This picture is not a mistaken computer key board. Look carefully. It says "PERSONAL DAYS ED PARK"
It is the book cover just published in US and In UK same time by major publishers. Tonight, there is the reading and celebration at the McNally Robinson Booksellers, 52 Prince St , in New York City. Read the following and go to following site:
Ed Park, Personal Days
Welcome to the working weak: reading Personal Days — the debut novel by Ed Park, a founding editor of The Believer — is like staying late at the office, drunk on cough syrup, and coming across the diary of the person who occupied your desk a year before you did. In this intricate, hysterical novel, an unnamed New York office is being downsized according to indecipherable commands. Park's hilarious take on such cubicle routines as ordering lunch, hunting for a stapler, and joining the softball team will strike a chord with anyone who's ever done the 9-to-5, while the shocking shifts in tone perfectly convey the violence of corporate downsizing. [Info Source]
– Kiwa Iyobe
Note: The reading is followed by a discussion between Park and his editor, Julia Cheiffetz of Random House.
바승균형의 영식 Ed Park이 "PERSONAL DAYS"라는 책을 발간 했습니다. 지금 이싯간에 (5월21일 수요일 7시) 뉴욕의 멕넬리 서점에서 출판기념 행사가 있다고 합니다. 벌써 이책의 평가는 best seller로 등장 하였고, 아주 웃음을 자아내는 잡으면 놓지 못할 책으로 평이 나왔습니다. 여러분 기대 하십시오.
우리의 이세들이 이렇게 자랑스러운 일들을 해내는데 대하여 감사하고 함께 자랑스럽게 즐기시기를 바랍니다.
Edward 자랑스런 아드님
두손 손뼉치며 축하하오
뭐 그애비에 그아들이겠지
그 아버지 닮았으면 어련하실라고
그 책 꼭 읽고 싶은데
여기서 구하는 길을 알았으면 좋겠구먼
"Random poignancy circa 2:30," reads one of the subheds in Ed Park's new office life novel, "Personal Days." "Is Excel crashing everyone's computer?" Reprising the theme throughout the book, it's the fixtures of work life, particularly the koanlike dialogue boxes that pop up on office computer screens, that provide such incidental profundity and wisdom. "I don't understand," computers tell their operators, or halt employees in their tracks with the poetic-sounding verdict "Invalid Command." Or best of all, to the despairing amusement of the young set of office workers huddling aboard a slowly sinking company ship, is the closing pop-up question of each work week, when they shut off their computers to embark on "modest hopes" for the weekend: "Are you sure you want to quit?"
The book is ornately divided into three sections, with three vantage points, their titles taken from what are familiar computer prompts and commands to modern office workers: "Can't Undo," "Replace All," "Revert to Saved." In "Can't Undo" the voice is that of the communal "we" of the young pool of overqualified, undermotivated office workers—Pru, Lizzie, Jonah, Laars, "Crease"—who are floating through their mid-20s in a low-grade depression regarding their prospects. But their dejection is made bearable by their catalog of coping methods: Brentian psychologists versus cut-rate "life coaches"; workday weeping sessions in the bathroom or the adoption of exotic worry objects, such as the "Mexican distress frog" Jonah buys to soothe his ragged nerves. All the members of the group are survivors of a severe downsizing—"the Firings," they call it, always capitalized—in their Manhattan company, now "the easternmost arm of an Omaha-based Octopus." The Firings were a year earlier, but increasingly the survivors are menaced by the prospect of new potential buyers, "The Californians," and a fresh wave of employment horror that may follow the takeover.
Trapped between one set of pink slips and anticipation of a second round in the middle future, they drink together ("one or two nights a week, sometimes three … Three is too much"), keeping tabs of who buys. They keep watch of the wardrobe of their frighteningly alluring supervisor, and of the eccentricities of their boss, "The Sprout," a nervous bundle of glad-handing neurosis and management clichés who laughs and cries with the same broken squawk, "Hoo hoo!" The descriptions of The Sprout can't help recalling "The Office"'s Steve Carell, though that's likely to be the bane of any current book of office literature with a comically uncouth boss. With often pitch-perfect delivery, Park chronicles the grind of daily office tedium, which wears the clique down into professional cynics and observers, from the tricky politics of e-mailing a supervisor (a "psychotic" peppiness "barely stifling a howl of fear") to the shelved individual passion projects none of them wants to discuss.
