Thursday, May 01, 2008

Some People Like To Go Out Dancing...

...other peoples, they have to work.

Then We Came To The End, by Joshua Ferris is a book you would like. You of all people, sitting somewhere in an office, sneaking furtives glances at your favourite blog between coffee breaks. You've got Radio3 on in your cubicle, and you still have to lean into your desktop computer to hear it over the three other competing stations in your cubicle block. Across the orange felt divider, your coworker sings the wrong words along to Flo Rida.

You've got some grapes in a blue tupperware bin that you're snacking on and no matter hard you try, you just can't imagine them into chocolate covered pretzels.

This novel is for you.

You and your generation (mostly) haven't been to war. You haven't suffered the effects of a Great Depression. But you've worked in an office. This is your great shared experience that binds you together with almost everyone you know. You have spent 20 minutes trying to figure out which one is the toner cartridge for the fax machine, and which one is the toner for the photocopier. You have crossed the street to the convenience store to buy a pen so that you can fill out the supplies requisition form to get more pens. You have sat through an hour-long meeting filled with nothing with buzzwords and expecations. You have signed cards wishing people you've never spoken to and never liked well in their new jobs.

Then We Came To The End is the story of an office a lot like the one you work in. Some people show up early, some show up late. Some get haircuts, others get cancer. They form work units and social units within the building and the lines between the two blur. Small trespasses beget large grudges and rumour.

Joshua Ferris writes here in first-person plural, which makes us feel like a co-conspirator leaning against the doorframe at Benny Shassburger's office. We share in the pranks and the gossip, and we can't help but feel that we, too, are just as guilty of being flawed and selfish as Ferris's well-drawn characters. We love them and identify with them not because they are brave and noble, but because, like us, they are frail. They are human, we are human. Then We Came To The End is a beautiful book. You will love it.

mp3: "It's Getting To Me" by Lousy Robot
mp3: "My Poor Suburbans" by John Southworth

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