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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,056 ratings  ·  406 reviews
In Temporary, a young woman's workplace is the size of the world. She fills increasingly bizarre placements in search of steadiness, connection, and something, at last, to call her own. Whether it's shining an endless closet of shoes, swabbing the deck of a pirate ship, assisting an assassin, or filling in for the Chairman of the Board, for the mythical Temporary, "there i ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Coffee House Press
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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,056 ratings  ·  406 reviews

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Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
No one is ever exactly who they claim to be, but some people are closer than others.

Finding yourself in the hustle and bustle of the world can be a challenge. This is exacerbated in a society where a sense of self as mirrored by the world seems inextricable from your job. Hilary Leichter’s debut novel, Temporary, takes an insightful and comedic aim at this existential dilemma with wonderful results. Like an Italo Calvino universe written to accommodate the dark whimsicality of Leonora Carringt
Adam Dalva
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fun, funky, quick book - the unnamed lead, a Temporary, fills in for a series of jobs in a kinetic, never-ending sequence of absurdist invention. Like a more humorous The STORY OF MY TEETH, the chained scenes have a dream logic all their own. I particularly loved a long sequence in the center of the book called "First Work," which provides a necessary emotional underpinning to the zaniness. ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recs, 2020
a zany surrealist novel charting one temp's quest to find steadiness in a world beset by monstrous bosses and taxing gigs. the lead tumbles through a series of demanding jobs, working as a shoe cleaner, a pirate, a human barnacle, a mother, + so much more, and meets each of her placements with a strange mix of bewilderment and grace. the story's sometimes seized by fits of musing about longing, permanence, and sadness, all of which are so mesmerizing. Leichter's blending of the fantastical and t ...more
★★★★✰ 4 stars

“The gods created the First Temporary so they could take a break.”

Temporary is a wonderfully bizarre novel. Readers who prefer to read stories that are grounded in reality or that are ruled by logic and reason may be better off steering clear from the sheer absurdity that is Temporary.

“She noted the fallacy of permanence in a world where everything ends and desired that kind of permanence all the same.”

Within this novel Hilary Leichter takes to the extreme the role of a temporary
Emily B
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up
This was such as an odd read but I sort of loved it! It was extremely quirky and highly original but not in a tedious way. The length was just about right, anymore and I might have got tired of it.
In a strange, playful vision of our world (or something like it), the temporary, who is usually (but not always) a woman, dreams of (but rarely, if ever, attains) 'the steadiness', 'a job that stays'. The narrator is one such temporary, from a long line of temporaries. For these transient citizens, the legend of the 'first temp' has become the equivalent of a Bible story. A platitude – 'there is nothing more personal than doing your job' – is repeated like a prayer. In keeping with her impermane ...more
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This novel follows a temporary worker who fills increasingly bizarre jobs - from pirate to door opener to barnacle to murderer's assistant. It is absurd to the nth degree. Yet... I kept getting flashbacks to jobs I filled when I worked as a temp in my twenties to support myself as an actor. Like the protagonist, I put on various masks each day to fit into my newly assigned and frequently inane roles. I often felt like a character in a Samuel Beckett play.

So Temporary is not as ridiculous as it
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
'Temporary' reads like a series of dreams; filled with fleeting moments that defy all logic and rationality, Hilary Leichter's debut novel is an excellent piece of absurdist fiction. Set in an alternate world disguised as reality; the novel follows the life of a young temp working a series of strange jobs while on a quest to find meaning and fulfillment. Although the story's twists and turns are totally bizarre, their metaphorical meanings make them resonate deeply, and give the reader a very in ...more
Elyse  Walters
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
“lasting for only a limited period of time: not permanent”.

There is humor, darkness, ignorance, absurdity, fantastical tales, whimsical wit, thought-provoking symbolism, and meaningless temp jobs.

An unnamed woman, the main character, takes a variety of temp job....
A LOT OF JOBS.... ‘variety’ is the key word. A few seemed ordinary and dull enough, but most were bizarre.

Our protagonist has almost as many boyfriends as temp jobs—-
Ha.....just a little symbolic, yes?.... YES!

A fun sar
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best books I've read in a long time. Reading this is like attending a party to celebrate and grieve how unemployable you are, there's enough sadness confetti for everyone. ...more
Katie Long
I think Leichter is making an important point about the way that profession makes a up a disproportionate part of identity and stability, but it’s all so aggressively quirky, that I had a hard time taking it seriously.
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

My industry is rife with temps. And yet they’re referred to as “freelancers”, as if the label of “temp” were a red A affixed to their well-worn, coffee-stained, nicotine-smelling hoodies. Other than the obvious disparities (higher pay, zero benefits) I never really understood the difference, to be quite honest. Nor did I understand the condescension towards temporary workers. If anything, they did as good a job (sometimes better) than my fellow full-timers.

And then I became a freelanc
Jul 03, 2020 marked it as dnf
I gave this a good 40 pages (almost 20%) before bailing, as I just didn't want to read another word of defines the term 'twee' and just wasn't for me! (hey, I rhymed!) ...more
Darryl Suite
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Inventive, imaginative, surreal, eccentric, unique, and hilarious. This was such a pleasure to read.