The group works across from the construction site of the "Infinity building," a mobius strip-shaped structure rising beside their own company home in a building frequently featured in commercials for an employment company called "Jobmilla." The commercials envision life behind the foreboding facade of their building as a desolate factory assembly line, processing a conveyer belt of sad-sack employees into a crop of well-adjusted, productive workers. The company's cryptic slogan, "What goes around comes around," is suspected of being deliberately nonsensical, tapping into viewers' vague notions of "office karma," but nonetheless it feeds into the mystical approach the group adopts toward its circumstances, a blend of fatalism and superstition that leaves them painfully stagnated and helpless in the face of their futures. They all secretly wonder whether it's too late for another path—law school, say—and come quickly to the answer, "It is." They tell themselves they can't be the next on the chopping block because they are exploited as is, and they wait together. "It's possible we can't stand each other," muses the groupthink narrator, "but at this point we're helpless in the company of outsiders."
If these descriptions sound precious, at times they skate close to it, reminiscent of the hyperliterate precociousness that typifies much recent literature and cinema. But Park deftly keeps his characters just this side of hipster cuteness. There are ironic softball leagues and an office full of college grads in Almond Joy T-shirts, but on the whole the writing has more heart and smarts than such atmospheric quirkiness. Park has a sound sense both of his characters' kindness and banality, and as the novel progresses he succeeds in nailing the note of false ennui the young group at first gives off, exposing not just their dull, sad anxieties but the sweet affection they do develop for each other, with sharp and lovely language.
In the second section, "Replace All," the narrative voice shifts abruptly to third person, laid out entirely in outline form, starting with "II (A) Asylum." And it is an asylum, and a transparent attempt to order it, that takes place as the office starts to unravel under the top-down pressure from "The Californians," as well as from an undercover interloper who sows terror in both management and the disaffected young staff, all of whom startle and freeze in the face of impending impact. An ax hangs over them—and literally appears in a hallway one day, as though summoned by their collective fear. In this harsh new environment—"Replace all"—their irony melts away, and the detached voice of the outside observer judges them, and their young affectations, coldly: "Any minor eccentricity could be deemed wild or out of control. Such language convinced them they were more interesting than they suspected they really were. It was crucial that they never contemplated the possibility of their inherent, overwhelming dullness."
The outline, divided down to fourth and fifth subpoints like an infinite enumeration of interoffice terror, struggles to put order to a nervous stampede. Amid this tension the characters retreat and regress, and grow sets of bodily ailments to rival those of the Underground Man: spasmodic eye flutters, constant ringing in the ears, strange afflictions of speechlessness and an outbreak of contagious psychosomatic back pain. On the advice of Pru, the office MFA, they work on their "layoff narratives": personalized chronologies of job loss, so they can better process termination when it comes, even while realizing, "Once you start constructing the layoff narrative, it's only a matter of time. It starts to feel like a fait accompli."
They grow ever more superstitious, assigning magical power to the time stamps on their e-mails—9:11 being the unluckiest time of day to receive a message from a boss—and imagining that their computers are watching them, conspiring to keep them from pursuing other job opportunities. The computers are beyond anthropomorphized, but so personally connected to them that the system crashes in tandem with the employees at the flirtations of the office vamp.
