Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And also this one...

According to The Book Bench (New Yorker blog), PD is PD is "2008’s Best Novel About Doing Battle with Microsoft Word and Losing"!
An eerily prescient tale of layoffs; think “Alien” set in an office, where computers are stealthily self-destructing and people keep disappearing from their cubicles, leaving vast empty warrens of corporate debris. Did I mention that it’s deeply, bitterly funny?

Coming to a book jacket near you

Hyphen lists PD as one of the "Other Dope Fiction Books by Asians."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

The ultimate layoff narrative?

In September, Ketzel Levine, a senior correspondent for National Public Radio, came up with an idea for a series about how Americans were handling economic pressure....

Ms. Levine and her editor didn’t want a series of unconnected stories. “We came up with the idea that each person should be connected with the next somehow, and that was the best part for me,” she said....

But there was an unexpected ending. Midway through her reporting, Ms. Levine found out that she had been laid off as part of a 64-employee cut at NPR.

Ms. Levine, who has worked at NPR since 1977, said she decided the final episode, and her final piece for NPR, should be about her own situation.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Personal Days—the mug!


Personal Days is a "tornado of increasing tragicomedic build-up that sucks you in and vomits you into a better place. Some killer one-liners in there. Tangentially lost my iPod because of this book."
Yellow Redneck Blues

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Force quit blues

do not use force quit/cancel-force quit to manipulate your computer- i am pretty sure i broke mine today.

The Pony Problem

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tooth flippers

An hour or two ago I dreamt that I and some coworkers were missing our top rows of teeth. On the bare gums in the tops of our mouths, we wore "reversible" dentures. If we wore the dentures one way, it looked like we had a perfect row of white teeth. If we flipped them around and wore them the other way, it looked like we had a row of perfect off-white teeth.... —Crude Futures

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


One of the notable events in recent literary history was a modest bump in the number of novels about white-collar work. The two most heralded were, significantly, debuts: Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End and Ed Park's Personal Days. Both young authors, possessed of little experience besides what their cubicle daydreaming and job insecurity had supplied, they exploited the potential of office spaces to their extreme, and the immediate response these novels elicited from reviewers was: "more!" We needed more novels about bagel brunches, useless meetings, excessive coffee drinking, awkward exchanges, e-mails and layoffs. We were to re-experience what so many of us went through every day, to know it as pain, to see the expression of that pain among others as a form of solidarity.

—Nikil Savil, for The Millions' "A Year in Reading"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Technological traps

Watch this clip from James Burke's excellent show Connections. (Relevant part a bit before 3:00 mark.)

(From Uncertain Times)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

WoW! We're not going to hire you!

I met with a recruiter recently (online media industry) and in conversation I happened to mention I'd spent way too much time in the early 2000s playing online games, which I described as "the ones before World of Warcraft"....

He replied that employers specifically instruct him not to send them World of Warcraft players. He said there is a belief that WoW players cannot give 100% because their focus is elsewhere, their sleeping patterns are often not great, etc....

f.13net forum

(Via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Absolute beginners

The mighty poet Brenda Shaughnessy is reading PD:

Books of prose I recently finished that I keep thinking about are Ed Park's hilariously-and-sadly-perfect-for-our-times Personal Days. I also loved Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners....

Campfire tales

Samantha Hunt—wizardly author of the novels The Seas and The Invention of Everything Else—chooses Personal Days as one of the best books of 2008:
In "Personal Days," Ed Park's dark, dark humor captures the slow death-spiral of a company and the workers still living in its decay. As they are summoned by human resources, the still-employed huddle around their monitors like some post-apocalyptic campfires, writing screenplays, Googling themselves and generally acting far more clever than anyone in charge. Sadly, the book is timely.
—Louisville Courier-Journal

Sunday, December 14, 2008


If you've ever worked as an office drone, Ed Park's Personal Days will make you both laugh and cringe with familiarity. Park perfectly captures the fear and loathing towards middle management, email blunders, and existential anguish of the New York cubicle grind. —Hyphen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do the collapse

The book/office photos of Philip Toledano.

(Via the 26th Story.)*

*One commenter links to Britt Salvesen's excellent piece on office photography in the latest Believer. (Subscribe!)

Flexing that giddiness

Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits names Personal Days of the year's top 10 books! (Here's the Bat Segundo interview from earlier this year.)...

...Commonweal includes it in its Christmas Critics roundup—click here to see...

...and...a "former African dictator" gives it a thumbs-up:
Park shows both the cramped spaces and bizarrely profound social investments we make in our co-workers' lives by telling the stories of a dozen mid-level employees of a moribund company, marooned on an increasingly empty floor of a New York high rise. Together, they're bound in anxiety over losing their jobs, excitement at the sudden independence of being fired and terror of doing anything to draw attention to themselves. Oddly, this semi-oblivion engrosses them. The best jokes come from the office. So do the freshest ironic nightmares. It's the most entertaining thing they have, but no one wants to ask too seriously if perhaps that's because it's all they have. —Et Tu, Mr. Destructo?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Office Babylon

[I]t is the small tablets with tiny writing that are the most tantalising objects in Babylon, Myth and Reality (at the British Museum until 15 March). Can one, through them, get beyond archaeological evidence and inference, bypass the fevered imagination of William Blake’s and John Martin’s Bible illustrations and hear the voice of a Mesopotamian Pepys?

