It’s a rare thing when a book can make me smile, or even laugh out loud. That’s why I’m loving Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Not only is this dude a literary genius, he completely understands office culture. I worked in offices for eight years. Starting in high school, I was a secretary for the local senator. In college I went from secretary to administrative assistant. Then in grad school I became a personal assistant. As much as I hated office work and couldn’t wait to start teaching, I really was well suited for those jobs. They all require organization skills. Case closed.
Then We Came to the End accurately illustrates the strange ways in which office workers become so attached to their stuff. Stuff that doesn’t even matter. During my own time in offices, I cannot tell you how possessive people would get over a freaking stapler. They’d even label their staplers and tape dispensers and scissors with warnings like, “You touch, you die.” Was I impervious to this type of irrational behavior? No. No, I was not. If you took my three-hole punch without asking, get ready to throw down.
Which is what I love about this book. Joshua Ferris captures all of those little things that somehow take on monumental importance when contained within cubicle walls. An unexpected level of intimacy attained with inanimate objects. Everyone’s quirks and routines you wish you didn’t have to face every day. The charged atmosphere that is inevitably created when so many different personalities are crammed into an open workspace on the 23rd floor. It’s just such an honest, hilarious story. And I love Ferris’s writing style. Exhibit A:
“Lately inventory in the supply room seemed half of what it used to be, and the woefully bereft shelves recalled to mind TV programs that documented seasons of drought and low crop production in the history of a foregone people.”
Whether or not you’re familiar with the world below fluorescent lights, this story of the human condition will speak to you.