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Transcendent and banal existence

  • Feb 16, 2008
Very good first novel captures the essence of the transcendence and banality in the workplace many of us face in the Cubicle Age. This is the novel many of us have wanted to write after that one life-changing project ended, probably badly as most do, and as Ferris's does.

It matches my experience on a six-year project that ended with threats of lawsuits between our company and the client, with people leaving the team one by one at first, then with acrimony as those leaving got closer to the core. Finally as those of us who had been there the longest and given the most of our careers (and lives, as pathetic as it seems from today's distance), the client began naming names of people they wanted to see gone, and our company agreed. The bitterness still rankles, even as we have moved on successfully, even as we have met in sometimes awkward reunions since.

Ferris's novel is set in an ad agency in Chicago, but Ferris does such a good job mining the fundamental elements of his story that it seems a faded photograph of my memory, of an IT project in Raleigh. There, we kept a white board of infamous, funny, stupid, stunning, profound events and statements from the project. A co-worker took a digital picture of the whiteboard to preserve it, and we printed it out on the project plotter. I still have it.

Like Ferris's character who inherits a totem pole from a dead co-worker that becomes a symbol of something worth saving, our project had its window. When our team was relocated into small, damp, crowded, and windowless space in the basement of the client building, the core team built a window, with a design by one, labor by a small team on a Saturday, from lumber, an old window sash, a curtain, even Christmas lights, donated by different team members. That symbol stayed with us, moved with us, even when we were ejected from the client site to a company office . . .

. . . Then we came to the end. We, those of us of the core team who still communicate and share that occasional evening together, often wonder if the window is still there keeping watch over empty cubicles.

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More Then We Came to the End: A Nov... reviews
review by . August 25, 2010
Pros: You'll turn pages fairly fast      Cons: You will turn them fast to get to the end rather than enjoy the trip      The Bottom Line: If you work in a strange, dull office and want to read about a strange dull office, read this. Otherwise, there are tons of books available that aren't this one.      Let’s see. There is a story about a group of weird people in an office facing downsizing. I think I’ve run into this …
review by . December 29, 2007
This book is showing up on several year-end "best of 2007" lists. Deservedly so, in my opinion. A fictional account of life in a pre 9/11 Chicago advertising agency that is hitting hard times and where downsizing is suddenly a weekly reality, it's enormously readable. In part, because of the irresistibly gossipy tone that is maintained throughout, also because the author is pitch-perfect at capturing the mixture of minor irritations, backstabbing, politics, and genuine fear for one's security that …
review by . April 13, 2007
I generally check fiction out of the library, because I read most novels only once. The fiction on my shelves is mostly the classics. That said, I borrowed Then We Came to the End from the library--but I should have bought it. This book is destined to become a classic.     Other than one section, the book is written from the first person plural and is done so with expertise. It is the story of a group of people from an advertising agency and the employees are being laid off, …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #37
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Amazon Best of the Month Spotlight Title, April 2007: It's 2001. The dot-com bubble has burst and rolling layoffs have hit an unnamed Chicago advertising firm sending employees into an escalating siege mentality as their numbers dwindle. As a parade of employees depart, bankers boxes filled with their personal effects, those left behind raid their fallen comrades' offices, sifting through the detritus for the errant desk lamp or Aeron chair. Written with confidence in the tricky-to-pull-off first-person plural, the collective fishbowl perspective of the "we" voice nails the dynamics of cubicle culture--the deadlines, the gossip, the elaborate pranks to break the boredom, the joy of discovering free food in the breakroom. Arch, achingly funny, and surprisingly heartfelt, it's a view of how your work becomes a symbiotic part of your life. A dysfunctional family of misfits forced together and fondly remembered as it falls apart. Praised as "theCatch-22of the business world" and "The Officemeets Kafka," I'm happy to report that Joshua Ferris's brilliant debut lives up to every ounce of pre-publication hype and instantly became one of my favorite books of the year.--Brad Thomas Parsons
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ISBN-10: 0316016381
ISBN-13: 978-0316016384
Author: Joshua Ferris
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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