Well, not exactly, but the range and character of what is written down give some idea of the texture of everyday life in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. The majority of tablets may be the equivalent of office files – letters, legal documents, contracts, mortgages, lists of goods – but there are also messages addressed to the gods, some of them expressing indignance that good behaviour has not been rewarded. —Peter Campbell, LRB

Monday, December 8, 2008

TIME to get "Personal"!

Personal Days joins books by Roberto Bolaño, Jhumpa Lahiri, Neil Gaiman, and others on Time magazine's list of the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2008!

Read the full article here, and buy copies of PD here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weatherless timelessness

This book, Personal Days, totally nails the particular weirdnesses of working in an office, how days blend into days, years blend into years. That weatherless timelessness. What a curious book to be reading this week, too, as the news is all so very dire -- recession, the publishing industry, joblessness, blah blah. Just like the people in the book, you can hate your job and still be so thankful for it. —Moonlight Ambulette

Bonus video (from 9 to 5!):

Saturday, December 6, 2008

129...with a bullet!

At least it ranks higher than The Key to Metal Bumping: An Instructive Manual of Body and Fender Repair Practices.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Written Nerd calls PD...

"Terrifyingly timely"!

PD clocks in at #5 on the Written Nerd's "Best-Loved Books of 2008."

That's a wrap

The L Magazine recommends Personal Days as a great holiday gift idea.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Made during company time"

Be honest, but...

Gawker offers "five elements of today's memos that illustrate everything you corporate flacks need to know about firing people like us."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Against the night

Franz Kafka wrote as insurance against suffering the fates of his characters. It was as if every hour he spent writing, by candlelight and, later, by electric light, was an installment paid against darkness. He knew that with a stroke of the pen he could conceivably, at any time, have restored to Joseph K. his easy life before The Trial, and obtained for land surveyor K. a better position with a gentler Castle. But this is what makes Kafka the great writer of what has been called Modernity: That he stayed true to his fictions, and retained their tragedy.

This week, Joshua Cohen writes about Kafka's office writings at Nextbook. (Five installments.)

(Correction made: Nextbook, not The Forward!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008


The Independent (UK) names Personal Days one of the "50 best winter reads"!

Smartly of-the-moment, this is office life at its best and worst: the "instant folklore" of the internet age ("when you feel a tingling in your fingers it means that someone?s Googling you"); the modernist poetry of an email inbox; the weird of experience of being a boss: "Every night, the chances are that at least one of [your staff] dreams of you."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Everything is illuminated

From Moonlight Ambulette:

So now that I remembered how to read I've been picking up all the many half-read books littering my apartment, and have happily re-delved into Personal Days, Ed Park's very funny novel about a group of people who work in an office at a time of economic upheaval and rampant layoffs. It just goes to show you what a difference it makes to be reading the right book at the right time -- even just a few weeks ago I'm sure the employees' skittishness about layoffs wouldn't have struck so chillingly close to home, but now layoffs (and rumored magazine shut-downs) are sort of the theme of the day at the media company where I work.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One day I read this paragraph: "Week after week, you form these intense bonds without quite realizing it. All that time together adds up: muttering at the fax machine, making coffee runs. The elevator rides. The bitching about the speed of the elevator. The endlessly reprised joke, as it hits every floor: Making local stops." Funny, I thought, and so true about the unexpected bonds. But no one makes that elevator joke where I work, bub! I mean, no one really makes small talk or even looks each other in the elevators in my building.

And guess what happened the next day at work. Two security guards in the elevator, going up, with practically every floor's button illuminated. One turned to the other and before he even said it I knew what he was going to say. Making local stops.

This book must be magic!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recession reading

To this list...

...add Personal Days!

The New Yorker writes:

This comic and creepy début novel takes place in a Manhattan office depopulated by "the Firings," where one can "wander vast tracts of lunar workscape before seeing a window." The downsized staff huddle like the crew of a doomed spaceship, picked off one by one by an invisible predator. Crippled by computer crashes (one worker suggests that the machines are "trying to tell us about the limits of the human"), the survivors eddy in a spiritual inertia; when one of them is banished to "Siberia"—a lone desk on another floor—no one can muster the energy even to reply to her increasingly anguished e-mails, until, one day, she is simply no longer there. Park transforms the banal into the eerie, rendering ominous the familiar request "Does anyone want anything from the outside world?"

The PD blog reminds you, it's...

—An affordable $13.—

after you read the book, send the two names that are anagrams of each other to

and get a
free whimsical jpeg!

Gift idea

Personal Days is one of Book Nerd's favorite books of 2008!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calling Tal Champers!

The most fun, though, are the cameos, from an violent Mickey Spillane to the wryly comic young writers Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block, who serve as a sort of pulp Bert and Ernie--or, more accurately, Ernie and Ernie.
I've Been Reading Lately

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Christmas party?

