Coupland’s back. His new novel is called JPod, and it’ll be published by Bloomsbury in June. The book is being alternatively billed as “Microserfs in the Age of Google” and “a lethal ride into today’s breed of technogeeks”.
Well, I’m about as technogeek as they come, and I’m also a Microserf who likes flat food, so I guess I should relate to this book. On the other hand, there’s something about Coupland’s fiction that feels almost as flat as the foods his characters slide under their office doors. Like Jay McInerney and T. C. Boyle, he writes fiction that feels like journalism but often fails to feel like art. He’s always running around capturing one zeitgeist after another, but he doesn’t quite capture the human soul.
Still, I read him and I like him. What about you — is anybody out there really excited about a new generational statement from Douglas Coupland Industries, or not?
A quick glance at the JPod teaser up at Coupland’s own website indicates that Japanese culture plays a big role in this story, what with all the Nissin soup, the smiling Japanese Lego people, the Asian typography. “JPod” may be short for “Joyful Pod”, which calls to mind the amusing packaging on products like Kasugai Gummy Grape (“Enjoy the softness of gentle breeze that sweeps through the vineyard spread vast on the hill in each soft and juicy Kasugai Grape Gummy”).
I think it’s cool, anyway, that Coupland dabbles in numerous formats other than prose. Here’s an attractive but somewhat incomprensible Dogmatika article describing a new art show in which Coupland has created a piece called Fight Club. Chuck Pahlaniuk is also involved with this art show, and a Coupland-Pahlaniuk collabo sounds like a great idea. Chuck can provide the depth, Coupland the clever packaging.
2. The Edwin Blair Collection of Beat and Modern Literature is being auctioned off tomorrow in San Francisco. This is apparently an old-school style real-life auction with velvet chairs and paddles, but even if you can’t be there you might enjoy looking at the impressive illustrated catalog of vintage book covers and original manuscripts.
3. It was cool to see novelist Larry McMurtry stammering his Brokedown Mountain acceptance speech at the Oscars. His novels obviously translate very well to the movies (Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment are two of his older works) but aficianados of Ken Kesey or Tom Wolfe also know Larry McMurtry as a character in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. He once studied writing at Stanford with Ken Kesey (Robert Stone was there as well), and the two were apparently pals. McMurtry’s not a great speaker, but I guess the guy can write. Nobody’s sure whether or not he ever drank the Kool-Aid.
4. The new season of the Sopranos starts Sunday night. Literary? I think so, even though I can’t exactly explain why. I could come up with some allusions to Macbeth maybe, or I could just skip it. Let’s just say that, for this literary-minded viewer, the show rings the same bells a good gritty novel by Conrad or Auster or Pahlaniuk might ring. And you should really check out this Sopranos Google Map, which proves that HBO has some techies on staff who actually know how to do cool stuff with XML-based web services.