"Our machines know more than we do," Pru offers as a moral (culled from her current sci-fi reading), identifying the strangely "instinctive" failings of their office computers. They search for clues everywhere: in a mysterious notebook, "The Jilliad," found after the guillotine-swift firing of its author, Jill, while they were out to lunch one day. The Jilliad is a spiral-bound compilation of dreadful, contradictory passages of business wisdom: career self-help guides and CEO memoirs. They seize on it as in turns pathetic, prophetic and "found" art: a bitter judgment on the clichés of corporate doublethink. Jonah, if not the group's moral center at least its center of moral outrage, balking at the increasing indignities the company foists on them—in a particularly cruel instance, imposing a time-stamp card system on the employees that collects no actual information but exists solely to demoralize—finds another guiding philosophy. After returning from a vacation in Mexico he tells his colleagues about a mythological Mexican chieftain "who ruled by confusion," constant division of the ranks and bewildering opposing commands: sending troops north, then south, on rumors of various invading armies. Though you wouldn't guess it, Jonah dryly informs the group, this system of rule apparently worked for some centuries.
Armed with this insight into "leadership," arguably as valid a battle plan as the collective wisdom of The Sprout's office-warrior bookshelf, Jonah is the only member of the group who manages to break out of the office's fatalistic sense of karmic predestination—what goes around is coming around, and it's likely got a blade—breaking from the pack in what is to him at first a revolting self-realization. Upon finding The Jilliad, Jonah realizes he has his own morsels of business wisdom to enter into what he comes to call "the Notebook of Power." He discovers, to his horror and eventual acceptance, that he has not only a "management style" but also a surprising capacity for ambition and ruthless self-advancement. He makes a particularly unlikely mercenary—he is earlier described as a should-be union organizer or philosophy professor, bringing unusable but lovely bits of wisdom to company sexual harassment seminars ("Don't we need Eros in order for commerce to happen?"). But it's Jonah who unravels the mystery of who in fact is doing the company in, from within, while all others, lookers, overlords and victims alike, are paralyzed in the face of a golemlike figure: corporate culture and management clichés made flesh in the body of their tormentor.
Breaking through this, Jonah narrates the final section, "Revert to Saved," in a style so different that Park gives it its own font: a soulful love letter and apologia that distills the gracefulness of Park's prose throughout the book to a single elegant voice, the individual that was before entering the assembly line of the Jobmilla nightmare. But while other literary victors in the office world offer a dark moral—taking command of the corporate dream leads to losing one's soul—Jonah emerges as strangely whole and human for his office coup. Rather than passively participating in his obsolescence, he's able to recognize the haphazard standards determining the futures of scores of employees, to recognize the system as corrupt and the bureaucratese cowing his peers as absurd, and still to make a separate peace. It may be a murky moral for recession times, but better than that, it's a lyrical and often piercing look at daily life made strange and beautiful by faithful transcription.
“Ed Park의 Personal Days를 읽고”
우리 동기 박승균의 영식 Ed Park의 단행본 소설 “Personal Days”를 읽었다. 일기 전에 이 책이 대서양을 낀 양대 영어권(兩大英語券)에 동시에 출판 되었고 대하(大夏)에 꼭 읽기를 권하는 책으로 뽑혔다고 한다. 참말 한번 책을 열고서는 손을 놓기 어려운 재미가 솔솔 나는 책이다.
읽으면서 제일 먼저 느낀 것은 특출한 어법과 문장법이다. 기묘하고, 솜씨가 특출하면서도 나처처럼 영어 실력이 별로인 사람 한태도 이해가 가는 것이 놀랍다. 다음은, 세장(三障)이 완전히 다른 형식으로 쓰여 진 점인데 마지막 장은 코론(Colon), 새미코론(Semicolon), 콤마(Comma)로만 연결된 한 단어로 구축된 기나긴 거의 50페이지에 달하는 문장이다. 그런데도 문장의 단절, 접속이 자연스럽게 이어 져 있다는 것은 기발한 문장법이다. 이는 마치 글로서 추상화를 그리되 그 것이 초현실적인 감각을 주며 이는 또한 우리가 이야기 할 때 구두점이 전혀 없어도 말을 알아들을 수 있는 것과 같다. 그렇게 이야기 하다 보니 나의 뇌리에 스쳐가는 영상이 떠오른다. 입체파공간에 정열 된 산문(A prose arranged in a cubistic space)이라고 하면 어떨까. 그러면서도 나는 이것이 우리나라의 옛 한자 책에 한자를 가로 새로 나열 하여 페이지를 정확히 곽 채우도록 글을 지어서 전혀 구두점이 없는데도 읽는 사람은 이해를 할 수가 있는 것이 생각난다. 이 글이 사각형의 지면에 나열되었다는 점에서 하는 말이다. 이상(李箱)의 시가 생각난다. 언젠가는 Email을 영문으로 정신 없이 치다 보면 이루어지는 세로운 전자문장 풍습을 문학적으로 그린 것이 나타 날줄은 알았지만 여기서 만날줄은 몰랐다.
