by Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland can be an assclown. I say this because some of JPod is unreadable on purpose (forty pages worth of digits of pi) and because he pretty much says it about himself: Douglas Coupland, a character who shows up in this book, is pretty much an ass.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t like the book. I did like it, in that way you like favorite candy bars or cereals from childhood — not quite as much as you expected, eating them again as a grown up, but still. JPod has been referred to as a sequel of sorts to Microserfs, and I want to say that isn’t really true. It doesn’t have the sweetness of Microserfs (though when I first read it, I probably would not have called it sweet) and it doesn’t have those characters. Okay, it has an Ethan, and screwed up families (it is Coupland, c’mon) and they work for a big clueless company and they creating video games…
But it isn’t a sequel. It isn’t really an “update” for “the age of Google” — that’s marketing. It’s Coupland being Coupland, a bit less funny and yes, less ably capturing the zeitgeist this time out. Unless you believe more ridiculous, more cartoony and plastic people… wait, maybe he is. So you’ve got crazy cubicle dwellers, pot-growing parents, human smuggling, bad acting, drug addiction, ballroom dancing, whining, workplace bonding, lots of loneliness, and questioning of societal constructs. Check, check, check.
It’s better than Miss Wyoming, I’ll give it that. And I did consume it quickly, just like I used to eat those bowls of Cap’N Crunch (with crunchberries, back when all the berries were one color, an impossible pink). Yes, food metaphors are inescapable when writing about Coupland’s books.
I have one lingering question about JPod: are these characters immoral or amoral? Immoral means “conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles” and amoral is “being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals.” If someone helps dispose of an accidentally dead body, or benefits from someone else’s trade in human beings, and isn’t truly disturbed by these events, which are they? Neither? Both? Questions like this, raised but not seriously addressed by anyone, do seem to be the point of Coupland novels. I wonder if reading them makes me complicit.