Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Personal Days" by Ed Park

In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels. There's Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who gives unwanted backrubs - aka "jackrubs" - to his co-workers.

On a Sunday, one of them is called at home. And the Firings begin.

Rich with Orwellian doublespeak, filled with sabotage and romance, this astonishing literary debut is at once a comic delight and a narrative tour de force. It's a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: "Where does the time go? Where does the life go? And whose banana is in the fridge?"

OK, what I want to know is who the f**k writes up these blurbs on the back of a book? Because I was completely enthralled by this book's description, lured by this brilliant prose on the back of the book. I had also read about it in Baker & Taylor, one of our professional catalogs, and then read more about it on Amazon. Sigh. It really is true - you just cannot believe the hype about anything.

I will admit that there a few "true" moments in the book, things like bonding with your co-workers - but only so long as you work with them. Once they leave, you promise to write/call/get together for drinks, but it never happens. This is very, very true; office friends are often not real friends. Rather, they're friends that get you through your working day, someone to banter with and feel some sort of connection to, someone who "understands" the complexities of your environment (and knows who's screwing who, who's getting promoted, etc). I liked the inclusion of "craptop" for a down-on-its-operating-abilities laptop. I would agree with the nicknames; almost everyone gives at least one person in their office/organization a nickname, usually the guy who's least liked. So I congratulate Mr. Park on getting these little tidbits right.

Here's where I have to give the book a big "don't read this" - it's boring. Sorry. It's basically 190 pages of dull office news, followed by the last 41 pages that were actually interesting. They would have been even more so, had I actually cared about any of the characters. This is where I remind everyone (writers, that is) to develop your characters! Preferably into someone that I can either sympathize with or root for or something. I thought the office drones in "Personal Days" were very interchangeable (a comment made by more than one boss) and not overly likable. Frankly, I thought they were slackers and deserved to get fired. Doesn't really make one eager to finish the book!

Overall, I'd have to give this a C-. Read it if you want (you should always read what you want!) but Bookbabe wasn't impressed.

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