Thursday, February 14, 2008

Office Life

I recently read Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. It was a Christmas present – no surprise since I often direct my sons to the NYT Notable Books list when they ask for gift suggestions. It's a first novel (always a risky read) and was National Book Award finalist. The action takes place in a Chicago ad agency, at a time when business has taken a downturn and co-workers are afraid of losing their jobs. One very unusual aspect of the book – it's written in first person plural, whichemphasizes the 'groupthink' aspect of office dynamics . I think it really captures the feeling of 'cubicle life' - the gossip, the jokes, the personalities and quirks of co-workers, the battles over perks (bagels, office chairs), the fears of being canned (or 'walked Spanish' as they nickname it). Ferris understands the weird way in which you often know your co-workers in a very intimate ways – sometimes more than you want to. I laughed out loud reading this book, but there were also many touching moments. There's a good interview with Ferris on the Powell's Book site in which the book is compared to the TV show “The Office”. It has some of the same mix of humor/pathos/sweetness. I wonder if this same dynamic occurs in workplaces other than offices?

1 comment:

  1. Great sounding book about "cubicle culture". For anyone interested in the humor, angst and frustrations of that world, the l999 Movie "Office Space" is just wonderful. It's a cult classic now, very popular with 30's somethings. It has a very humorous socially awkward office mate who is deeply attached to his bright red Swingline Stapler, and this was a prototype item designed for the movie when the company was going out of business. The consumer desire for that stapler wound up saving the company and creating new found prosperity. Great product placement, eh?