Christina Rau's Reviews > Personal Days

Personal Days by Ed Park
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's review
Nov 13, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: novels

Much had been made of the Ed Park novel, Personal Days, because it came out right after Joshua Ferris's Then We Came To The End, and they both use the first person plural for narration and they are both about office jobs and they both entail office politics of firing and fear. Fortunately, they are both fantastic in their own ways.

Park falls away from the "we" narration after the first of three parts of the novel. The second part reads like a manual with section labels like 2.b.ii, and the third is a long email with interesting punctuation written on a laptop that has no working period key.

I once had a laptop at my old job. It was heavy. Only the 1 key worked. I sat at a meeting with only that key working and managed to get to Blogger and read through the blogs of the day to keep myself entertained. Moral of the story: you don't need a working keyboard to use a laptop.

Park presents characters plagued by paranoia and stress. He focuses on the relationships co-workers make and then try to either maintain or ignore once one of them leaves the office, not just because of firing, but also because they simply move from one floor to another. Park demonstrates the necessity of absurd nicknames (Sprout, Crease, HABAW) and the ever-present annoyance of workplace metaphors (the best one being one that compares the office to a cruise ship for which you can be captain or passenger, and Pru says, "I think I'm the person barfing over the rail" -- HIL. AIR. EEE. US!). Park reminds us of the revolving door of IT specialists and never-working computers that are a staple of the workplace.

The most interesting twist of Park's novel is that it comments on the world outside of the workplace by magnifying office paranoia and insanity and allowing characters to be gullible because of those factors. He slips in a proverbial shroom and allows the last section to knock you off your balance beam. Evidence that this book affected me: reread that last sentence. What the hell is a proverbial shroom? Why would anyone be reading this on a balance beam, literally or figuratively? And that's evidence that Park's Personal Days is one great read that sticks with you even when you don't realize it. That's the mark of good stuff.
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