두 번째 장은 마치 공문서류를 만드는 형식으로 문장마다 장절의 번호를 매겼다. 이것은 마치 자유로이 자연스럽게 글 쓰는 사람이 딱딱하며 융통성이 없이 공식적으로 맛대가리 없는 공문서를 써야할 입장에 있는 비통한 호소로 보인다. 이 형식은 마치 창의성 있게 일을 하려는 사람들이 어느 구속적인 사회 구조에 대한 빈정거림으로 보인다. 미국에서는 한동안 대학에서 박사논문을 쓰려면 이러한 형식으로 써야만 했다고 한다. 컴퓨터의 서류구성 프로그램이 있는데 TEXT Editor라는 것이 있다. 며이 프로그램에 한번 들어가면 1. (a). (i)같은 형식으로 번호를 자동적으로 매겨 준다. 얼른 조직성이 없는 사람 혹은 개으른 사람에게는 참 편리 한 것 같다. 그러나 이는 상당히 글 써는데 구속을 한다. 여기에 한번 들어가면 "enter"를 두드릴 때마다 싫건 좋건 간에 새 번호가 붙여진다. 그런대 이 책에서는 그 것이 저절로 무시가 되게 글을 썼다. 즉 그런 장애물이 보이지 않은 정말 기묘한 솜씨다. 기발하다, 기묘한 솜씨며 기발하고 기막힌 독창력이라고 칭찬하고 싶다.
이 소설은 깊은 인간관계와 사회생활에 대한 깊은 관찰력 없이는 이렇게 기묘한 표현을 할 수 없다고 본다. Personal Days라는 말은 월급쟁이들에게 일 년에 휴가와 병고 휴가 이외 며칠씩 자기 개인 용무로 마음대로 쉴 수 있는 날을 말한다. 이 책에서 이 며칠의 자유의 날을 어떻게 요긴 하게 쓰느냐 하는 것은 그 것을 특혜처럼 여기면서 살아가는 월급쟁이들의 생활에 저서는 안 될 어떤 경주 같은 것처럼 보인다. 글의 내용은 뉴욕에 있는 큰 기업회사의 지점에서 일어나는 일들과 그 직원들의 관계들을 표현을 정말 재미있게 표현 한 것이다. 본사에서 축소명령이 와서 그 것으로 오는 희비극을 정말 제미 잇고 아기자기 하게 그렸다. 한동안 미국에서는 회사의 축소(Downsizing)라는 말은 마귀의 노래처럼 들렸다. 이것 때문에 일어나는 인간관계 가 재미있게 펼쳐진다. 영어표현으로 "Who've done it?" 즉 미스터리 같은 부분도 있으면서 사회와 기업의 조직에 억매어사는 젊은이들이 자유분방하고 재 멋대로 사는 것 같지만 그 고통이 있다는 것이 역력히 보인다. 정말 자본주의 사회와 민주주의 사회가 말 데로 일꾼들의 천국이 아닐 것이라는 말이다. 복잡하고 말 못할 기업회사의 구조는 어떤 경우 공산-사회주의 치하의 노동자들의 핍박보다 더 해엄치기 힘든 거미줄 같다는 것을 잘 표현 하였다. 그 직원들 중에 카운슬링을 안 받는 사람도 있을 가 하는 의문을 던지기도 할 정도다. 가끔 초현실적 그림을 보면 사진보다 더 자세히 정밀하게 그려져 있다. 내게는 그들의 행동을 이 책에서 그렇게 표현 한 것 같이 보였다. 모두가 노이로제에 걸린 것 같으면서 또 그 상항들이 노이로제 그 자체 같았다. 이 글을 풍자적으로나 해학적으로만 보기에는 너무도 무겁게 느껴진다.
