Friday, March 02, 2007


The Novel And The Wage Slave

Here is an amusing review of Then We Came To The End, a novel by Jonathan Ferris. It's the story of wage slaves in an advertising firm, buzzing along on auto-pilot when times are good, and then awaiting the end on tenterhooks when the economy falters and the layoffs start. Apparently, the book captures the attitude of most of us towards office work. Some of the best lines actually come from the review itself. I read the following while I gobbled down a blueberry muffin, ensconsed in a warm, dry office while a sleety winter storm drizzled on outside. "Mr. Ferris has our number. He smells our fear, our vulnerability. The life of an office worker— the diner lunches, the ergonomic chairs, the brainstorm meetings and water-cooler gossip—is defined by ambivalence. It’s lined with a richly insidious comfort: There’s no such thing as a free morning bagel." True enough. Office life lulls us with its bland likability, even while the work may be deadening and our positions precarious. As the novelist puts it, "We were delighted to have jobs. We bitched about them constantly."

As the end approaches, the office turns into a quietly grim and faintly puckish Beckettian landscape, with Vladimir and Estragon seated in adjoining cubicles, each awaiting his turn with oblivion. The reviewer tells us, "The layoffs begin as a steady trickle, like sniper attacks, and build to a torrent, leaving whole swathes of the office desolate, cubicle ghost towns." The book sounds interesting, if a little self-consciously restrained and droll.

"Wage Slaves in Their Natural Habitat" from The New York Observer

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