Finished Jpod, and on the whole, I liked it. I think. My earlier assessment of it essentially being the Bizarro World version of Microserfs was right on the money. In that book, the characters talk about Melrose Place, and how that in lieu of actual character development, the people on the show would just go completely insane at random intervals; as a joke, they talk about living their lives like Melrose characters, each getting their own shot to go "random," as they called it. Well, that's more or less what happens in Jpod. The characters in this book all seem more or less normal one minute, and the next someone is helping to bury a body, or is kidnapped and sold to slavery in China. And I think the Melrosiness here is intentional, as at one point in the novel Coupland calls attention to how the setting of MP is at least superficially similar to one of his earlier books, Generation X.
Oh yeah, Coupland does just have the characters refer to him in the book, he's actually a recurring character. I should hate that, but it's such an exaggerated version of himself (one would hope, otherwise he's a total bastard in real life) that it kind of works, the way you never really minded when Stan Lee would write himself into a Marvel comic, because while it is incredibly narcissistic, at least the "character" is interesting.
It does have it's problems, though - the pages and pages of random words in different font sizes were annoying in Microserfs, and they're even moreso now, even if they're probably calculated to be that way. Also, he wastes 20 pages listing digits of Pi, and after a paragraph's worth of story, lists another 20 pages of another random number sequence. But on the plus side, I suppose, this all makes it a quicker read, since there are large sections you can completely skip and not feel bad about it in the slightest.
So in the end, maybe not a good book, but a strangely compelling one. I'll take it.
Now I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live. Twenty pages in and I already dig it. A lot. I don't think I'm one of those people who wants to be Chuck Klosterman, but I'd take his job, his talent, his hip-without-really-trying-to-be-hip attitude, his book contract, his CD collection... okay, fuck it, I want to be Chuck Klosterman. But, obviously, Erin and Liam can come along for the ride. And I'd skip the drugs. So maybe I'd actually just settle for "Me, but a little more cool?" I dunno. Let's just move on.
The big news around the comics water cooler at the moment is that Claypool Comics is more or less shutting down. I'm of two minds on this story. On the one hand, I hate to see any publisher go under, because it's bad for the fans of the books, it's bad for the creators of the books, and it's bad for the industry as a whole. It's also pretty terrible that this company was driven out of the game not by its own actions, for the most part, but by those of its distributor, good ol' Diamond (which will one day receive its payback, I'm sure; not soon, but someday), whose raise of the minimum order numbers a few months back put a number of small publishers on death watch.
On the other hand, in all the years I've been collecting comics, the only Claypool book I've ever seen on any store shelf ever was this year's Free Comic Book Day issue.* Admittedly, I was never looking for any of their stuff, but still, it's weird not to remember ever seeing a single issue even in passing. I've read that their sales numbers were ultra, ultra low, and that in 14 years of publishing, they cracked the Top 300 maybe 10 times or less. So while it's sad that they have to go under, it's kind of amazing they were able to last as long as they did, don't you think? If there's a silver lining, it's that.
Lastly, if you see this guy at Wizard World Chicago on Friday...
please refrain from reminding him that his head is large and unusually ovular, that his face is puffy, that his haircut is kind of lame, that his shirts rarely seem to hang right, or even that he sounds vaguely like a Muppet. Bear in mind that he will have just gotten off an airplane a little while earlier and that he'll be wandering around in a large crowd like a lost puppy, and that if there's two things he hates, it's airplanes and large crowds (the jury's still out on lost puppies). Take him aside, offer him something to drink, maybe a cookie or a slice of pie, and assure him that yes, everything will, in fact, be alright.
*And in the interest of full disclosure, I read this, and really didn't like it one bit. If this was supposed to get me to want to buy Claypool books, it didn't do a very good job of it.