Livin’ Like JPodsters

Douglas Coupland’s JPod revolves around six misfits who work for a gaming company whose duty is to create video games; in this case, a corny skateboard game whose main character is a cheery turtle.  We follow Ethan Jarlewski throughout the novel and the escapades he witnesses and goes through however farfetched they are.  His mother has a grow-op in her basement; his father is a bit actor who is having an affair with a girl that Ethan went to highschool with and his older brother is a successful real estate agent.  Coupland creates eccentric characters that are specifically made for a technologically evolved society as this is reflected into his work.

What Coupland achieves is a modernized world whose characters are eccentric and their necessity to function is with the use of technology, primarily computers.  Ethan and his co-workers revolve around their computers because they design video games.  This reflection of computers, video games and the internet is placed in Coupland’s novel as he places random pages of Chinese symbols, scrambled words, and internet ads.  It is as if he is treating the novel itself as a computer.  As the reader continues, there are spots within the novel where the stops completely for a moment list off all the languages of the world; in other spots, there is a list of words generated by a pseudorandom number generator.  These stops seem as if they are pop-up ads for when a user is surfing on the internet.  It seems unnecessary but what Coupland tries to distinguish between a print text and a computer is that he is able to manipulate this same process.

It is as if Coupland tries to create electronic literature in print text form.  He is successful in many ways for at the beginning of the book the reader is confused as to where the story actually starts.  Just a start-up menu for a computer program, Coupland sets up the novel in the same fashion.  We reach the beginning of the story were we meet Ethan as he sits through a mundane meeting and it suddenly ends with one of Coupland’s “pop-up ads.”  What he tries to state for the reader is the fact that we, as a society, are going into a different direction with literature and life in general.  Technology has become a part of our lives that a computer is considered an appliance now.  It’s a necessity now to have this device in our lives; just as this device is necessary for his misfit characters in JPod.

–Stephanie

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