Greg's Reviews > On the Edge of Reason

On the Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleža
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Feb 28, 11

bookshelves: fiction, life-is-shit, new-directions
Read from February 26 to 28, 2011

The majority of the people I work with are slaves to this little electronic device that you scan books with. It's called a PDT. The PDT tells you where to shelve the book, and if it does a loud sing-song series of beeps one is supposed to return the book. Most people when they hear that beep they write up a little slip with the return vendors name ASAP and get that book onto a cart to be shipped back. The problem is the PDT has no brain and it's only reacting to a list generated by some faceless entity, or a computer program written by a logical ingrate that doesn't know if a book is selling or not. Store specific sales don't matter to the PDT, it will beep because somewhere it has a file that it connects with that says when ISBN number X is scanned, beep! The book can be selling ten copies a week but the PDT signal the book be gone, and most people go right along with what the little mindless piece of plastic tells them to do.

I've been in many battles over the years with people over keeping books that are selling when the PDT tells them return them. These battles are usually waged guerilla style because it's easier to just liberate the books from return carts than to try to explain for the umpteenth time to someone the logic of keeping a book that is selling versus returning it. I've gotten 'talked' to by managers for this. I've had to usurp the attempted returns by managers. I've had to talk other people into not listening to the managers when they say get rid of something. I've had an employee go rat me out to the store manager because I wasn't listening to the PDT and instead kept books based on sales.

This is just a small example from my own life of having to deal with certain blind-obedience to illogical dictates but it's tiresome and at times it feels so much easier to just say fuck it, return everything the stupid little machine tells me to and not have to worry about having to fight with someone over trying to do what is best for the store. It would be easier to just say, yup that is the way it should be done it doesn't make any sense to me but in the hierarchical structure of the company those above me must know what is best and if they say to do something I shouldn't even think about it but just do it.

This book made me think of other stupid things that go on with the company I work for but I'll keep those things to myself for now. So many stupid things in fact that are mostly the result of a long succession of people just nodding along to idiocy. Not that this book has anything to do with bookselling or corporate retail or anything like that. This book is an absurd look at what happens when an unremarkable middle class man speaks his mind at a dinner party. The man calls a captain of industry an immoral murderer after hearing a story about how the rich man shot four peasants in the back for trying to steal some wine out of his cellar. This breach in decorum reverberates through the town and creates a series of devastating repercussions for the narrator. Previous to speaking his mind about the morality of shooting fleeing men in the back with a rifle and calling the deed heroic he had felt that confines of the groupspeak conformity he lived in to be increasingly stifling; after speaking his mind he sees that what passes for accepted opinions and acceptable decorum is going along with what passes for public opinion without any deviation.

The book is an exaggerated extreme about what happens when someone decides to let morality and truth dictate their actions rather than etiquette and decorum but I think that there are lots of little lessons contained in this slim volume and maybe even more fingers pointing that too often doing what is right is ignored because it goes against the grain. I could start listing all the ways that I cowardly and silently just go along with things that I know are wrong, but I'm trying to be less negative about myself in these reviews, so instead I'll just make myself the hero of books and pretend that I'm really a great and virtuous person who always does what is right as opposed to what is easiest, or most accepted.

Anyway, On the Edge of Reason is a great, amazing book. I think people should read it, and maybe I should have given it five stars, but it feels more like a four and a half star book. I think I went with four stars because it's so much in the same vein as Thomas Bernhard (although this came I think at least twenty years before Bernhard wrote his first novel) and I think that Bernhard does the first person misanthropic loner against society thing I bit better, but maybe it's just because I had read Bernhard first, and if I had read Krleža (I did that little z thing myself, that wasn't cut and pasted, yo!) first then I would have given this five stars.

I want to find more books by this scathing Croatian author!

