Monday, June 30, 2008
Update: Here's the playlist, featuring songs ("Work Is a Four-Letter Word"!), readings from PD, and cubicle shots from listeners:
Personal Days, real world version
Ed Park’s novel Personal Days is set in a company drastically downsizing. This flickr set of the empty spaces left behind as the San Jose Mercury News downsizes perfectly illustrates what I pictured as the novel’s workspaces. I guess it made the rounds earlier this year, but it’s back in the news — the longtime designer who took the photos was just told he’s been laid off, too.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
There’s a dark undercurrent to all the whimsy, a Beckettian dread as co-worker after co-worker is blasted out of the desolate landscape....Anyone who has ever groaned to hear “impact” used as a verb will cheer as Park skewers the avatars of corporate speak, hellbent on debasing the language....
[I]n the last section — a bravura e-mail soliloquy reminiscent of Molly Bloom — Park uses the first person, and the intensely personal section floods this black-and-white newsreel with vivid color. In a single, fluid release of emotion and truth, the mysteries of the layoffs are solved and a measure of humanity is reclaimed. It is a heartfelt antidote to the comic bleakness of the first two sections.
Park has written what one of his characters calls “a layoff narrative” for our times. As the economy continues its free fall, Park’s book may serve as a handy guide for navigating unemployment and uncertainty. Does anyone who isn’t a journalist think there can’t be two books on the same subject at the same time? We need as many as we can get right now.
Photo: Chester Higgins Jr.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Personal Days by Ed Park
Some office drones work at a moribund company. That's really all Park needs
WHY IT'S GOOD
Never have the minutiae of office life been so lovingly cataloged and collated
FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE ...
The Mezzanine, Then We Came to the End (a book it superficially resembles, but only superficially)
Thursday, June 26, 2008
EP in Brooklyn!
7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble on Court Street.
(More info here.)
A new crop of EP interviews:
¶ Who Walk in Brooklyn ("About narrative constraints in Personal Days, I was going to say: Yes! But then I thought, What is freedom?")
¶ The Publishing Spot (in five bite-size pieces)
¶ Mediabistro (subscription required—I, EP, haven't even read this one, so someone tell me what it's all about...)
¶ The Star-Ledger ("If you are going to write a novel about restructuring a company, you should have a structure that is changing, that is being restructured.")
¶ Metromix ("It was a lot of writing and then reading things over and tossing out anything that wasn’t working.")
¶ LAist ("I am going to endeavor not to start any new blogs for a while. This vow will last about a week.")
And don't forget—
¶ Triple Canopy ("For me, fiction writing requires giving in to the unconscious; more alarmingly put, hearing voices, falling into a trance, or even hallucinating. Which might be why Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of the Unconscious in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind has had such a lasting hold on me...")
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
A Julian Maclaren-Ross story from 1943:
Everyone said, What the hell are you worrying about? You’re cushy.
Then suddenly the battalion moved and I was posted to another depot. At last, I thought, a more important job.
On the contrary. It was a job in the orderly room, much the same, with slightly longer hours. I was told it was permanent.
I said, what about a trade test?
They said at first, NBG. [No bloody good: one of numerous acronyms popular in wartime Britain.]
* * *
Tomorrow: EP reads in Brooklyn — 7 p.m. at the Court St. B&N.
Monday, June 23, 2008
My hotel room in Seattle...
....HAS AN ORIGINAL MAGRITTE!!!
Oh wait—not really!
Nice PD/Elliott Bay reading mention in The Stranger today—which I looked at while in the famous Pike Place Market, the place where they throw the fish at each other! "Nabokov writing The Office," something like that, heyyyy, I'll take it!
Tomorrow, Mon. 6/16—Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 South Main Street, 7:30! I will be reading!
Packing on Saturday, I e-mailed Jenny D, my life coach, regarding what books to bring. I was up to four or five—clearly too many:
Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives (which I thought was a shoo-in)She talked me down to Park and Gissing, and allowed me to bring Rivka's book, which I finished on the flight to Seattle. Verdict: Go read it!! It's a good sign when one keeps reaching for a pen to scribble down excellent little lines. (One I liked: "Everybody with their dogs," said in a sort of exhausted tone.) I think the comparisons (in reviews etc.) to Pynchon might be slightly misleading—the style really isn't anything like Pynchon's; there's paranoia, but it seems more in line with Borges, say. (And that makes sense, actually—some of the action takes place in Argentina.) The book is written in a slippery, funny, complex first person, with huge gusts of sudden sadness roaring through...One of those books that makes you want to write!
Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances (halfway done, so maybe not much bang for buck, space-in-suitcase-wise)
Paul Park, Princes of Roumania (hadn't opened)
George Gissing, New Grub Street (just started, one chapter in)
Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise (just started, two chapters in)
Charles Stross, Saturn's Children (just started, five pages in)
After Atmospheric Disturbances, I read Rachael Ray's Lake George–area recommendations in the in-flight magazine, then saw her yammering cheerfully about great meal bargains in the mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest states on Food Network. What would my life be without Rachael Ray? (A: Quieter.)
Then I read a few chapters of Paul Park—very good!
But since disembarking, it's been all about the Gissing. GREAT!
Seattle has approximately five trillion independent bookstores!
(Off to find this taco place that Rachael Ray recommended! Elliott Bay TONITE!)
Yesterday I made my way to the taco place, Agua Verde, that Rachael Ray recommended. I took a bus that started in a tunnel. The inscription on the structure above it said GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE. I felt like I'd wandered into a city of the future. Remembrance of what? I didn't know. I took the bus out to the depopulated university and asked someone to point me to Boat Street. I had a salmon taco, which sounded like a good idea (Seattle = salmon town!) but maybe doesn't make that much sense, and a horchata. I read some more of New Grub Street.
Verdict: Agua Verde was OK! I'm glad I took the little trip. On the bus ride home two young dudes were talking music: "C major 7th is just A minor ninth minus the A."
And now for some PhotoBooth magic: The two things on my desk yesterday!
* * *
Tonight! Portland! Powell's at 7:30!
(Here is me blogging away there last month.)
—Broke my shoelace this morning—trying to dress with vigor in order to catch a car to the airport. Instead of being annoyed (well, instead of being totally annoyed), this made me happy: It was the exact thing—an allusion in the physical world—that triggers the "action" in Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine, the great office novel of the '80s!
—Later that night: People are talking about an SF event at a place called The Mezzanine.
—Disorienting hair care experience: In Portland, washed my hair with shampoo but then wasn't sure. Had I used conditioner instead of shampoo? Those bottles are all the same shape. So I shampooed, either for the first time or again, and conditioned, either again or for the first time. My hair was distressingly floaty all day.
—My iPod wheel jammed about a year ago, and I can only play one playlist at a time (long story), so I've been listening to whatever's on it: Richard and Linda Thompson, Pour Down Like Silver; assorted Destroyer; San Serac, Ice Age; Psychic Envelopes.
—Sent out an e-mail to Bay Area friends and acquaintances late last night, or was it early this morning, in which I messed up the day of the S.F. reading. Had to send another one afterward saying, essentially, oops. Fits in with epigraph of PD—another part of the New Order lyric: "I don't know what day it is..." Another real-life allusion!
—At Google, read section about Googling ("Instant Folklore").
—In Portland, watched Discovery program in which a baby hippo gets eaten by a crocodile. The scene was shot from every angle. Shouldn't the camerapeople do something?
—Over drinks last night was told about this YouTube video: Water buffalo vs. lions vs. crocodiles briefly vs. stampede of water buffalo:
—I think there is a scene like this in The Great Romance, that 19th-century New Zealand space exploration/time travel novel I reviewed...was it last month? A sudden battle royale between jungle beasts...except we're on Venus.
[Cue: Pixies, "Where is My Mind?"]
[Photo taken June 19 by my computer]
—Idea for a character: "I'm an intellectual property lawyer specializing in Sudoku cases."
—Every airport line a labyrinth of Tens-a-Barriers.
—Least romantic sign, LAX: PRE-SECURITY DINING
—In Seattle: Had morning coffee outside Grand Central Bakery; saw a homeless guy mummified in old clothes, face invisible. Later that afternoon, visiting E., we stop by an outsider-artist neighbor's house. He makes whimsical/strange tiled sculptures. In the backyard is one of a life-sized mummy, arms outstretched.
—I love how there is never any security when it comes to baggage claim.
—Media escort in Portland tells me that Oregon was founded as an all-white state.
—Why am I saying "No worries" again? "Sorry, Mr. Park, the room will be ready in 15 minutes." "No worries!"
—Happened twice: Upon dropping me off, cabbie says, "Have a good flight." Automatic response: "You too." Nipped it in the bud for the last one.
—Printed matter acquired: six volumes.
—In Portland, D. wears a shirt with DRAMA in a circle, crossed out.
—In San Francisco, lunched with A. and B. at WEIRD FISH. B.'s beard has a soothing effect.
—Many quaint and curious stores along Valencia. Borderlands, science fiction store, has Ouroboric signage:
—Anagram: Oregon: O NEGRO (!!??)
—Economics. In San Francisco, I mean Seattle, got an iced latte at Pike's Place (Pike Place?); clearly ordered and got the smallest size, but was apparently charged for the medium size, unless Washington has a 30% sales tax. Wanted to say something but didn't. Next day, take bus out to acclaimed waterfront taquería; I don't have change, nor any bill smaller than a twenty; the driver gives me a free ride. It all works out.
—Sign in Seattle: WE ARE UNABLE TO DELIVER BEYOND THIS POINT.
—In San Francisco I can't figure out how to get from the elevator to my room, how to get from my room to the elevator. Each time I wind up going the wrong way round, passing something called THE GALLERY.
—Must I record every semi-interesting sign I see, every vaguely amusing phrase or chuckleworthy name? Yes? What for? To inflict it, later, on an unsuspecting readership? To remind myself, I am alive?
—Couldn't get this in the other day's Jumble: TAPECK
—Am I gaining weight or losing weight?
—Least aerodynamic airplane logo: Alaska Airlines' eskimo, peering out through ancient eyes.
—In Seattle, in San Francisco, rooms have jogging maps, which I study with interest. Who am I fooling? I don't even jog in New York.
—Did not buy at Powell's a book I mildly coveted upon spying it by chance last summer: SHHH!, by G.[?] Sheppard. How long will it stay on the shelf, this 1000-plus-page novel set in Montreal? Scenario in which I return to Portland every year and check up on its saleability.
—Eccentric millionaire hires person (me) to do this.
—Best matchbook ever?
"The reading public should pay me for telling them what they oughtn't to read. I must think it over."
"Carlyle has anticipated you," threw in Alfred.
"Yes, but in an antiquated way. I would base my polemic on the newest philosophy."
He developed the idea facetiously, whilst John regarded him as he might have watched a performing monkey." —Gissing, New Grub Street
—In Seattle, R. tells me about Underground Seattle, the old city built below sea level and abandoned, and the abandoned novel he was writing about it.
—Idea for story: Eccentric millionaire who hires his own private Jumble and Sudoku craftsmen, the way you would hire a chef.
—At Google, I try to summarize my blog for my hosts. "I write about my obsessions...the snake with its tail in its mouth? And the number 26?"
"FREMONT TROLL—This beloved public artwork depicts a large, fearsome troll devouring an actual Volkswagen underneath the Aurora Bridge." —Where Seattle, 6/08
—Hey , some a**hole tore out the map in this Seattle visitor's guide—oops, wait—I did that, yesterday.
—I like the airport name SEA-TAC.
—On Mercer Island, M.'s daughter, B., 5, tells me she's writing a book. She isn't finished yet but I think it will be pretty good.
—Stewardess: Young eyes, old man's hands.
—Thriller plot point idea: Someone with multiple piercings gets through security, is able to remove earrings etc. and form them into a weapon.
—In L.A., go to Barney Greengrass (which in New York is just down the street) at Barneys (which in New York is cross town), like an anagram from home.
—On plane from S.F. to L.A., two kids giddily dance in their seats, thin arms raised, as if swaying to San Serac's "What Price Revenge?," which has commenced piping into my ears at the correct moment.
—On plane home, watch Blast of Silence (1961) on DVD. Great fat-guy actor, room full of caged rats, keeps money in a lamp. The actress reminds me of someone. I think the main hit man actor is understated to perfection, wonder who it is, learn later it's the director. The narration is amazing but I imagine a different version—no narration, gaping silences.
—Spiderwick Chronicle is on at the front of the cabin. Tune in for about seven minutes of Penelope but I don't understand it. (Is Reese Witherspoon in the movie?) Watch a pretty funny episode of How I Met Your Mother.
—Note to self: Weed out dead metaphors. (Is that a dead metaphor itself?)
And it's one more night in Hollywood: EP at Book Soup, Los Angeles, 6/20/08
[Photo by Pinky.]
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Ed Park's first novel covers the ground between the rolling chair and the desk; the fax machine and the water cooler. "Personal Days" decodes the office politics of an unnamed New York company from the perspective of a group of distinct characters so enmeshed, they're not really quite sure how they got there in the first place. Or how to get out. Sounds like life around here. —Metromix Los Angeles
Thursday, June 19, 2008
U.S. information security company Cyber-Ark surveyed 300 senior IT professionals, and found that one-third admitted to secretly snooping, while 47 percent said they had accessed information that was not relevant to their role.
"All you need is access to the right passwords or privileged accounts and you're privy to everything that's going on within your company," Mark Fullbrook, Cyber-Ark's UK director, said in a statement released along with the survey results on Thursday.
