Just Read: Then We Came to the End

There was so much unpleasantness in the workaday world. The last thing you ever wanted to do at night was go home and do the dishes. And just the idea that part of the weekend had to be dedicated to getting the oil changed and doing the laundry was enough to make those of us still full from lunch want to lie down in the hallway and force anyone dumb enough to remain committed to walk around us. – Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End

A book about an ad agency on the verge of collapse provides a means of finding out precisely what work means to a life. Every character’s livelihood is in question, and most of the time the meaning of work in the novel comes down to just that — money. The collective narrator will list off all that must be done, the importance of the current campaign, each person’s unique input and potential to knock it out of the park, and then admit to itself: it’s all about the money.

But we all do need money to live, so how do we reconcile that necessity with the desperation experienced in the quote above? We pretend it’s normal to spend 40 hours a week doing nothing that effects us personally. We gossip. We fixate on bagels, caffeine, and the crap that decorates our desks to remind ourselves that we have a personality. None of it works, and only a chosen few find their niche in the corporate world. Only a chosen few find that what provides them with their money has anything to do with them. For most, that which provides life simultaneously sucks it out… FUCK!

In the end, the novelist, along with a couple of others who do non-corporate things, escapes. Sometimes I wonder if I want to be a writer only because in most every book, the character who writes is most sympathetic, because, of course, that character is being written by a writer.

It’s a great book, beautifully detailed, horrifyingly desperate. It hits way too close to home for me right now. Luckily it is Memorial Day, and I’ve been given an extra day to feel human.


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