"Office culture has sucked more than usual these days...": Gawker mentions Personal Days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reach the beach

New from City of Work:

Theodore Roethke's "Dolor"

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight...

Read the whole poem here, and learn more about Rylan Steele, who took this photograph:

Photo: Office, 2008 by HHS entrant Rylan Steele

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hold that thought

"You Secure In Your Job?"

Check out three Quicktime poems by William Poundstone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


How well will Personal Days date?

I spent a large part of today in front of a microfilm reader in the New York County Clerk office on Chambers Street, looking at immigration records from the turn of the century. How many people today ever use microfilm? Most technologies pass into obsolescence, but others are completely forgotten. After people stop using email, it may not take many more decades before people forget what email was - before they forget that it was ever an innovation in the real world. That is my secret hope for Personal Days - that someday in the future one of its readers will come across a passage about a QWERTY keyboard or cd drives and see it not as a laughably retro reference, but as the techno-babble of some forgotten era. On that day the novel will pass from very good period fiction to very good science fiction.

Some Reservations

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not for us

We might think of Kafka’s response to his friend Max Brod’s question about hope and whether there was any outside the world as we know it. ‘Plenty of hope,’ Kafka said. ‘But not for us.’

Where did Kafka learn to think like this? A case could be made that he found his training not in his intricate psyche or in his horrified commitment to writing – ‘the service of the Devil’, he called it – but in his day job at the Prague Institute for Workmen’s Accident Insurance.

—Michael Wood on Kafka's office writings, London Review of Books

(From Jenny)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words of the year—office edition

The New Oxford American Dictionary's "Word of the Year" finalists include moofer (for "mobile out of office worker") and topless meeting (not what you think).

Time for a staycation!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The chills

Portico on Personal Days:

[I]ntensely plotted, [with] a very satisfying surprise ending...a finely-modulated progression of narrative voices...It's as though working at this unnamed company, engaged in its unspecified business, they are living through a slow-motion disaster, an earthquake in freeze-frame, that will not end until they walk out of the funky lower-Manhattan office building for the last time — assuming that blasting in the neighborhood doesn't cause it to topple. The unaffectionate intimacy with which these young people cohabit adjacent cubicles gives the book a snarkily cheerful surface beneath which flow unpredictably chilly currents.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The answer is always yes

Do you want to maximize your productivity, push your career to the next level, and maintain a positive outlook at work? Artist and office worker Michael Lewy has a series of helpful charts for you. Lewy, who has an administrative job at MIT, spent the past year engaged in a surreal act of worldbuilding that resulted in City of Work, a collection of slide presentations, ad campaigns, and educational films that reveal the dark side of "getting things done." —i09

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mouth almighty

Ten years later my hair began to turn black and my teeth gradually returned to my mouth. I was deprived of my pension and had to sit at the office doing my work from the end right to the beginning. My employers were very kind to me, but after twenty-five years they ceased to know me and engaged me on trial at fifteen pounds a month. So there I stood, back to front of course, without money and without a job, but with a wife who grew prettier and loved me more every day.

—From Frigyes Karinthy's "The Moral," in Soliloquies in the Bath (read all of it at A Journey Round My Skull)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Der Office

I. Princeton University Press announces a new title:

Franz Kafka: The Office Writings brings together, for the first time in English, Kafka's most interesting professional writings, composed during his years as a high-ranking lawyer with the largest Workmen's Accident Insurance Institute in the Czech Lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) is commonly recognized as the greatest German prose writer of the twentieth century. It is less well known that he had an established legal career. Kafka's briefs reveal him to be a canny bureaucrat, sharp litigator, and innovative thinker on the social, political, and legal issues of his time. His official preoccupations inspired many of the themes and strategies of the novels and stories he wrote at night.

These documents include articles on workmen's compensation and workplace safety; appeals for the founding of a psychiatric hospital for shell-shocked veterans; and letters arguing relentlessly for a salary adequate to his merit. In adjudicating disputes, promoting legislative programs, and investigating workplace sites, Kafka's writings teem with details about the bureaucracy and technology of his day, such as spa elevators in Marienbad, the challenge of the automobile, and the perils of excavating in quarries while drunk. Beautifully translated, with valuable commentary by two of the world's leading Kafka scholars and one of America's most eminent civil rights lawyers, the documents cast rich light on the man and the writer and offer new insights to lovers of Kafka's novels and stories.

(From John Mark)

II. What Would Don Draper Do?

(From Jessica)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hurry up please it's Time

The New York Times reports that the layoffs will begin in two weeks, yet an e-mail The Big Money obtained from inside Time Inc. does not mention layoffs. We’ve moved from euphemizing job cuts to denying they exist. —Chadwick Martin, Slate

On the stick

You can stick your 9-to-5 livin'
And your collar and your tie
And stick your moral standards
'Cause it's all a dirty lie!"
—AC/DC, "Rock 'n' Roll Singer"

(Quoted in Slate by James Parker)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Office supplies—more than meets the eye

In a tour de force of office supply physics, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that it is possible to produce X-rays by simply unrolling Scotch tape.