"For most people, administrative passwords are a seemingly innocuous tool used by the IT department to update or amend systems. To those 'in the know' they are the keys to the kingdom," he added. —Reuters
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Get Your Elevator Pitch Ready
The 2008 National Pitch Challenge seeks entrepreneurs with business ideas. Prize: The American Dream
LOS ANGELES - June 18, 2008 - Are you one of those people that have a great business idea, but no money to make it happen? If so, this might be your chance to "Pitch" that big idea to real investors and make your dream come true.
PerfectBusiness.com is announcing the 2008 National Pitch Challenge. The Challenge will search for the best business ideas in America. The winners will receive a business prize package, consulting services and funding from angel investors and venture capitalists.
What is a "Pitch"? A pitch is based on the Elevator Pitch concept, which is the hypothetical scenario where an entrepreneur explains a business idea during an elevator ride with an investor. As the theory goes, a prepared entrepreneur should always have an Elevator Pitch ready, just in case such an opportunity arises. A good pitch can quickly convey the key components of a business and convince an investor to get on board.
The National Pitch Challenge invites aspiring entrepreneurs to submit their ideas for commercially-viable businesses. Any person aged 18 or older is eligible.
The goal of the competition is to fund at least 25 businesses across the country and offer prizes to the Top 10 Pitches. The Top 10 will be determined by an esteemed panel, consisting of business experts and investors.
According to Dan Bliss, co-founder of PerfectBusiness.com, "We are looking for serious business ideas from capable entrepreneurs. There is plenty of capital available for quality businesses. The hard part is finding the ideas and people that are worthy of being funded."
Organizers are assembling hundreds of angel investors and venture capitalists to participate. These investors are seeking businesses both regionally and nationally. Most professional investors are interested in startups or existing businesses that have potential for rapid growth and large returns on investment.
Submissions for the 2008 National Pitch Challenge will be accepted from September 1 through December 31, 2008. Winners will be announced on February 2, 2009. Entrepreneurs interested in participating must visit the official web site. Get your elevator pitch ready.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
In Ed Park’s Personal Days, there’s a character named Jack who gives unwanted back rubs—or “jackrubs.” I’m sold. Park, founding editor of The Believer, will read from his debut novel about the modern-day work environment and its absurdity. Personal Days is like a literary hybrid of The Office and Office Space, so fans of hilarious office antics will not be disappointed. Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-0540. 7:30 pm. Free. Map
(Here's what the Oregonian had to say—and here's Ed blogging over at the Powell's website last month.)
Monday, June 16, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
THE STRANGER SUGGESTS
Ed Park has been the editor of excellent book-review publications, like The Believer and the Voice Literary Supplement, for about five years. For a while now, everyone has been asking, When is Ed Park gonna write a goddamned novel? The wait is over, and the goddamned novel is called Personal Days. At Book Expo America, someone pitched it to me as "Nabokov writes an episode of The Office," and that's about right: It's packed with hilarious, razor-sharp observations about layoffs, mustaches, and interoffice romance. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 101 S Main St, 624-6600, 7:30 pm, free.) —Paul Constant, The Stranger
(More here and at Seattlest.)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Next week: EP on West Coast!
Jaynes’s audacious thesis—that early man did not possess consciousness—makes you ponder the very nature of an interior life. Why do we have two brain hemispheres, and why does everyone—writer or not—have the experience of silently talking to oneself, weighing options, narrating everyday life? Who is talking to whom?
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Unnatural as it is, the office is where we spend most of our time these days. It's become our social theater, which is why Ed Park sometimes sounds like Jane Austen when he describes it. In the first third of his debut novel, Personal Days, Park scrutinizes the rules and rituals of office culture with precision and wit, choosing the most incriminating details and coolly observing the weirdness that festers under the fluorescents. —Becky Ohlsen, The Oregonian
Ed will be in Portland next Tuesday, but tonight it's all about Newtonville!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Not the best picture. But you can see one player, riding the office chair across the intersection, feet outstretched, almost at his destination, my side of the street. Our view of the pusher is blocked by the tree.
As with stickball and stoopball before it, the kids in my neighborhood (Bensonhurst) stay out until all hours with their new neighborhood sport: rolling each other across the street on wheeling office chairs. There seems to be neither winner nor loser in this game. I've witnessed no falls. So far, from what I can see from my window, one pushes, one rides, and a few others run ahead shouting out loud. They circle the block a few times, and then, I guess, they retire.
Monday, June 9, 2008
(Full tour schedule can be found here.)
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
WHERE: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 North Lincoln Avenue
WHEN: 7 p.m.
Looking forward to meeting you!