Douglas Coupland – Jpod

Writing about writing is a bit like reading about reading; it usually doesn’t make much sense. But in this case; why not. Whilst (don’t you just love that word?) on holiday, I’ve read Jpod by Douglas Coupland, author of the legendary novel ‘Generation X’. I would call it ‘a thoroughly pleasurable read’ (I never get all those critics that are quoted on book covers saying ‘laughed out loud’ et cetera) and several sections actually inspired me. Which, for a fictional novel is quite.. erm.. ‘novel’. The only weakness, for me, was the narrative itself actually. The different scenes the book guides you through, the wonderful dialogues, and the ‘visual text’ bits (I’ll get to that later) are brilliant, but the way it is all sewn together didn’t grab me.

Jpod coverDutch novelist Gerard Reve (at least… I think it was him) once said that it is not important for a novel that you like the main character or agree with what they are doing. You have to understand why they do what they do, that’s what makes you read on. And that is the main problem of Jpod. People do stuff. Weird things. Boring things. And a lot of the things make sense in the weird world Coupland created. But a lot of the times they just don’t. Characters get themselves in situations without any proper reason whatsoever. The parents of the main character, Ethan Jarlewski, for example: his mom grows weed, his dad’s a wannabe actor. Mom kills a biker, dad shags make-up girls, both of them show no parental interest in Ethan whatsoever… but at no point is it made clear (to me anyway…) why this is relevant to the story. Nor do we know why these people stay together or why they do what they do. They are people without a motivation. And even though some people might find it brave that Coupland also plays a -not very flattering- part in his own fictional story; for me it was a real turn-off. It made my mind stray form the storyline

Be that as it may, I would strongly recommend reading ‘Jpod’ to anyone. Coupland is an absolutely fabulous writer with a vision of authorship that goes beyond what a constellation of words could mean. I thoroughly enjoyed his summing up of the 8363 prime numbers between 10.000 and 100.000. Or the 972 three letter words that are permitted in (English) scrabble. Combine that with regular rants of seemingly random phrases and sentences, package information, computer lingo and general expressions of discomfort and you get, just as with ‘Generation X’ a book that is not just indicative for our times; it defines it.

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