I think I now understand why I’m having problems as I begin this book. It’s first person plural. Here I’ve been waiting to meet the narrator – for the “I” to step out from behind the “we” – and now, reading the NYT review, I realize this isn’t going to happen, that it’s written in first person plural.
That helps a lot. It also helps to find out something is going to happen on page 70 that give it some structure, because right now, after one chapter (plus a prologue of sorts) I feel like it’s spiral in structure. I remember someone in Linguistics claiming languages have geometric structures, that Hebrew is parallel lines (two phrases that say the same thing), Japanese is an inward spiral, going around and around a point without ever touching it, but getting closer to it, and that’s how this strikes me. The third or fourth time I ran across Tom – he was fired but keeps coming back in anecdotes – I realized the narrative wasn’t linear. And while it’s something I have to get used to, I kind of like that, because in an office, people do keep coming back in anecdotes.
And on websites – I just ran into somone who died five years ago on another website last night. But he deserves a post of his own. When I’m ready. Because it’s sad.
I started reading this book because when I was reading Ferris’s “The Valetudinarian” I saw some comments on this, his debut novel. One person in particular described it as youthful and funny, and I thought, I could use some of that. And it is, of course. I am finding out that I like workplace novels. A lot of people might consider an office – any office, even an advertising office – to be boring, but I spent so much of my early career in them, it’s nice to find a familiar setting, a sort of Dilbert effect. First was Jessica Westhead’s “We Are All About Wendy Now” (Jessica’s website is where I revisited ghosts from the past – but again, he deserves his own post) which I found in the Indiana Review last summer. And now this little gem. I so appreciate writers that can recreate the atmosphere of an office while making it funny – to feel like we are laughing at it, rather than they are laughing at me.