Saturday, June 7, 2008

San Francisco Library Selection: Then We Came to the End

The San Francisco Public Library has a cool program in which they choose a book for the city to read, and make it more widely accessible to people to check out. Many of the books are contemporary literature, that have been critically acclaimed and on a wide variety of interesting subjects. The May/June 2008 selection is Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which is a 2007 novel about employees in a Chicago advertising agency and the contrast between the prosperity of the dotcom boom and the economic downturn around 2000. Ferris shows the personal and common experiences that the workers have.

Other stories like Douglas Coupland's novels JPod and The Gum Thief as well as the British and American versions of The Office have also examined this theme of contemporary life in the workplace and its moments of humor and tragedy. Then We Came to the End introduces an ensemble of characters and makes them distinct and interesting all the way through the story, using the first person plural narrative device that creates a sense of community with the reader and the protagonists. In the downturn, the workers find there are fewer contracts and redundancies are unavoidable. There is suspense in who will be made redundant and how they will react to the loss of their job, and also the effect on the workplace as a whole. Ferris creates a literary tone that is also funny and touching, connecting with contemporary life and the younger generation who is used to communicating by email and using computers as a part of everyday life. The novel also engages with how people support and occupy themselves with a job and also how they look ahead to realizing their future dreams.

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