By: Joshua Ferris (Little, Brown, 3485 pp., copyright 2007)
Concerning: In Ferris' first novel (published in HARDBACK, the lucky duck), the "fractious and overpaid" writers and art directors at a Chicago advertising agency gossip, bicker, cultivate obsessions, nurse neuroses and otherwise freak out when the Internet bust sends a wave of lay-offs through the firm. But which is worse: getting laid off, or NOT getting laid off?
Quote: "We loved killing time and had perfected several ways of doing so. We wandered the hallways carrying papers that indicated some mission of business when in reality we were in search of free candy. We refilled our coffee mugs on floors we didn't belong on. Hank Neary was an avid reader. He arrived early in his brown corduroy coat with a book taken from the library, copied all its pages on the Xerox machine, and sat at his desk reading what looked to passersby like the honest pages of business. He'd make it through a three-hundred-page novel every two or three days."
Verdict: Great! Funny! Lives up to the hype! An oversimplifying "pitch" of the book would be "It's "The Office" meets Catch-22!" But it actually kind of IS like Catch-22, at least in that it's often chronologically scrambled, and all of the characters have marked eccentricities while still seeming like people you'd actually work with. Ferris uses the first-person-plural, the collective "we," throughout the book, and really pulls it off – you get the herd-mentality of the group, without feeling like he's laboring with a gimmick. There's laugh-out-loud, read-out-loud passages, but also poignant passages involving illness and personal tragedies (that I won't spoil). Ferris includes some convincing introspection about the emptiness of the workaday world, and speculation as to whether the non-business world has that much meaning, either. Of course, I'm a sucker for corporate/workplace satire: "The Office" is currently my favorite show, and Brazil is probably my favorite film.
Next: Imperium by Robert Harris