Huge grin on my face.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Hilary Leitcher has written an original debut novel. It shifts and modulates between a creation story, an absurdist chronicle of twenty-three jobs, a meditation on loneliness and transience, a search for belonging and permanence, and an antediluvian story of chance & happenstance and the end of days.

The story starts en media res and quickly returns to move forward and around from the childhood of the unnamed protagonist’s life. At its core and most literal
Paula W
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is easily my favorite read of the year so far. It isn’t for everyone, but it was perfect for me. It will be perfect for a lot of people.

If you have ever had a job in the corporate world, you will love this book. If you have ever had any job, you will love this book. If you have ever been asked to do things at work you don’t morally agree with, had your job threatened, been thrown under the bus by a colleague, had to work with oblivious idiots, wasn’t properly trained and then blamed when th
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The First Temporary was assigned to complete a variety of projects.
"Burn this bush," one god said, and so she did.
"Now put the bush back the way it was," another god said, and so she learned the drudgery of tasks done and undone, the brutal makings and unmakings of the earth.
"Create an animal so rare it barely exists," the gods said. The First Temp cobbled together something extraordinary, irreplaceable.
"Someone," she corrected them.
"Now watch it go extinct," they said, and so she held its wing
Emma Eisenberg
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Smart, hilarious, truly no other book like this and no other writer like Leichter
Skyler Autumn
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
3 Stars

What a bizarre little book.

I did enjoy this read although the absurdity, disjointed narrative and the protagonist's vagueness made me feel like a passive reader that was never truly grounded in this book.

Temporary as the title clearly indicates it is about a woman being a Temp, a temporary in the world. Always looking for the elusive permanency through increasingly bizarre placements our protagonist is an apprentice to a lizard-like witch, swabbing decks on pirate ships and shining sh
Amy Gentry
Rarely does a much-hyped book exceed expectations, but this one left mine in the dust. Five pages in I thought, "This is going to bore me"; thirty pages in I thought, "This is going to entertain me"; another thirty and I thought, "This is going to crush the soul right out of my body." It does all three, always with a purpose, and on every page it made me laugh, and a couple nearly made me cry. One even scared me.

There's a strong temptation to draw comparisons with Barthelme or Diane Williams or
Sara Sligar
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is just delicious! It is a cartwheel in book form, a mint julep with Pop Rocks, a squeegee gem of neon proportions! It’s about a temp worker who bounces between a variety of surreal jobs, encountering all kinds of strange obstacles and friends and lovers along the way, and it will resonate with anyone who has ever felt precarious in a job. (So -- probably everybody?) It's kooky and sad and fun, balancing bubbly humor with important issues of labor and permanence. It's also a great expl ...more
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5+ out of 5.
Calvino-esque in its absurdity, but blended with the millennial workplace malaise that fueled The New Me. A temp does strange temp jobs, like working on a pirate ship and helping an assassin -- all while carrying a ghost around in her necklace. It's wild and silly and manages to be both sharply critical of our late-capitalist moment and deeply humane in its assessment of eternal human realities.
Gods I loved this. What a great, great read. Truly gasped at the ending, too.
David Gerrard
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If, after you wake up from the American Dream, you make yourself some tea and then fall back asleep, this novel is the next dream you might have. Leichter's debut is funny, profound, unforgettable. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Admittedly this is not my genre, but there are definitely flashes of brilliance here. The whole logic of the book follows like a stress dream I would have - some weirdly funny bits, the logical connection of unrelated things, and then a sudden profound realization of meaning. I might have enjoyed this more if I weren't self-isolating already feeling like the logic of the universe was a little more nightmarish than I had imagined. If you are into surrealist writing, you will probably enjoy this. ...more
Hiba Arrame
Jul 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I feel/felt utterly stupid reading this novel. It's classified as "humor" and I just couldn't find that.
I just don't get what this is about.

That being said, I suppose I should at least try to interpret what I read. Here goes, then, this seemed like looking at a reflection of the world as we know it, but not in a mirror, more like reflective foil. The book is interesting, light, but it's just not my cup of tea.
Lindsay Hunter
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A philosophical thriller. Or, a thrilling philosophy. Either way, I felt thrilled!
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wish there were more examples of fiction about work and the workplace in English. One sees examples of it in Chinese fiction, although not enough of it gets translated. There are occasional examples in other languages (“The Factory”) but not many. This is strange once you remember the huge importance that work, coworkers, careers, etc. play in people’s lives.

“Temporary” is a new addition to this literature. It is a series of episodes in which an unnamed protagonist goes through a series of mor
Mitch Loflin
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So so good. So frivolous and weird and constantly entertaining. I have no recollection of where I even heard/read about this book (if it was you, thank you!); I just found it in my Want to Read list and it sounded great and it was. Almost always silly but somehow the last few pages gave me chills!
Tommy Cucchiara
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Series of Unfortunate Events, set in the gig economy, then doused with equal parts magic and jet fuel. Read this.
Sam Glatt
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Likely one of the best, most absurd and hilarious, anti-capitalist statements to come out of the fiction world in recent memory.
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Hilary Leichter’s writing has appeared in n+1, The New Yorker, Harper's, Conjunctions, and The New York Times. She teaches fiction at Columbia University and has been awarded fellowships from the Folger Shakespeare Library and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. ...more

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