Sunday, March 16, 2008

We think...

...that Joshua Ferris's, Then We Came To The End is one of the best books we've read for a long time.



And the reason we've started to talk in this strange plural way on this blog is not because we're suffering wild 'we have become a grandmother' delusions, but because it's how Joshua Ferris manages to get across the group mentality of some offices so perfectly. It's certainly the first book I've (phew, there I am again) read which uses the plural narrator, but it works.

And when he separates off from the mob to give these vignettes of individual workers they seem like small jewels. I'm gushing, because I really enjoyed how every page seems to have something glittery on it. He feels like a very generous writer who hit a sweet spot when writing this book - I could almost feel the heat coming off the page. How about this paragraph:
'How we hated our coffee mugs! our mouse pads, our desk clocks, our daily calendars, the contents of our desk drawers. Even the photos of our loved ones taped to our computer monitors for uplift and support turned into cloying reminders of time served. But when we got a new office, a bigger office, and we brought everything with us into the new office, how we loved everything all over again, and thought hard about where to place things, and looked with satisfaction at the end of the day at how well our old things looked in this new, improved, important space.'


I did laugh a lot when I was reading, but what worked for me was that it wasn't just funny. I'm going to go back and examine just how he managed to get the characters so completely and independently in just a few lines. Marcia - the woman with the unfortunate 80's style hair who has a new hot haircut which makes everyone look at her just a bit differently; Jim - who has a sign on his wall saying 'The Blank Page Fears Me'; Larry who has made a co-worker pregnant and can't bring himself to ask her whether she is going to keep the baby or not; Karen Woo - who always has to be first with the news; Benny - who gets left a totum pole in a colleague's will and isn't sure what to do with it so ends up paying a fortune to a storage warehouse ... I've worked with variations of them all. I'm actually slightly frightened I am a little bit of them all.

Perfectly judged blurb on the inside cover, by the way, from Geoff Dyer, who says: 'Laugh? It almost made me wish I had a job.'

6 comments:

Alex said...

I've had a lot of time on my hands in the last few days and have read The Tenderness of Wolves. Now that's a cracker.

Sarah Charsley: said...

Great Sarah, I've been debating what to read over the Easter break - a toss up between Then We Came To The End and Petite Anglaise(another blog success story). You've made up my mind for me x.

Sarah Salway said...

Still got time on your hands, Alex?
And both would be good, Sarah - I'm a fan of Petite Anglaise's blog - but look forward to hearing what you think.

Nik's Blog said...

Interesting stuff, Sarah. Yet more to look into, which is good.

Nik

Sarah Salway said...

Will be interested to hear your views on it, Nik.

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