P.S. A quote I meant to include somewhere in the review:

Everybody forges signatures on promissory notes, everybody bribes, tells lies, steals and cheats and amasses money, and only the shipwrecked person who were born as righteous men--that is, people whose never have been underminded to such an extent that their vital instincts have been subordinated to their brains--become rags crushed and spat on, because they do not know who to adjust themselves to the animal farm where one single rule is domiant: that the blood let out from the throat of one's neighbor is the warmest and consequently the most nourishing.... You see, I have been crushed. Why? Because I dared to opposed human folly. (ellipses in the text itself)
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Comments (showing 1-49 of 49) (49 new)

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message 1: by Nicole (new)

Nicole what an interesting name for a bookshelf


Greg It could be thought of as depressing books, but when I finished one of the books on the list this song by the Dead Milkmen kept running through my head so I thought I'd use it for a shelf.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEgkDu...


message 3: by karen (new)

karen a PDT review!! wonderful!!!

i really want to read this. give it.


Greg It's due back in the library in two weeks, but I can renew it with no problem, it's also short.


message 5: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina B&N brother, I feel your pain. And when a book is due out but the promo starts next week, then what? It can become an existential crisis if you let it...


Greg Couldn't they put some kind of line in the program to avoid problems like that? It seems like it should be such a simple thing!


message 7: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I liberated a bunch of buddhism books from the returns the other day. go buddhism books be free!!!

this review sounds like this is like the slap but better.


message 8: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Interesting info about PDT, Greg. My first time to learn about it. Thanks!


message 9: by Dana (new)

Dana jasmine! all my hard work! i didn't return any buddhism books that were selling....


message 10: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa You would think that the programming line could be changed, but no....I'm sure it takes some wierd TPS report in about 5 different colors to get permission (insert even lamer cube-bound programming geek joke here).

Be a book hero!


message 11: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Dana wrote: "jasmine! all my hard work! i didn't return any buddhism books that were selling...."

I didn't keep any that didn't have sales, so we will have to agree to disagree dana.

and we don't return brad warner. it's a thing.


message 12: by karen (new)

karen Jasmine wrote: "Dana wrote: "jasmine! all my hard work! i didn't return any buddhism books that were selling...."

I didn't keep any that didn't have sales, so we will have to agree to disagree dana.

and we don'..."


FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!!!!


message 13: by Dana (new)

Dana I stand by my earlier statement! If it sold in the last 13 weeks I keep it (unless I'm bringing it down to model). Do not question my scanning integrity!


message 14: by Jasmine (last edited Mar 01, 2011 12:02PM) (new)

Jasmine your previous statement didn't say thirteen weeks. I kept anything that had sold more than once over the course of the year, especially if it was a primary text that I get asked for. (and a couple that would sell thereby bringing themselves down to model without wasting the postage)


message 15: by Dana (new)

Dana we obviously have opposing returns philosophies, as i learned when you tried to return some of my gay fiction a while back!

(how much postage could it possibly be?)


message 16: by karen (new)

karen FIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!


WHO WILL WIN??? FIGHT, LADIES, FIGHT!!!


message 17: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine when did I return gay fiction? was this like years ago? I only scan the gay people when greg makes me.


message 18: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Actually Dana did exactly what she was supposed to do and I ok'ed all of the Buddhism returns.


message 19: by Dana (new)

Dana Greg wrote: "Actually Dana did exactly what she was supposed to do and I ok'ed all of the Buddhism returns."

ha! thanks greg! take that jasmine! :)


message 20: by Dana (new)

Dana Jasmine wrote: "when did I return gay fiction? was this like years ago? I only scan the gay people when greg makes me."

I remember once you tried to return something (Discreet Young Gentleman I think, the horror!) but you were thwarted by the fact that it's -- thankfully -- non-returnable.


message 21: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I still liberated like 8 books.

on the other hand in the bibles I totally was the person that returns things regardless of whether or not they are selling.


message 22: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Heee, great cover on that one! I don't know if they make rolled-up socks that big anymore.


message 23: by karen (new)

karen THIS FIGHT HAS BECOME BORING. STEP IT UP! PULL SOME HAIR!!


message 24: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine i don't think this is a fight.


message 25: by Miriam (new)

Miriam No books should be returned ever, just in case someone one day wants them. Books stores should grow ever larger, expanding into neighboring stores to make space for the ever-growing stock.

