Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #39: Work by Joseph Heller

Number of pages: 77

This is one of a series of "Vintage Minis" published by Penguin Books.

As I understand it, each one is an extract from a longer novel by a well-known author, this one being from Something Happened. I think it jumped off the shelf for me because I really enjoyed some of Heller's other works, particularly his most well-known book, Catch-22.

The book is narrated by a character called Bob Slocum, and is set around the office that he works in. Reading this extract, I was able to spot Heller's distinctive style from the start:

In the office in which I work there are five people of whom I'm afraid. Each of these people is afraid for four people (excluding overlaps), for a total of twenty, and each of these twenty people is afraid of six people, making a total of one hundred and twenty people who are feared by at least one person.

This book gave me a good feel for what the book is about, and that a lot of it is about Slocum's own internal thoughts, and the complexities of office politics. A lot of the extract is about his relationship with another character called Andy Kagle, whose welfare he seems to worry about (Kagle is set out as someone on the verge of getting the sack), but who he also gets frustrated about (in one scene he sees Kagle and talks about his overwhelming desires to viciously attack him). The novel's darkly satirical tone, with its references to suicide is similar to Catch-22, and - since I work in an office myself - it all felt just very real, mostly the portrayal of the office as a very cut-throat world, and how everyone fears for their job security. Also...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

The extract in this book ended with Slocum being told that he was going to get Kagle's job (Kagle inevitably about to be sacked), but he can't tell anyone else at this point, and that leads to him having to lie to Kagle. Since it is evident that Slocum is the only person Kagle trusts, I was intrigued to know how this would eventually affect their friendship.

Reading this convinced me that I should read "Something Happened" in its entirety, not daunted by its 550 plus page length (apparently). I've now bought the whole book on my Kindle, and plan to read it soon.

Next book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
Tags: contemporary, humor, literary, literature, modern classic, non-genre fiction, period fiction (20th century), satire

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