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Matt Beaumont e: A Novel Paperback – 2 Jan 2007
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The idea of the first e-mail novel could have been a disaster but instead is a minor comic triumph thanks to Matt Beaumont's E. The novel of letters goes back to Richardson, of course, but things have moved on from Regency rape to the lethal office politics of an advertising agency. The beleaguered protagonists may appear to be concerned with pitching for the Coca-Cola account but their real problem is watching their backs: the knives are out and everyone from head honcho David Crutton downwards is well aware that their careers are on the line. Another part of Beaumont's lineage in this unputdownable novel is the This Life school of detailed interpersonal observation: no one character is allowed to assume centre stage; people screw, argue and discuss professional responsibility while the reader slowly makes his mind up about them from the information conveyed in the increasingly frantic e-mails.
Matt Beaumont, though, is primarily a sharp and witty observer of the social scene, with caustic humour that leaps out of his characters' electronic missives. And we're pitched headlong into the situation: it's impossible not to find ourselves riveted by Rachel, James, Harriet, Daniel and all the rest of Beaumont's at-the-edge characters as they strive to achieve a common goal and sink deeper and deeper in the waste matter. But did anybody ever send an e-mail like this one from Lorraine, a woman out to get her own way?:
Two days in London and I'm in advertising. I went to a temp agency last week and they got me into this place called Miller Shanks. They did those shite ads for Kimbelle--you know, the Artist Formerly Known as Ginger Spice bungee jumping, looking like someone shoved a high voltage cable up her arse. I'm working for the CEO (posh for managing director). One of the lads thinks he's on for a shag but he looks too much like Bart Simpson (overbite, spiky hair and slightly jaundiced). Mind you, after a few Stellas he starts looking like Brad Pitt, so who knows?--Barry Forshaw
Praise for e
‘A brilliantly plotted comic novel about life in an advertising agency, narrated entirely through office emails. It gives me more sense that literature is alive and kicking than anything else I’ve read in these millennial 12 months.’ Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times Review of the Year
‘Lively, viciously funny and about as switched on as a novel can be’ Mirror
‘Hilarious’ CosmopolitanSee all Product description
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It's very funny and you'll find yourself flicking back a few pages to understand why something is now funny that you can't work out why and then get he aha moment.
As an ad agency senior myself, I found this book impossible to put down, incredibly accurate and "educational". The synergies between the 2 - faced employees at MS, are written impeccably and provide a stark reality - check for anyone working in advertising.
Can't wait to start reading e before Christmas!
The book is all email based, as is explained in other reviews. The whole action of the story is based around the email correspondence of various characters, mainly the characters based in an advertising agency pitching for some prestigious accounts, and trying not to make a mess of the accounts they already have. The people, if you have ever worked in a professional services firm, are horribly familiar - bitchy, nasty, two-faced, precious, petty, bullying, autocratic, self-serving in the main. The emails range from vitriolic (though ever so politely written in the correct office etiquette generally) to utter sucking up to the boss. Sigh ... sadly all too familiar from some of the places I've been (un)lucky enough to have worked in in previous lives.
E is hilarious - there were a lot of `laugh out loud' moments - for example, when one of the characters asked if it was all right if they came to a meeting in their Nirvana t-shirt, and the respondent said "Come as you are". If you get that, you'll find it as funny as I did.
The characters are so reminiscent of people that actually exist that it's rather like the fascination of the horrible, reading this book - you know it's all going to end up badly, but you can't look away.
Thoroughly enjoyable - light, undemanding reading, but the storyline is entertaining, the characters are all too clearly drawn, and the reader is keen to know what happens next.
Anyway, that was almost a decade ago and recently (don't know exactly why) I took 'E' from my shelves again, opened it and was captivated once again from the very first page. In retrospect I found it perhaps more over the top than when I first read it, but just as funny, and what I failed to notice the first time struck me all the more now: this is really a very cleverly plotted novel! And as much as in epistolary novels dating back hundreds of years such as Dangerous Liaisons (Penguin Classics) the characters all come very much alive in their e-mails. If you want to know what life in advertising is like 'E' may not give you a trustworthy objective view (though it comes close), but it will definitely have you laughing out loud.
As much fun is the elegant audacity of the book's construction. Writing purely in narrative - entirely emails - Beaumont comically captures all the posturing and ranting unique to the medium. He thus cleverly satirises both electronic `communication' and working `relationships'.
PC it isn't - but when you put the book down, your own corporate life seems quite tame after all.