Sunday, April 15, 2012

Post-Fordist Office Drudgery

From Anton Steinpilz's "First-Person Corporate," in The New Inquiry:

It might be, however, that Tretyakov’s biography of the object was an idea whose time had not yet come and may now only be just arriving. Specifically needed was development in the direction of what has come to be termed “post-Fordist” relations of production, in which value inheres no longer in goods primarily but in information and services. Within such relations, labor becomes immaterial, and Tretyakov’s conveyor belt doesn’t so much disappear as attenuate and ramify, becoming more a mediating trope than a real mechanism. In the novel
Personal Days (2008), author Ed Park offers a spirited send-up of postmillennial, post-Fordist office drudgery. The final section consists of an enormous e-mail composed on a laptop by a character named Jonah while he is trapped in an elevator. The correspondence, addressed to a former colleague of Jonah’s named Pru, ends with this arresting observation:

You said yourself, once, waiting for stuff by the asthmatic printer, that the office generates at least one book, no, one novel every day, in the form of correspondence and memos and reports, all the reams of numbers, hundreds of sentences, thousands of words, but no one has the mind to understand it, no one has the eyes to take it all in, all these potential epics, War and Peace lying in between the lines [...]

Here Park manages to articulate a narrative point of view you might call first-person corporate — which, incidentally, he marshals throughout the whole of
Personal Days to great effect, giving new impetus and texture to Dilbertian anomie. The resonances with Tretyakov’s biography of the object are obvious; but whereas Tretyakov points toward overcoming workers’ alienation, Park simply characterizes such alienation in terms consistent with 21st-century work life. Tretyakov imagines a novel without a hero. Park imagines one without a reader.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Two readings, April 23 & 25, in NYC!

In a couple weeks, I'll be reading twice—

1) On Monday, April 23, at 7 p.m., I'll be appearing at the First Person Plural series at Shrine World Music Venue (2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., near 134th St.), along with Tiphanie Yanique (HOW TO ESCAPE FROM A LEPER COLONY) and the playwright Bathsheba Doran (KIN). More info here, and good directions here.

2) And on Wednesday, April 25, at 6:30—a mere two nights later!—I'll join Hannah Tinti and David Rakoff for Columbia Magazine's second annual LIT night. It's at the Columbia Alumni Center, 622 113th St. (between Broadway and Riverside). (Click above for free reservations.)

I plan on reading new material—we'll see how that goes. It might be old material. It might be rarities. It's a mystery at this point!

Almost mysticism

Ben Godby gets attacked by books, including Personal Days—fortunately, he doesn't mind:

"Personal Days" by Ed Park: This book was laugh-out-loud funny, but also incredibly insightful into the office-worker experience. There's something really dirty about insights into the experience of working in an office, like it's something we all know we shouldn't be doing even though we're doing it, but that's just that and let's live with it and laugh along with Ed Park. The story is told in various parts, at first in a sort of royal-we of a particular team in a company that is being re-structured into non-existence, then as a sort of legal document showing snippets of silliness as the team collapses, and finally in an enormous essay written by one of the team members that lacks a period key on his keyboard about how he uncovered a certain mystery in the office. There's a lot of almost mysticism in this book: the people that leave the office sort of die, or sort of come back as weird mutated versions of themselves. Amazingly good.