20-something narrator, Ethan, works for a company in Vancouver that designs software games. He’s a programmer stuck in JPod, where everyone has the same last name. The best part of the novel was when the six JPod workers, who have a lot of free time, make up bizarre contests, like writing ads to sell themselves on eBay or writing to Ronald McDonald to explain why they are the ideal mate for him. I was a little less amused later in the book when the JPodders were challenged to find the non-prime number in a string of numbers that goes on for more than ten pages, but was gratified to get that list of 972 3-letter Scrabble words (with one phony).

Ethan’s parents were cartoony as hell, straight out of Arrested Development. I couldn’t really get interested in them (even though they were Boomers) because it seemed like Coupland was trying too hard to make them do as many strange things as possible. Another thing that made me feel meh was when characters would refer to Douglas Coupland novels, then later on, he showed up as a character in JPod. Much too sitcom-ish.

I loved all of the pop culture references. Since Coupland and I are almost exact contemporaries, (19 days apart) his references and my schemata hit it off immediately. I also found myself wanting to needlepoint a pillow with Ethan’s comment about humidity: I hate humidity. It feels like a thousand strangers touching me. I wish I’d had that back last summer while I was melting.

I’m willing to read another novel by Coupland. What can you recommend of his that is chock-full of pop culture, lots of smartasses that you’d almost recognize from real life, but goes a little easier on the presence of flat and cartoonish characters that run all over Hell’s half-acre? Also, please — no more self-referential stuff. But I wouldn’t mind another Scrabble list.

Getting this one read felt good, because it helped me out with 2 challenges: The Second Canadian Book Challenge and The Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

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