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Then We Came To The End Joshua Ferris
Then We Came To The End After a couple dozen pages of Then We Came To The End I remember thinking it read a lot like Catch-22. Soon after I read somewhere - maybe it was on the book liner - I read someone use that same comparison. It’s a testament to the writing that I didn’t underline many passages. Usually if I see something good I’ll make note of it, but from the beginning of the book I found myself loving almost every paragraph. Then We Came To The End is not Catch-22 - which may be my favorite novel - but it reminds me of that classic more than any other book I’ve read.

The subject matter should touch a nerve for the American office worker. It portrays the worst of two sides of the office worker’s psyche. On the one side you have the privileged employee. Given a good education in a safe community, they have taken their place in a well-paying job in a strong economy. Their baseline of expectation is miles above the rest of the world, the rest of the country, even the other side of town. Not knowing how bad it could be they complain about everything. They gossip about the incompetency of their highly educated co-workers. They portray their professionally acting bosses as monsters. They spend their spare time telling stories instead of improving their work. It's only when one of them is fired that they realize how good they had it, and beg to come back.

On the other hand, they know they’re pampered. This knowledge breeds uneasiness. Things were better before, and now layoffs are coming and anyone could be next. The office is nice, the pay is good, and so are the benefits. What would they do if they lost that? They have those same feelings we’ve all had. Are we worth it? Is our job necessary? Can someone do it cheaper? Better? The questions make them neurotic. They’re not bad people (though they’re far from the best). It’s just that they let the smallest distress make them worse.

One of the distinctive features of the novel is the perspective of the narration. The narrator is presumably one of the characters’ co-workers. He or she is never named, but is always a part of the action, as evidenced by his or her use of the royal “we”. Despite that the narrator is never acknowledged by any of the other characters. It’s not until the very end that author Joshua Ferris even (cleverly) acknowledges the narrator’s physical existence.

While some co-workers have traits or opinions that run counter to the group, “we” always sees things the same way - even though every co-worker eventually runs afoul of “we”. Everyone has a trait that identifies them and that everyone else secretly hates. They have personal issues that are the subject of gossip. There is this theme of conformity that adds to the overall neuroticism of the group, like the office is a hive-mind that tries to smooth out individual differences.
385 pages
This product was released around March 2007 by Little, Brown
I consumed this around November 2013
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Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 12/15/2013 2:57:30 PM

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