Tuesday, October 28, 2008

acts of kindness in a cruel world/office

When Martin tries to take Lynn to the doctor after learning of her lump (P. 219) he does something so gallant, despite his ultimate romantic rejection of her. Tom performs a similarly heroic gesture for Janine. What is the meaning or significance of these kindnesses when “we” do so many cruel or callous things to each other? (for example: writing “FAG” in Sharpie on Joe’s wall, betting on Brizz in the Celebrity Death Watch pool, spying on Janine's mourning ritual at McDonald’s, etc.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“Soon she has ten bras in her hands, she has twelve, fifteen. She takes them to the fitting room and despite the pain caused by the chafing tries a few of them on. She looks at herself in the mirror. The idea is to look sexy again. And for whom exactly? Yourself, of course. Yes, well, that’s al wonderfully self-affirming and very strong-minded as any decent woman should be these days, but let’s just face facts here and say that when a woman – no, when a person is thinking about feeling sexy, it is always with the idea of someone else in mind.”
--from “The Thing to Do and the Place to Be”

Lynn’s chapter, titled “The Thing to Do and the Place to Be,” comes seemingly out of the blue and offers wonderful insight into one character’s humanity. Lynn has been on the outside and suddenly we see her from the inside. We don’t get this kind of individual insight into any of the other characters.

While you were reading this chapter, did you think, what’s going on here? Who is supplying us with this perspective/information? And then how did you feel about the revelation at the end that this was Hank Neary’s interpretation?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Michael Scott v. Lynn Mason

As Jesse wrote in a previous comment about the relevance of the "office setting" in recent pop cultural touchstones, "'The Office' is beloved in both its British and American incarnations."

How would you compare the experience of reading Then We Came to the End to watching the television show “The Office?” Do you see a relationship between the two, other than the shared office context?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Joe Pope/ dissing your boss

In Then We Came to the End, employees talk frequently about their dislike of Joe Pope, their default supervisor (see page 114 for an example). In real life, is this behavior among subordinates necessary to subvert the humiliation of having a “boss,”or does it just make things more difficult? Is dissing your boss’s every annoying move with co-workers an activity of solidarity or negativity?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Then We Came to the End: Beginning

Welcome to our October book discussion. This month we will discuss the acclaimed debut novel by Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End. Questions and observations will be posted a few times a week, and your responses are greatly appreciated.

One could argue that Then We Came to the End (TWCCTE) is written in the tradition of other “office novels.” For me, it brought to mind the work of Douglas Coupland – Shampoo Planet, Microserfs, and sections of Generation X. Critics have compared TWCCTE to Americana by Don DeLillo, and in fact the title of TWCCTE is taken directly from Americana, Delillo's own debut novel.

Have you read other "office literature," and how did the experience of reading this book compare? How is Then We Came to the End similar to these other novels? How is it different?