Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris was the pick last month for my ladies’ book group. Yes, I belong to a women-only book group, started by my former neighbor. I’m a little bit of an outsider, not being in my mid-to-late thirties nor being an attorney, though they welcome me all the same. And unlike your stereotypical women’s book club, we actually do talk about the book (though we fit in plent of wine, snacks, personal talk, and oohing and ahhing over babies, when present).
Though the topic of the book might be a little *too* close to home for those who have recently been laid off, or who are working in a layoff environment (and indeed, about 30% of us last night had been affected by layoffs), it’s a good read if you can stomach it. Written in chorus from the perspective of an ad agency full of gossipy, neurotic, troubled, and all around typical work folk, it is, in equal turns, hilarious, catty, insightful and tragic. It’s one of those rare funny books that also left me deeply satisfied at the end. And of course there are some great musings on the futility of the rat race:
It was the sort of thing, six months ago, that would have sent him right over the edge, seeing these men, these first-generation Americans without much choice in the matter, spend their morning in the dark recess of a loading dock power-spraying the asphalt and the Dumpster – good god, was work so meaningless? Was life so meaningless? It reminded him of when an ad got watered down by a client, and watered down, until everything interesting about the ad disappeared. Carl still had to write the copy for it. The art director still had to put the drop shadow where the drop shadow belonged and the logo in its proper place. That was the process known as polishing the turd. Those two poor saps hosing down the alleyway were just doing the same thing. All over America, in fact, people were up and out of their beds today in a continuing effort to polish turds.
Listed as one of Time Magazine’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, it has long been available in paperback, and more importantly, at your local library 🙂