Jim's Reviews > Personal Days

Personal Days by Ed Park
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's review
May 31, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: humorous, fiction
Recommended to Jim by: Alex Heminsley
Recommended for: wage slaves
Read in June, 2008

Ed Park's book is kind of like The Office meets Kafka. Set in an unnamed company in Manhattan, recently taken over by another company run by faceless Californians, it is a collection of loosely connected anecdotes and observations that captures the absurdity, paranoia, and angst of white-collar wage slavery. Just as we impose meaning on life in hindsight, the plot of this book emerges as it goes along.

The Californians are exerting control and the Firings have begun. There are free-time sucking attempts to improve morale (like forming a softball team). As one character notes, "Morale is a word thrown around only in the context of its absence." The softball idea lasts for one game.

At work, the speculation and rumors are constant. (Are they only firing people whose names begin with J?)
The physical environment seems designed to deplete personal energy (with its fung-shui-proof layout). No one knows who ultimately is in charge. (Who should be feared?) Is it the Sprout, the jargon-spouting Canadian with Sun-tzu's Art of War on his bookshelf? Is it the incredibly hot Maxine with her plan for world domination? Is it the mysterious "K" up on the 5th floor? And what's up with Graham/Grime, the Englishman, and why does he give off an aura of evil?

I really liked this book. It was funny, capturing the dark humor and running jokes that people indulge in as a means of getting through the workday. It was sad, as well, because it captured the way most of us spend a lot of our lives doing things that are pretty meaningless and unenjoyable. As one character asks, "Where does the time go? Where does the life go?"

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