June 28, 2008


will a

nice review, mark


To add to your short list of such fictions:
Max Barry’s “Company”
Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened”
Stewart O’Nan’s “Last Night at the Lobster”

and short-story anthologies:
“Labor Days” by David Gates (ed.)
"Worker’s Write" series -- stories from the Cubicle; the Classroom; the Cash Register; and the Clinic; by David LaBounty (ed.)


"the question shouldn’t be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren’t many more"

Couldn't agree more, Mark. Probably one of the biggest failings of fiction writers is their near-absolute refusal to write directly about an activity which for most of us occupies 1/3 of our daily lives. Maybe if they did, they'd connect better with readers and we wouldn't be constantly hearing about the death of literature.

4465 PReSS

We agree. As such, we have just sent a formal email to you, Mr. Sarvas -- respectfully requesting your review of HANDLE TiME by LiNCOLN PARK (ISBN 978-0-6152-1518-1).

We seek your particular review opinion because we noticed that you reviewed both, PERSONAL DAYS by Ed Parks and THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris. In the PERSONAL DAYS review, you asked,"... perhaps the question shouldn’t be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren’t many more." You go further, to suggest,"Does anyone who isn’t a journalist think there can’t be two books on the same subject at the same time? We need as many as we can get right now."

HANDLE TiME is not only an addition to your office-genre fiction, it is the first of its kind. It's an incredibly hilarious look inside the work life at an AMERICAN CALL CENTER -- as told through the eyes of a former employee. Moreover, it is told from a female perspective -- also a first.

* According to KPMG, at least four million Americans work in approx. 60,000 call centers throughout the country; every day. We can't even begin to surmise the number of Americans that may have had previous experience in this environment. As such, the combination of these groups has constituted a new, modern, working-class. HANDLE TiME is by far, the only fiction book to identify and address this particular, BLUE-collar, work group.

* While it is true that THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris is in the office fiction genre; it seems to address the work life of the usual, WHITE-collar work force.

* ONE NIGHT @ THE CALL CENTER by Chetan Bhagat made a tremendous amount of money in India; because it addresses the Indian call center environment. By all accounts, reviewers in the USA have dismissed 'ONE NIGHT' as poorly written and received.

We think LiNCOLN PARK is a fantastic storyteller; worthy of reflective review. We have asked her to write a fourth novel.

If you would enjoy a hard copy of the book in addition to the PDF text and press kit we sent you, just say the word. We'd be delighted to oblige!

Thank you for your time.

tod goldberg

Gary Amdahl's new book, I Am Death, contains a great novella about office life called Peasants.

Jack Pendarvis

I think "4465 PReSS" is some kind of inhuman publicity robot. And I'm IN LOVE WITH IT!

Tim W. Brown

I wholeheartedly agree that there is a dearth of people at work in contemporary fiction; likewise, there is a general lack of working people and, especially, working-class people depicted in novels and stories. Why is this surprising? Many if not most writers belong to an elite class that often is completely unfamiliar with rural, blue collar or even middling office workers' lives. They've grown up in comfortable circumstances, probably never labored at anything more than a summer job caddying or lifeguarding, attended Ivy League colleges, perhaps earned an MFA degree, and bee-lined straight into some academic post at a university where only the sociology department interacts with working people as part of their field work.

Thus, readers are constantly treated to accounts of self-pitying elites suffering existential crises that prove trivial compared to the more mundane problems of most Americans, which largely consist of hanging on to a job that doesn't suck too much, making sure the kids are fed and clothed, and keeping one-step ahead of the bills. Novels about rich people having problems with existence, as I call them, with titles like Industrial Magnate-Descended Princesses of Park Avenue, comprise an exhausted literary genre in my opinion. The Emperor's Children by Clare Messud is a perfect real-life example of what I'm talking about.

A handful of (exclusively) small presses still publish working-class literature, notably Bottom Dog Press in Ohio. And, here I'll insert my own shameless plug: my recent novel Walking Man is replete with scenes of law firm staff members interacting inside and outside the office. These young people are totally at the mercy of the law firm's power structure and possess absolutely no control over their working lives. Indeed, much of the novel's storyline involves the characters' varyingly successful attempts to escape this pernicious situation, reaqcuire some semblance of control over their personal lives, and regain their battered self-respect by publishing a zine, DJing on weekends, acting in storefront plays, or dealing pot. I salute Joshua Ferris and Ed Park for calling attention to similar over-worked, insecure, dog-eat-dog lives that are carried on well below the cultural elite's radar. And I raise my middle finger at people like Messud for perpetuating elite content in literature.

Last week, Ed Champion linked to a story at theamericanscholar.org titled "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education" that is unintentionally hilarious in how the author, William Deresierwicz, busts himself for his elitism, but he cluelessly explains the phenomenon much like how Michael Scott would explain workplace sexism in "The Office." This article demonstrates that those few elitists who may sympathize with the lower social orders don't understand them in the least, nor can they help but condescend to them.


May I recommend the Stanley Elkin oeuvre? From The Franchiser and The Dick Gibson show to George Mills, Elkin is a master of exploring character through work.

raul garcia

when you say work, to someone of my education, that means blue collar, without having to say it. white collar used to be specified as a separate genre, of educated employees on a career path. if that's the case, then "bright lights, big city" is also a work novel.

work now seems to be only something that people of color do in the US. or, as writer dagoberto gilb says, is what mexican immigrants do as americans allow them at once to do this "out-sourced" work and live here.

if you want to read about work, construction work, dagoberto gilb's "the magic of blood" should be read. much of bukowski is about work too, but "post office" probably the most.

Sabra Wineteer

Allegra Goodman's "Intuition" is spot on for the science postdoctoral workplace.


Already mentioned in the second comment, but "Something Happened" is the best of the lot.

tod goldberg

Of course there is also the great short story "Orientation" by Daniel Orozco, which was in BASS in the mid90s and is now available online in a number of places. Here's one: http://nomrad.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/orientation.pdf

David Kurapka

The working life and the satisfactions and dissatisfactions it can cause are integral to Richard Ford's magisterial The Sportswriter and Independence Day (I haven't read Lay of the Land).


“The question shouldn’t be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren’t many more”. Because writing about work needs great talent! I like Ferris very much. I interviewed him being very interested on the topic. I’m writing about work and it isn’t easy...

The comments to this entry are closed.


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