During the 1960s, working out of the University of Toronto, Marshall McLuhan published his most well-known books, Understanding Media and The Medium is the Massage. Both books discuss the relationship between the individual and new technologies and the impact of those relationships on society. For McLuhan, the content delivered through a technological medium was less important than the medium itself. Many of McLuhan’s ideas foreshadowed the impact of the digital revolution and he coined the phrase ‘global village.’ I know…at this point you’re asking, “Why is she blathering on about some Canadian academic, I thought this was about Coupland?!”
Skip forward thirty years to Douglas Coupland, who has become McLuhan’s ideological heir in the world of fiction*. Like McLuhan, Coupland’s fiction (and visual art) concerns itself with the intersection of humanity and technology. Also like McLuhan, Coupland popularized lasting phrases such as ‘Generation X,’ and ‘McJobs.’ Unlike McLuhan, Coupland does this in a vastly more entertaining way, (despite McLuhan’s cameo in Annie Hall).
JPod follows the adventures of video-game designer Ethan Jarlewski and his five pod-mates, as they navigate the indignities of cubicle life and the constantly changing whims of the marketing department on their creative efforts. The chaos of the office also extends into Ethan’s personal life, where he must deal with his mom’s home grow-op, a dead bicycle messenger, and even Douglas Coupland himself. Interspersed with the main storyline are Coupland’s riffs on post-modern culture, spam, typography, and prime numbers.
Some readers may find the style of JPod overwhelming and perhaps a bit nonsensical. Coupland tends to veer into the territory of experimental writing, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I urge you to go for the ride, or check out some of Coupland’s other works such as Generation X: Tales from an Accelerated Culture, Eleanor Rigby, or Polaroids from the Dead. Coupland has a gift for capturing the zeitgeist of the digital age, and the spiritual isolation that seems to be a result of life becoming increasingly disconnected from the material world.
*Coupland has recently become McLuhan’s biographer too.
Find and reserve JPod in our catalog.