Devoured this in nearly one sitting. Hundreds of pages of silly white collar worker stories of wasted hours which then get turned into billable hours invoiced to clients. “The great unsung pastime of American corporate life, the wadded paper toss.” Swapping stories in Benny’s office. Rumors swirling. Minor wars and subversion over office chairs. Pranks pranks pranks, like taping sushi behind a co-worker’s table and letting it rot, turning everyone’s radio station to something different, stealing personal items off desks. Carl going nuts and taking off his clothes in his wife’s car, refusing to go to work, stealing Janine’s meds. Tom getting laid off and everyone fearing his reprisal, he then shows up in a clown suit with a gun. Chris Yop returning to dismantle the chair and throw it in Lake Michigan. The guy who Xeroxed a novel every morning, taking the pages back to his desk so it looked like he was reviewing legitimate business documents when in fact he read a book every few days.
Tucked in between the nonsense stories from the “we” perspective is the story of Lynn, the managing partner, who battles with breast cancer. She’s afraid to go to the hospital so simply does not show up for her appointed surgery. Her story is then co-opted by Hank, who writes a novel and whose reading brings everyone back for a reunion years later. The night ends with Benny desperately trying to keep the party going, but everyone eventually filtering out, except the mysterious “you and me.”
Joshua Ferris is not to be confused with Timothy Ferriss, whose 4 Hour Work Week I finished reading previous to starting this one. But the themes of both Ferris & Ferriss works are eerily similar– both are cautionary tales not to waste your days in a mindless job but to get passionate about it.
I can definitely relate to the characters in this book– the heady days of the Internet boom, followed by the tension of rolling layoffs, and then one day in September in 2001 when everything changed.