아쉬운 것은 이 책은 "정말" 영어로 쓴 글이며 영어로만 읽어야 할 것 같다. 어떤 문장을 우리말로 표현 하려고 애를 써보았지만 헛수고였다. 아니 "forcefully sad"라는 말을 어떻게 번역 할 것인가. "blood from perpetual hangnail" 을 "끝없이 일어나는 손거스러미에서 나는 피" 번역은 되었으나.... 인종차별이라는 말을 듣지 않고도 사실을 이야기하는 사람들 "...who had most difficulty with division" 등. "laughably small life", 이런 것을 번역한다는 것은 말이 안 된다. 완전히 영어소설이라고 보아야 된다고 본다. 물론 서구 의 로맨틱언어(Romatic Language)나 앵글로색슨어(Anglo-Saxon)라면 크게 부당(不當)하지 않게 실레 없이 번역을 할 수 있을지 모른다.
작가는 어떻게 생각 할지 모르지만 나에게도 아들 하나 딸 둘이 미국에서 태어났다. 그 들의 언어, 생각, 사상, 느낌 등이 우리세대와 상당한 차이가 있다. 그러나 그 젊은이들은 우리를 배우려고 애를 쓰는 것이 역력히 보이며, 우리를 실망 시키지 않으려는 효도가 보인다. 내가 그 아이들에게 충분히 자유를 주고 격려하여 이 사회에 빈틈없이 화합하여 이 사회의 주인공이 되도록 도와주었을 가하는 기우다. Ed Park의 부모, 우리들의 친구, 승균이 부부는 현명하게 그렇게 한 것 같다고 보며 존경이 간다.
2008년 6월 2일
이 글을 쓰다가 Google로 들어가 얼마나 논평이 나와 있나하고 들어 갔다가
혼비 백산을 했다. 수백의 논평이 벌써 나와 있다. 해아리다가 거만 두었다.
우리동내 'Sun Paper"에 까지도 나와 있다.
미국 문단을 떠들석 하게 한 것은 틀림이 없다.
When the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said that “work is the only practical consolation for having been born,” he could not have foreseen the lot of the 21st-century cubicle drones who populate Ed Park’s witty and appealing first novel, “Personal Days.” Today, it seems, notions of work have been transformed from “every man a king” to mass e-mailings of cat pictutures.
Much is likely to be made of the similarities between “Personal Days” and “Then We Came to the End,” Joshua Ferris’s 2007 National Book Award finalist. Both are set in offices convulsed with layoffs. Both are comic ensemble pieces, and both employ the first-person plural (Ferris throughout, Park in his opening section). But considering the ubiquity of the work experience in American lives, and the thousands upon thousands of novels published annually, perhaps the question shouldn’t be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren’t many more.
What better shorthand is there, in terms of getting to know a character, than by understanding his or her job? But the list of literary novels dealing with work as the main topic is fairly short. Nicholson Baker’s “Mezzanine” comes to mind. There’s also Upton Sinclair’s “Jungle,” now more than 100 years old. After that, one struggles — it’s more often the lack of employment that defines a character, as with the hobbled Tommy Wilhelm in “Seize the Day.”
As Bellow knew, little is more central to one’s sense of self than one’s work, and this same understanding informs Park’s novel, giving it considerable ballast to balance the book’s tart and shrewd (if occasionally twee) humor. Park, a founding editor of The Believer (part of the McSweeney’s empire), knows a thing or two about his subject. When New Times Media took over The Village Voice, Park was one of a number of editors let go in August 2006. He has, however, used his hiatus profitably.