(From Jane)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

EP on the Radio — Tues. 10/21 at c. 8:40 p.m.

Ed will be on WBAI's Asia Pacific Forum tonight (10/21), beginning around 8:40 until 9 or so. You can listen online; New Yorkers can tune in to 99.5 FM.

(More about Asia Pacific Forum here.)

And at 7 p.m. on Thurs., 10/23, he'll be reading at the Asian American Writers' Workshop (16 W. 32nd St., 10th floor) with Monica Ferrell (The Answer Is Always Yes).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two October readings

1. This Sunday, 10/19, Ed will be reading something shortish at Pianos for an Obama/Biden fundraiser. The mind-blowing lineup: Paul Beatty (The White Boy Shuffle and Slumberland), Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), Elissa Schappell (Use Me), Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook), Anthony Swofford (Jarhead and Exit A), and actress Lili Taylor.

(Pianos: 158 Ludlow St. Event goes from 7 to 9. Trains: F or V to Second Ave. JMZ or F to Delancey St. $25 admission, which you should fulfill on the website pre-event, goes to the Obama/Biden campaign.)

2. Next Thursday (10/23), Ed will be reading at the Asian American Writers' Workshop. Also appearing: Monica Ferrell, author of the novel The Answer Is Always Yes.

(AAWW: 10 W. 32nd St., btw Bwy & 5th Ave., 10th floor; event starts at 7; suggested $5 donation.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008


"Ed Park is a Democrat."

Thursday Time-Wasters

1. Play With Spider.
(Via MUG)

2. 10 Amazing Coincidences
(Via MUG)

3. Pomegranate: Better than iPhone?
(Via Douglas)

4. Worst fight scene?
(Via B.)

5. Best fight scene? (Via.)

A problem at work

I meet a friend who's bad-tempered and nervous because of a problem at work that's harrying him. From outside, from the edge of his desk, it's easy to measure the absurdity of this preoccupation about something that doesn't even touch him (vicariously living someone else's problem: misfortune of a good worker, of an honest manager). I wonder whether it occurs to him to suddenly consider the absurd, as a comparison with the cosmic, whether he sometimes takes a step back so the monster in front of his eyes turns back into the fly hovering in the air....

—Julio Cortázar, Diary of Andrés Fava (transl. by Anne McLean)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Elevator lit

Do we have an Italian Camus on our hands? Just possibly - Class of Civilizations won Italy's Flaiano Prize....On Columbus Day weekend, it's added serendipity for the novel to revolve around a character - Signor Amedeo - whose Italian origins are utterly in dispute.

Lakhous shapes his story around a single apartment building on Piazza Vittorio in Rome, an immigrant area. His building's residents, whose stories crisscross, offer a microcosm of modern Rome as they battle over the deteriorating condition of their elevator.

—Carlo Romano, review of Amara Lakhous's Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, Philadelphia Inquirer

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Monkey business

Do you know a boss who struts around the office, preening himself and puffing out his chest, showing off a splash of colour – perhaps a red tie? According to a study of male managers, he is behaving like much of the animal kingdom, particularly monkeys and chimpanzees. --The Independent

(From Jenny)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Sentence From the Master

The nearly universal carpeting of offices must have come about in my lifetime, judging from black-and-white movies and Hopper paintings: since the pervasion of carpeting, all you hear when people walk by are their own noises–the flap of their raincoat, the jingle of their change, the squeak of their shoes, the efficient little sniffs they make to signal to us and to themselves that they are busy and walking somewhere for a very good reason, as well as the almost sonic whoosh of receptionists' staggering and misguided perfumes, and the covert chokings and showings of tongues and placing of braceleted hands to windpipes that more tastefully scented secretaries exchange in their wake. —Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm in prison most of the day

Another one for the PD soundtrack: Lou Reed, "Don't Talk to Me About Work," at Moistworks.

(Actually, all of these would be appropriate...)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Know what I'm saying?

On BoingBoing, Douglas Rushkoff had this to say about Personal Days:

Personal Days, by Ed Park, is a post-Dilbert, post-Microserfs look at office culture. It's like the show The Office, except populated by people who, for the most part, understand what is happening to them. What I like best about the book is Ed Park's use of cliché phrases. You know how that first song on Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom album (Beyond Belief) strings together known phrases into something entirely bigger? Or the way Delmore Schwartz would italicize a phrase as if to show it was a saying instead of just words? Know what I'm saying? Park does this throughout his text, creating a gentle, phantom hypertext that required no further explanation. And this black comedy about downsizing brings an almost Beckett-like sense of reduction to the dwindling office.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Tracking Down First Fiction"

Personal Days has been named one of last season's "top first novels" by Library Journal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Headquarters of What?!

Today's Life's Work by Lisa Belkin, "Talking Politics in the Office," reads like it was written for The Hometown Shopper. I hope I am not giving away too much, but it was hard to know where to stop. Some gems:

AT the Livonia, Mich., headquarters of Fathead, which produces life-size wall graphics of athletes, two new figures stand on opposite ends of an office hallway — a likeness of John McCain, and another of Barack Obama, each 6 feet 5 inches tall. They are conversation pieces, to say the least.

