Wednesday, June 30, 2010

forty-two

The Mezzanine (Granta Paperbacks)

I've always wanted to read The Mezzanine, after getting my first glimpse of Nicholson Baker from Vox (which has quite a different premise, but a shared amazing attention to detail). The Mezzanine was written in the mid-80s, and is a curious, deliberate examination of middle class America and office work life. In focusing on the details (tying shoes, office conversation, bathrooms, sleeping, milk cartons, etc), he actually does manage to say some profound things about the life as he (and we) knew it. I'd love to see an updated version of this book - one that takes into consideration the modern grocery store, computers, interconnectivity, transportation, and other changes since the 80s.

A synopsis of this book (the plot is that he takes a ride from the bottom of the escalator to the top of the escalator and thinks about things) would be silly, so here are some quotes:

I had signed enough office farewell and birthday and get-well cards by that time to have developed an unhealthy sensitivity to the nuances of signature placement. I moved over to an antipodal flower's pedal, near Deanne's name, and signed what I hoped was an original angle.

(To start a long footnote): 1 Perforation! Shout it out! The deliberate punctuated weakening of paper and cardboard so that it will tear along an intended path, leaving a row of fine-haired white pills or tuftlets on each new edge! It is a staggering conception, showing an age-transforming feel for the unique properties of pulped wood fiber.

(Another footnote) 1 Among average men, the singular, "oop," is the normal usage; the word is found in its plural as "oops" most often among women, gay men, or men talking to women, in my experience, although there are so many exceptions to this that it is irresponsible for me to bring it up.

(Another footnote) 1 The absence of stealth or shame that men, colleagues of mine, displayed about their misfortunes in the toilet stall had been an unexpected surprise of business life. I admired their forthrightness, in a way; and perhaps in fifteen years I too would be spending twenty-minute stretches in similar corporate stalls, making sounds that I had once believed were made only by people in the extremity of the flu or by bums beyond caring in urban library bathrooms. ... One time, while I was locked behind a stall, I did unintentionally interrupt the conversation between a member of senior management and an important visitor with a loud curt fart like the rap of a bongo drum.

(Another footnote) 1 When you leave a job, one of the hardest decisions you have to make on cleaning out your desk is what to do with the coffinlike cardboard tray holding 958 fresh-smelling business cards.

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