“Personal Days” unfolds in three parts — “Can’t Undo,” “Replace All” and “Revert to Saved,” headings that will be instantly recognizable to any reader who has launched Microsoft Word. The book effectively employs any number of familiar McSweeney-esque devices (or tics, depending on your point of view), including catchy section headings; short, impressionistic passages; and creative typesetting.
But there’s a dark undercurrent to all the whimsy, a Beckettian dread as co-worker after co-worker is blasted out of the desolate landscape. (An interoffice messenger is known only as the Unnameable, and even his description — “50ish, tall, with a healthy fringe of white hair and gleaming, inquisitive eyes” — invokes Beckett’s visage.) Indeed, Beckett’s oft-quoted “You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on” precisely mirrors the plight of Park’s beleaguered characters.
It is the novel’s first part, “Can’t Undo,” that will draw the most comparisons to “Then We Came to the End.” Like Ferris, Park uses the first-person plural here to introduce his workplace:
“Most of us spend our days at a desk in one of the two archipelagoes of cubicle clusters. The desks have not been at capacity for over a year now, and so we let our stuff sprawl, colonizing adjacent work spaces, hanging a satchel in one, a jacket in another.”
But the similarity seems superficial; the perspective is a logical way to depict the herd existence of the modern workplace. And where Ferris maintains that perspective, once Park establishes his setting and his players he moves on. Before he does, though, he treats readers to some very funny riffs on contemporary office life. There’s a “Bad Starbucks” (“low-impact saxophone music and an absence of natural light combined with doomed, possibly improvised original drinks like the Pimm’s cup chai”) and a “Good Starbucks” (“looks like a house of ill repute, but with better ventilation and more freebies”). Employees coin handy neologisms like “deprotion” — “a promotion that shares most of the hallmarks of a demotion.” Insufferable mass e-mailings of cat pictures proliferate. And anyone who has ever groaned to hear “impact” used as a verb will cheer as Park skewers the avatars of corporate speak, hellbent on debasing the language.
The low-hanging cloud of layoffs, however, looms over the fun, and the second section, “Replace All” — with its sinister implication — is typeset in the style of a contract or other legal document:
First Chapter: ‘Personal Days,’ by Ed Park (June 29, 2008)
Urban Tactics: The Wizard of Whimsy (November 25, 2007) “II (C) i (b): Jenny remembered that Jill used to hoard paper clips, staples, every sort of fastener and fixative. She had a huge thing of rubber cement, Jenny said.”
The company — whose name and business we are never told — has been purchased by “the Californians.” Sinister conference calls and increasingly erratic behavior by upper management bode ill. In “Replace All” things take a dark turn, and the section ends with the layoff survivors sinking into despair. Park is especially good at describing the helpless ignominy of being “terminated”:
“Jenny came in and Lizzie lingered by the door, just out of sight, listening. The Sprout told Jenny to have a seat. There was silence for 10 seconds. Then he told her to go see Henry in H.R. Why had he told her to sit down first?”
Park’s decision to omit all details of the business, however, exacts a cost. He no doubt intended to speak to something dehumanizing about the nature of modern work. But novels thrive on specificity, and this decision has the effect of dehumanizing his characters to the reader — a subtle but crucial distinction. Unmoored from the details of their daily toil, the large cast becomes hard to differentiate throughout the first two-thirds of the book.
Fortunately, in the last section — a bravura e-mail soliloquy reminiscent of Molly Bloom — Park uses the first person, and the intensely personal section floods this black-and-white newsreel with vivid color. In a single, fluid release of emotion and truth, the mysteries of the layoffs are solved and a measure of humanity is reclaimed. It is a heartfelt antidote to the comic bleakness of the first two sections.
Park has written what one of his characters calls “a layoff narrative” for our times. As the economy continues its free fall, Park’s book may serve as a handy guide for navigating unemployment and uncertainty. 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.