On the Manhattan desk of Amara S. Birman, an account executive at Dukas Public Relations, sits a Beanie Baby with a G.O.P. emblem on its tummy — an invitation to anyone who wants to talk politics.

You’ve heard that rule about never discussing politics at work? That’s so last election.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some silent types out there. Joni Daniels is one. A business consultant and meeting organizer in Manhattan, she has lots of opinions, but she keeps her political ones to herself.

Rachel Kempster used to feel that way, too — at least in the old days, which ended for her a few weeks ago. During the primaries, she says, she was “irked” by all the political chatter at DK Publishing in Manhattan, where she is a book publicist.

Is all this political talk in the office a boon for the democratic process or a tyranny of the vocal over the taciturn? Depends, sometimes literally, where you sit.

...try to find common ground.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


"Kafkianamente, i licenziamenti seguiranno l'ordine alfabetico delle iniziali del nome: le prime a cadere sono le J, poi le K e così di seguito...." —Il Sole on Maledetti Colleghi


Will you judge me, harshly, if I watch Made of Honor on my laptop (with headphones) on the subway on the way to work today? I'd like to return it in today's mail.

Corrections: I Put In 5 Miles at the Office

"Walking 9 to 5" Or, "How many times would I fall down each day?"

An article last Thursday about desks that include treadmills stated that Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, invented the first known treadmill desk. After the article was published, Seth Roberts, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out that he had created such a desk in 1996, eight years before Dr. Levine.

— New York Times, September 25, 2008

* I Put In 5 Miles at the Office (NYT, September 18, 2008)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

EP at Brooklyn Book Festival

On September 14, EP read from Personal Days at the Brooklyn Book Festival, joining fellow debut novelists Charles Bock and Chuck Klosterman. (Here's what the Columbia Spectator had to say.)

(Photo: Restless Reader)


Personal Days scrambles back onto the paperback fiction best seller list at Brooklyn's Book Court.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Two more readings

Next month, EP will be reading twice in New York:

1. Authors for Obama (10/19), with Paul Beatty, Nick Flynn, Elissa Schappell, Gary Shteyngart, Anthony Swofford, and actress Lili Taylor

2. Asian American Writers' Workshop (10/23), with fellow debut novelist Monica Ferrell

Saturday, September 20, 2008

*Personal Days* cribsheet

A handy guide to sorting out who's who in PD.

(List created by Soo Youn for KoreAm)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The casual Crow

"The use of causal reasoning to solve problems was previously thought to be something only humans can do. But new research suggests that crows are capable of it too. University of Auckland cognitive scientist Alex Taylor and his colleagues devised an experiment to test New Caledonian crows' causal reasoning. Turns out, they were able to succeed where even chimps fail. I, for one, welcome our new feathered overlords." —BoingBoing

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Snooker Hinge Palin"?

Today's time waster: the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator.

Smells like team spirit

From: [...]
Date: September 15, 2008 1:13:10 PM CDT
To: [...]
Subject: Suggestion - "Spirit Committee"

Good Afternoon!
It seems that company morale has been a topic of conversation as of late, and I have a suggestion to help our efforts to make [...] a great place to work.
Study after study has shown that what workers want from their jobs is not better benefits or more money. Rather, it is the small things that make them feel commitment to their organization. One study shows the top three things workers want are: interesting work, full appreciation for the work they do, and a feeling of being in on things. Baxter Labs recently asked their employees, worldwide, what they could do to make things better for them. The resounding answer was that employees wanted to be "respected as whole human beings with a life outside of work."

What seems critical, then, in workplaces today is for leaders to respond to workers as human beings and to foster an atmosphere that is inclusive, caring, creative, appreciative and joyful. People are looking for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their work and, above all, they want to be respected and valued.
A [...] "Spirit Committee" could be formed, and meet on a monthly basis to brainstorm about new and creative ways to make [...] a better place to work. Ultimately, the goal would be to help the staff feel appreciated. Some suggestions…
- Ice cream day – self explanatory and yummy!
- $50.00 Gas cards – a way to reward those going above and beyond their normal duties to get the job done. Managers
submit qualifying names each month. Those names are them entered into a drawing for the gas card giveaway.
- Once a month encourage senior managers to do something creative for all employees, or for employees in their divisions:
cook them breakfast, bring around an ice cream cart, serve them doughnuts and coffee, or even take them all to lunch. These small acts of appreciation will be remembered and talked about for weeks!
- Have a "Laugh a Day" bulletin board where you display appropriate cartoons and humorous writings. You may also want to keep a fishbowl of cartoons and jokes in the reception area of your organization so that visitors, too, can have a smile while they are waiting. Research has shown that the most productive workplaces have about 10 minutes of laughter every hour.
Anyway, just a few suggestions from me. I'm sure with all of our creative folks, we could come up with TONS of great ideas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Head cabbage

A review of Personal Days's Italian incarnation, Maledetti Colleghi (Fazi).


