Personal Days Paperback – 7 May 2009
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"As much a novel of pitch-perfect comic vignettes of working life, Personal Days is the ideal book to read under the table during the next staff training seminar. Park has strayed into Ricky Gervais' territory and may soon be its king" (Observer)
"The funniest novel of office life in decades... A must-read" (Daily Mail)
"Anyone missing Joshua Ferris' Then We Came To The End should pick up this novel" (Esquire)
"Park's wry look at lives ruled by unreliable computers and bad coffee speaks volumes about the choices we make in the name of ambition" (The Times)
"Personal Days is amusingly spare, yet soon becomes something darker, aspiring perhaps to the unblinking horror of Joseph Heller's corporate schlub epic Something Happened" (The List)
'The Office' meets Don DeLillo in this hilarious debut novel by the founding editor of The Believer.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The more I reread this - and it is my missal - the more I see it as the successor to Generation X (just before the s*** hit the fan)
This avowal committed to the ether prematurely, having just come across Park's thoroughly engaging riff on The Chicago Manual of Style (14th and 16th editions) - is there anything this man can't do? - in last month's Bookforum (which I heartily commend to you - you can sometimes get it at the LRB bookshop). And you don't need to know that Park edits The Believer - indeed you probably need to put that fact from your mind pronto
PS This was published a year after the more celebrated Then We Came to the End. but whereas the latter, though perfectly pleasant, is a bit of a slog, stripcartoony when not plain boring (not to mention several times as long) one never wants this more tender and surreal work to end. Like A La Recherche one can begin it again and again - and I do. I do.
Both books are mildly humorous, covering the intricate social world of office life, and both writers adopt the same devices throughout. There are firings, difficulties with computers and "I.T. Guys", thefts of post-it notes, exiled staff in remote corners, nervous breakdowns. People have mysterious personal lives which cause gossip among colleagues. Emails are mistakenly sent "reply all" causing embarrassment. More successful companies threaten take-overs, new management impose new disciplines which the staff spend their time trying to get round, etc, etc, etc (hard to suppress a yawn at this point).
Far from finding these books humorous, they were actually both rather depressing. Jokes about problems with Microsoft Word, or how voice recognition programs come up with funny text are not exactly original and sound better in the real-life context of work rather than written down on the page - we've heard them all before anyway. I used to work in an office and there are things to recognise here, but why on earth would one want to read about it in leisure time having just escaped for the daily commute home? The blurb writers say that this book has "Kafkaesque plot, full of the tedium of corporate life". While totally disagreeing with the "Kafkaesque", the book is certainly full of the tedium of corporate life".
There were too many non-distinct characters in "Personal Days", jokes were spread too thinly, and perhaps this is indicative of American office life but the whole thing was just several degrees less believable to me. The 'big reveal' at the end, all told through one single massive e-mail, is probably the highlight and worth waiting for, but during the first three quarters of the book the complete lack of action or apparent job responsibility by the entire staff seems oddly contrived.
That said it does have some good moments and in parts it's rather sweet. If you work in an office and want some comfort about how bad things could've been, you might relate to this, but it doesn't completely hit the mark.
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