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.