"Jenny says he heard head cabbage (or the Boss Russell, from which Brussels and cavoletto Brussels) singhiozzava, with the office door socchiusa. Jonah has accused of wanting to humanize the enemy. 'Maybe laughed' , Says Laars, but we all know that the laughter of head cabbage not like a weeping. Remember rather a ululato. " We are a company in Manhattan where employees consume their days with the terror of losing the place. If the boss calls you and commends you, confident that after a short time you will be sacked.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For the birds

"Part of the wicked fun of Ed Park’s Personal Days is finding out the significance of the crow on the keypad." —The Daily Blague

Monday, September 8, 2008

Times essay — Brooklyn Book Festival

1. “To forget we must not know we are doing so, or else we are not forgetting”: Read Ed's essay on 9/11 in the New York Times.

2. For the second year in a row, Ed will be appearing at the Brooklyn Book Festival. On Sunday, September 14, at 5 p.m. on the Mainstage, Ed will join fellow debut novelists Charles Bock (Beautiful Children) and Chuck Klosterman (Downtown Owl).

Photo of EP (with Rob Sheffield) by Adrian Kinloch, from last year's Brooklyn Book Festival.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sargent Prize Shortlist

Personal Days is one of seven books shortlisted for the Mercantile Library's John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.

(Read more at Galleycat.)

Two interviews

1. With Dylan Foley, for the Newark Star-Ledger.

2. With Lilit Marcus, for Save the Assistants.

The Woodentops

My obsession with computers (what an infancy they're in, and how it charms!) is a kind of nostalgia for the future. I long to be half-man, half-desk.
—Don Paterson, Best Thought, Worst Thought

When I stand in my office, my limbs slowly turn to wood, which one longs to set fire to, so that it might burn: desk and man, one with time!
—Robert Walser, "Helbling's Story"

Simply the best

Wink's secretary sends out an inspirational e-mail.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Stifled Lives at the Office"

"WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?" wonders one of the white-collar serfs who populate Believer editor Ed Park's debut novel, Personal Days. "Where does the life go?" In melancholy deadpan, Park narrates the days when "every straw is the last straw" in a company whose boom years are behind it.

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

"Crows never forget a face..."

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....


(Via Jenny)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baldfaced names

A review on GoodReads had a delightful slip:

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

Human tape recorder

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

Things you can do

1. Ask your coworker if s/he has any good jokes.
2. Listen patiently.
3. Click this. Then hit the button.

Monday, August 18, 2008


At Save the Assistants, a doozy of a layoff narrative:

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.

Double coverage


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Warren piece

The Buffalo News's Jeff Simon makes Personal Days his "Editor's Choice," calling it "funny and wicked and rending."

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

Get Unhappy!!!

Park’s assessment of morale is exactly right. No one talks about whether employees are happy when they’re actually happy. By the time some higher-up notices that morale is low, it’s already too late. —Save the Assistants

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Definitely the next

COLUMBUS, OH—A bravely worded e-mail written by graphic designer Brent Quigley decrying his advertising firm's "complete lack of managerial competence" and its "utter failure to treat employees with respect" has remained inside the drafts folder since it was first composed on Dec. 4, 2007.

"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

Hair today

"There is a superhero in my office."

Reminder II

"[In] modern Guatemala...Mayans remark that outsiders note things down not in order to remember them, but rather so as not to remember them." —Nicholas Ostler

[from Private Circulation, "The PDF Bulletin for Proposals"]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Megan McCafferty, author of the excellent YA books starring Jessica Darling (Sloppy Firsts, et al.), recommends Personal Days on her blog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leap year

"Could some clever reader tell me what a quantum leap is and where I can see one performed? Who the chattering classes are and where I can listen to them? And what a learning curve is and how I can climb onto one?" —Counting My Chickens, by Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

(Via Jenny)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Of course you do!

Do you have time for One Sweet Song?

Punch the clock—in the face

Levi Stahl has written more on Westlake/Stark's Parker novels as "work" books:

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!

Finest worksong!

A logo by Brian McMullen — click on it for the PD theme song (also by McMülls)!

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)

Click click windowshade click windowshade

Web Diversions! Including the PD-blog fave "Read at Work."

(From Becky.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


"This absence of novelized work makes a book that restricts itself to the 9-to-5, like Ed Park's cubicle opera Personal Days (Random House), shine all the more. Park points out that those dead, stressed hours make up a separate reality....The final section, a bravura paranoid single-sentence stream-of-consciousness outpouring, shows more skill and contagious joy than any document that also uses 'impact' as a verb should."

—Justin Bauer, Philadelphia City Paper

12 sheets to the wind

"It says on this Airmail pad that 12 sheets and an envelope weighs less than half an ounce, but I doubt if I can go on at that length. Also I am writing this in the office in the morning, which seems frightfully sinful." —Letter from Barbara Pym to her friend Richard Campbell Roberts, 1/5/65

(Via Levi.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

A reader writes

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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

L Magazine, and a reading at KGB

The summer fiction issue of The L Magazine—free in print and online!—includes EP's "Variations on Original Sin," a part of the novel-in-progress The Dizzies.

New Yorkers! Come here Ed read at KGB on Thursday, July 31, 7 p.m.! With fellow L-mag contributor April Wilder. More info here.

