Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The book's first third unfolds in first-person plural: Park's "we" comprises a shrinking number of bright young things who have begun to dim, day-jobbers who are no longer sure what dreams their jobs feed. This device (varied slightly in the book's middle) blurs the characters in the same haze of shame and depression through which they see one another. It's a dangerous stylistic tack, but Park pulls it off with sharp wordplay and a mind for the absurd. By keeping intimacy at bay early on, he also heightens the pathos of the book's final third, where — in a leaping epistolary confession, written on a "craptop" without a period key — a single character tells his own story and dignifies the stifled lives of his axed colleagues.
Rebellion in this office goes little further than FedEx-ing office supplies to your home, but a battle cry rings between the lines of Personal Days: an angry defense of language against its murder at corporate hands. Park performs riotous burlesques with e-mail misspellings and corporate clichés; his characters hear double-entendres in computer error messages ("You are almost out of memory") and invent new words like "deprotion," for "a promotion that shares most of the hallmarks of a demotion." The novel may even remind you of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."
"This is a parody," Orwell wrote after one of his own savage illustrations, "but not a very gross one."
—Josh Kamensky, L.A. Weekly
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
To test the birds’ recognition of faces separately from that of clothing, gait and other individual human characteristics, Dr. Marzluff and two students wore rubber masks. He designated a caveman mask as “dangerous” and, in a deliberate gesture of civic generosity, a Dick Cheney mask as “neutral.” Researchers in the dangerous mask then trapped and banded seven crows on the university’s campus in Seattle.
In the months that followed, the researchers and volunteers donned the masks on campus, this time walking prescribed routes and not bothering crows.
The crows had not forgotten. They scolded people in the dangerous mask significantly more than they did before they were trapped, even when the mask was disguised with a hat or worn upside down....
Monday, August 25, 2008
Ok, when I first started reading this, I thought that it was the same as Joshua Ferris's book "Then We Came to The End" except that Joshua Ferris's story was better. Both are set in the modern work-place: lay-off fever has gripped the office and both are about the trivial details with which we become obsessed in our daily work days. But in the end, I think it's a dead heat: both books are very funny. Ed Harris's novel definitely improves with reading. By the last section--written in a kind of stream-of-consciousness way--I couldn't put the book down. But the funniest thing about this book? "The Jilliad." Keep your eye out for it.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
You confess to a colleague that you're worried about your supervisor, who hasn't been very focused the last three weeks and has been coming in late to work. Later that day, like a game of office telephone, you hear a version of your story from a different co-worker, and it's not hard to figure out the source. The Tape Recorder takes your confidential conversations and plays them back to everyone in the office. The person's motivation is often to feel important or "in the know" rather than any malicious intent. --"What Kind of Office Gossip Are You?," MSN
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
My boss holds a meeting and announces that the company has to make some cuts. Later that afternoon, while everyone is at their desks being worried and emailing their resume out to people, I bravely march into his office and say that I’ll be happy to be let go in exchange for one of my coworkers–perhaps the one with the newborn, so I look like even more of a saint. My boss intially refuses to let me leave the company and gives an extended monologue about how valuable I am and how he regrets not devoting enough time to telling me how awesome I am. But finally, he is moved by my courage and allows me to quit, but only after offering me a hefty severance package, which I use as seed money to open an island resort for beleaguered assistants to detox from their jobs.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
We do not actually do any work in the office anymore, other than trying to imagine what it would be like to kiss each other. We have been thinking about it so long we have forgotten what it is we should be doing. —Joe Meno, "An Apple Could Make You Laugh," from Demons in the Spring
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"I'm going to send it soon—if not this week, definitely the next," said Quigley, who often opens the e-mail, corrects spelling and syntax errors, and saves the changes before relegating the fearless letter back to his drafts folder....
—From "Courageous E-mail to Boss in Drafts Folder Since December," The Onion
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
In each of the novels, Stark (who is one of Donald Westlake's many identities) concerns himself with such seemingly mundane details as finding a good job, getting to know the other workers, and doing the work. He doesn't stint on detail, and he doesn't touch on much outside of the job.
Check out Stark's The Outfit—guaranteed to hold you up!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Question: Parker’s work often seems unglamorous—he spends lots of time alone, driving, thinking, planning, waiting around, making phone calls, negotiating, checking numbers. He seems to value the bourgeois virtues of self-control, discipline, consistency, and focus. Do you agree Parker might make a great accountant?
Westlake: I’m not sure he has the patience for accountancy, but I’ve always believed the books are really about a workman at work, doing the work to the best of his ability. However, I see him more as working stiff than professional class.—From an interview with Donald Westlake, about his Parker novels (written under the name Richard Stark)
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
—Justin Bauer, Philadelphia City Paper
Monday, August 4, 2008
Conversation in my new office (8/3)
C: Do you want to come to Starbucks with us?
M: Sure! Let's go.
M-K: I forget... which one is the good Starbucks?
C: It's the one between 5th and 6th, definitely.
M-K: Yeah... the other one is so much worse.