Coupland, Kool Aid and the Macbeth of New Jersey

Fiction Film News
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.
8 Responses to "Coupland, Kool Aid and the Macbeth of New Jersey"

by willtupper on

Disneyland + Prozac = Coupland!I agree with you, Levi, about how Coupland's book sometimes feels a little more like cultural reporting than it does literature.Not that there's anything wrong with that, because there's not. If I were to guess, though, I would suspect a little of Coup's future got smeared, tainted, fated, whatever, with the success of that first (IMO) truly fantastic book of his, "Generation X."It's like... no way could Stephen King turn out a Danielle Steele-esque romance after the success of "Carrie." The reading public (to say nothing of SK himself) just wouldn't have it. Even if he wanted to... I bet success like that paints you into a corner, at least a little, you know?I still like Coupland's books, and I wish more books used that "everyone input" style that Gen X has (maybe not to the extreme of something like "House of Leaves," but somewhere in between). It makes reading more fun, like the story is the actual cereal, and all the little definitions and notes and pictures on the borders are the prizes inside.Coup-aholics might be interested in reading this interview. It's good, and he (being Coupland) actually says "hi" to a certain, shall-remain-nameless member of the Literary Kicks community!Who could it be?http://www.chuckpalahniuk.net/features/interviews/douglascoupland/

by Billectric on

That's a good interview. And a shout out to you, too! Get down! I always feel so much more "in the moment" after reading something like this. Cresting, baby!

by stevadore on

WiltupperHey, that was a great interview. Thanks for telling us. I couldn't believe it was dated 2003!I never read one of Coupland's books. He came out when I was first trying to score and I got really, really jealous of him, so I refused to buy his books.What a dick I am!

by djrob1972 on

Generation XCoupland's first novel Generation X was absolutely at the cutting edge when it first debuted in the early 90's. He certainly has been able to maintain throughout the years. My favorite novels by Coupland are Life After God and Microserfs.On a separate note- McMurtry is also a fine novelists, but as with many prolific (volume-wise) writers he can at times be somewhat uneven. Good for him, though, on his oscar.

by brooklyn on

Tupper ... that is an excellent link, thanks. I had no idea that Coupland and Pahlaniuk had this long-standing collaboration. Like I said above, I think it's a great combination.

by warrenweappa on

Gen-X drank the Reagan Kool-AidDrinking the kool-aid refers to the mass suicide at Jonestown in '78 where the cult followers drank poison-laced kool-aid in Guyana and the phrase came to mean blind devotion to any organization.Generation X labeled a generation worldwide and the next generation, Y. I read Gen. X after a woman who was reading the book told me I was an Xer but I refuse to buy into its pessimism and cynicism. I'm on the cusp of the boomers and Gen-Xers and saw such a big change in the early '80s and the result is the present with many less-than-satisfied people who don't care for the ethos of global corporate-culture, mindless techno, and the page-turners, self-help books, and lightweight critiques that make up bestseller lists. There are moments of light, e.g., Crash and 2006's nominees for best picture, the directing and production of Steven Soderburgh, the gritty urban reality of The Sopranos, etc. I watched Season 1 in a week from DVD and enjoyed the mental-health sub-plot and the existential themes of a search for personal identity. Sometimes I see movies that I'm satisfied with and read short stories that are OK but have yet to read any exceptional novels by Generation X. I'm not disparaging the work of anyone alive because I know how hard it is to write anything decent. Neither am I writing to flame anyone because I can't honestly recall reading anything written by an Xer that my life would've been incomplete without reading. Offhand I would say movies are the new literature and the first season of the Sopranos was definitely a new genre: a dysfunctional family gangster flick with mental health issues and individuals seeking to define themselves.

by willtupper on

Ha ha! You're welcome! Ya dick! Ha!Um... don't really know ya there, friend. So I don't know which side of the fence you swing for, and all that. But... oh, wait. Did you mean "score," as in, "get published?" Or "score," as in, "get lucky with the ladies (or dudes)?" Because I don't THINK I'm breaking any big taboo here by letting you know, that those in the know know, that Coupland is gay.So... you know. Whatever. But he's still a good writer. I'd definitely put Gen X on my list of all time essential bookages.But what a dick I am! Ha!

by willtupper on

You two guys are great.I don't really have anything else to contribute at this point, but you two are really great. Oh! Chuck read Douglas when he was younger, and now they know each other. They just did a reading together, in fact, in Canada.They are good friends. Which is nice. For everyone. You can see... if you read something like Coupland's, "Life After God," it's not that hard to make a cognitive leap over to Palahniuk's God tie-ins, which are all over his work.Blah, blah. "Action Poetry" for U.S. President in 2008!