Read what New York magazine has to say...This will be EP's last reading of the summer!

* * *

In other PD news—

Canada's National Post has a "guaranteed summer read"—Personal Days.

And EP jabbers somewhere in the midst of this Korean American radio show out of Chicago (is it called "Ill-Rated"?).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From dawn to distraction

Dale Dauten, in the Arizona Daily Star, fits Personal Days into his cri de coeur:

In reading this and reflecting on how much of the typical office day is spent in nattering, nagging and nothings, I kept thinking: So why do we still have employees come to an office? It's time to admit that there are more distractions at the office than at home, and just give in to the idea of remote employees.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On the subway

(From Jessica)

Braving the rapids

The one at whose side I worked that summer was deep-set in family heartaches, and facially inhumane, but she sometimes came out from behind all that etiquette.

Eleven was the only clock word she liked. She would insist it sounded lilting and relenting to her.

For me, though, the hour itself—the work-shift one, I mean, and not its trimmer twin in late evening—did not slope toward anything better. I never budged for lunch, and I liked to do myself in a little. I would postpone a piss until I had to brave rapids, practically. (There was a vessel I kept beneath my desk.)

This was the property-management division. We were sectored off from the rest of headquarters by little more than particleboard. The job required the luxurious useless indoor fortitude it has always been my fortune to enjoy.

—Gary Lutz, "Years of Age"

Sunday, July 27, 2008


And in the same way that others return to their homes, I retreat to my non-home: the large office on the Rua dos Douradores. I arrive at my desk as at a bulwark against life. I have a tender spot - tender to the point of tears—for my ledgers in which I keep other people’s accounts, for the old inkstand I use, for the hunched back of Sérgio, who draws up invoices a little beyond where I sit. I love all this, perhaps because I have nothing else to love, and perhaps also because nothing is worth a human soul’s love, and so it’s all the same—should we feel the urge to give it—whether the recipient be the diminutive form of my inkstand or the vast indifference of the stars.
—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

(Via Selfdivider)

Friday, July 25, 2008


In the U.K.: "[Personal Days] offers a very modern insight into the way we work now." —Independent

And in the U.S.: Ed tries to define success for Time Out New York.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pazzi d'ufficio!

The first chapter of Personal Days can be read here—in Italian!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obama probably not reading PD

NPR: "He also said he would use 'big sticks and big carrots' with Iran."

Fear of firing

Ms. Getty relished her late-in-life success, her son said. And she enjoyed reminiscing about more difficult times. In a 1990 interview she recalled one of her last secretarial jobs, at a company called Snap-Out Forms, where she kept her acting ambitions a secret for fear of being fired.

“At Snap-Out Forms, the first day I came to work, I had an audition, and I said, ‘Can I go for my lunch at 10 o’clock?’ ” she said. “The next day I had to go someplace else. I said. ‘Can I take my lunch at 2:30?’ The next day I asked if I could take lunch at 11 o’clock. The office manager said, ‘You have the strangest eating habits of any secretary we’ve ever had.’ ” —NYT

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inconceivable cross

Tuggs's fortune comes from the development and universal popularity of the Thingie®, an object so nebulously defined that the reader keeps trying to come up with a real-world analogue—some inconceivable cross between a Post-it and Microsoft Office, perhaps.
—Ed Park, "The Sure Thing"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Welcome to the machine

From Restricted View:

I checked my card's account history when I got back to my desk and found this list of purchases:
    6/11/2008 12:05 PM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:24 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:24 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:24 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:24 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:23 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:23 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:23 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:22 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:22 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:22 AM Purchase - Vending Location $1.50
    6/11/2008 10:21 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85
    6/11/2008 10:19 AM Purchase - Vending Location $0.85

Pachyderm query

Re: The elephant in the room


OK, um, seriously? I thought we were going to have cupcakes for Angela's birthday at 3, but then I get there and someone has clearly put an elephant in the conference room. I am sure whoever did this thinks it's pretty hilarious, but you guys are not the office manager, and you are not the one who is going to have to deal with building services when they find out that there's an elephant inside the office park....

—Wendy Molyneux, McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In a single bound

Time Out presents some online Gotham games.

Dusky jewel

Levi writes:

Your piece on office songs immediately made me think of "Piazza, New York Catcher," which I sometimes think is the best song ever. (Seriously: when he gets to the "I know it wouldn't come to love" line, then invokes "Don't Walk Away Renee," my heart just crumbles every time.) I realized that I tend to think of it as an office song—but looking again at the lyrics reveals that of course they're barely in the office at all (hell, the office is ultimately imaginary, too, isn't it?)—just "At dusk when work is over we'll continue the debate."

Cup of ambition

A musical based on the 1980 film “Nine to Five” has a date with Broadway. The show, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, will open in September at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles and play through Oct. 19. —NYT

(At Largehearted Boy, EP names "9 to 5" as one of his favorite office songs, and discusses New Order's "Run.")