We might need better signage, though.


message 26: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Miriam wrote: "No books should be returned ever, just in case someone one day wants them. Books stores should grow ever larger, expanding into neighboring stores to make space for the ever-growing stock.

We migh..."


ha! the heart sutra supports this position


message 27: by karen (new)

karen that is mostly my philosophy and why i do my own returns.


message 28: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Wait, so there's this device that categorizes books and if the book has no category you have to send it back? Or do you send it back if your Company decides that its not selling well regardless of how it is selling at one particular store? Sorry to intrude, I'm just not a bookseller myself.


message 29: by karen (new)

karen we can keep it in if there is no category, but that rarely happens. we are "supposed to" return it if it is not selling well enough on a company-wide scale, not what the individual store's sales show. it is stupid. as stupid as what they had me doing at the library last week - returning books based on how long they had been in the library, not the last time they went out.


message 30: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine wait that is stupid karen.


message 31: by Nicole (new)

Nicole karen wrote: "we can keep it in if there is no category, but that rarely happens. we are "supposed to" return it if it is not selling well enough on a company-wide scale, not what the individual store's sales sh..."

What the hell do they do with these books? Do they send them to the publishers? I know Amazon screws publishers over because they order a bunch of copies of a certain book and if they don't sell what they expect they send them back to the publisher. So instead of Amazon having to report the books as losses, the publisher is the one who has to report them because they have to give back the money they received for those copies returned. I know Borders doesn't allow a particular store to run different from the rest of the chain, and if a certain book is popular in one area the store is not allowed to make special orders. I just thought B&N was run differently.


message 32: by karen (new)

karen they just go back to our warehouses where they wait for someone to order them - either a customer or an employee ordering it into the store...it is just to make room for new merchandise if the old stuff isn't selling. but it is stupid to do it nationally rather than on a store-to-store basis.


message 33: by Nicole (new)

Nicole ugh, that must suck for you guys


message 34: by karen (new)

karen it's okay - we just don't send back books that are selling. it's not like anyone is going to stop us...


message 35: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Except that one time when we had to cry to get them to give in.


message 36: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Jasmine wrote: "Except that one time when we had to cry to get them to give in."

Ha!


message 37: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina PDTing is zen. Just don't touch my sections.


message 38: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I love my job.


message 39: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg I'm positive it is poorly designed software. There are so many counter-intuitive problems in the software the stores use. I doubt it is yours, I don't think any serious software developer would come up with the stuff we have, it's probably all done in-house.


message 40: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg In case anyone was wondering, this is a PDT:




message 41: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg There have always been bugs like this. I think most of it is that corporate doesn't want to relinquish any control and believes they know best.


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg I'm sure one If/Then line would fix the problem, it's even possible if I knew what language they were writing it in I'd even know how to write the line of code that would fix this error.


message 43: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Greg wrote: "I'm positive it is poorly designed software. There are so many counter-intuitive problems in the software the stores use. I doubt it is yours, I don't think any serious software developer would c..."

it is in-house. I met one of the corporate guys who do it once. well the search I assume they do the pdts too.


message 44: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Kathrina wrote: "PDTing is zen. Just don't touch my sections."

For serious - Kat will get medieval on yer butt if you zone fiction. :P


message 45: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg Two people who run fiction sections with an iron fist on one thread!!!


message 46: by karen (new)

karen fiction leads do NOT fuck around.


message 47: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina My way or the highway, buddy, or cookbooks. You can mess around in cookbooks, I don't care.


message 48: by karen (new)

karen so that's why they are always a mess!!


message 49: by ivana18 (new) - added it

ivana18 I've read several Krleža's books, but I haven't read this one yet. Glad you liked it.


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