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Cubicle theories abound"

My cubicle feels strongly that Linda is the gal to lead the charge into a more sane, less youth-centric, more woman-friendly year. Born in 1965, she is living proof that life, and fabulousness in general, begin at 40. Watch for her in the upcoming Prada ads. And watch for her peers Naomi and Christy in various other fall fashion campaigns. The supermodels are back!
Cubicle theories abound regarding the return of this triumvirate....
—Simon Doonan, "Teen Chic Is Tired; Women Are Back!," New York Observer

(From Jenny)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Park Personal Pegasus

EP at Pegasus Books (aka Pendragon), Berkeley, June 19.
Photo by Veti_Vert

Cooler heads

Painting in photo: Rafael Perez, Secretary, 2008; DFN Gallery

Friday, July 11, 2008

Printer's ball

During the workday, many interoffice emails arrive in my inbox with this message at the bottom: "Please consider the environment before choosing to print this email." There must have been a company-wide campaign at some point before I arrived; I don't have the banner, but it seems like most people do...But...this consciousness-raising banner doesn't just appear onscreen; it shows up at the bottom of the page if you decide to go ahead and hit "print"...

Read more of Mollie's "Today's Office Irony."

Discuss, Part II

Thursday, July 10, 2008

PD in TIME magazine

(Thanks to John for the scan.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The dishwashing fairy

There are 70 employees in her office, she said, and each seems to believe that a dishwashing fairy comes in the night. “How is it that an adult enjoys a cup of coffee in a mug, then rinses it and puts it, full of water, into the sink and walks away?” she asked in a tone that suggests she has asked this before and never received an answer. “What exactly do they think is happening to that mug to get it back into the cupboard?” —Lisa Belkin, NYT

(From Jenny)

Desk set

It is rare that writers of fiction sit behind their desks, actually writing, for more than a few hours a day. Had Kafka been able to use his time efficiently, the work schedule at the Institute would have left him with enough free time for writing. As he recognized, the truth was that he wasted time. —Louis Begley on Kafka, as quoted by Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books

(Via Jenny)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The shock of leaving the office was greater than I had anticipated. Hartbourne warned me that it would be so. I did not believe him. Perhaps I am, more than I realized, a creature of routine. Perhaps too, with scarcely pardonable stupidity, I imagined that inspiration would come with freedom. I did not expect the complete withdrawal of my gift....
—Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince

(read the rest of the excerpt at Maud Newton.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

PD downtown!

On Thursday, July 10, at 7:30, EP will be reading as part of the St. Mark's Bookshop Reading Series, with Leni Zumas.

Don't go to the bookstore, though—the reading is at Solas (232 E. 9th St., btw Send and Third Aves.)


See you there?!

Office art: Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper, Study for Office in a Small City , 1953.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Slipping into something

Have you seen people reading Personal Days in public? Send in your sightings (or cropped photos!) to

Above: PD fan at Sonic Youth/Feelies show, Battery Park, 4th of July
Picture by Ennis Mild.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Vaclav Havel's The Office

It is not so much a memoir as a series of commentaries, interspersed with contemporaneous office notes and entries from a diary he kept in 2005 while working on the book. President Havel worries about everything from the future of the planet to the half-cooked potatoes served to the visiting Emperor of Japan and the bat that has taken up residence in his summer house. “In the closet where the vacuum cleaner is kept there also lives a bat. How to get rid of it? The light bulb has been unscrewed so as not to wake it up and upset it.”

(Via Jenny)


Friday, July 4, 2008

Sign of the 'Times'

Personal Days is a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.

(Read the full NYT coverage here.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


He likes (though that hardly seems the right word) to write virtually interminable sentences—as if a period would bring the reader unearned relief from the mimetic pain he ought to be suffering. —Frank Kermode on Harold Brodkey, NYT (Sept. 18, 1988)

You could watch a lot of movies

AM New York has a column called Extreme Commuter. From this week's edition:
For more than two years, Combs has taken a bus, the No. 7 train and a Metro-North train to get to and from work. She leaves her home at 6:45 a.m. to get into work at 9:15 a.m., and then leaves the office at 6:30 p.m. to return home at 9 p.m.

Great story—but a PD spoiler!

EP says: "Don't click on this story until you've finished the book!"

(From Jordan)

(Seriously, don't click unless you've finished!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

O, Siberia!

[T]oday I got a work-related e-mail in which the last (unrelated) line read, "By the way, [boss' boss] tells me you're moving to another building soon!" Uh, thanks for letting me know, guys? I will try and forget about the book I just read in which soon-to-be-laid-off employees were first moved to a near-empty floor where no one would visit them. —From a LiveJournal entry

No snooze is...good snooze?

Alice Wang's Sleep Inventions.

"...a reverse alarm clock to be programmed for how long you want to sleep instead of when you want to wake up. Keeping with her ideas on sleeping and waking, Wang has come up with a Tyrant alarm clock, which steals your mobile phone and makes random calls every three minutes until you get up..."

(Via Jen)

Monday, June 30, 2008

EP on the radio

Ed will be on WFMU this morning, talking about Personal Days with Benjamen Walker, on his show Theory of Everything. Tune in online!

Update: Here's the playlist, featuring songs ("Work Is a Four-Letter Word"!), readings from PD, and cubicle shots from listeners: