Monday, July 17, 2006

Return of the Annoying Co-worker

The fact that my titles are increasingly sequel-themed is worrying me. Three weeks and I already repeat myself this much?


Do you know what is more annoying than having to stop working and listen to one’s co-worker talk, at length, about something entirely uninteresting and sometimes downright offensive?

“I can’t believe you’re only a [low-level government employee]”

"Ah, well, you know. Thanks, I guess"

"I mean, you probably don't even earn enough to buy your own lipstick!"



“I wanted to tell you something: I was having dinner with [important Sydney lawyer type, if you believe him, which I’m not sure I do] and he said to tell you, and this is straight from an important Sydney lawyer, so, anyway, I told him I worked with a girl who’s just graduated from Law, and he said to tell you that not many people have caught onto this yet, but if you want to get into an expanding area of Law, the place to go is intellectual property law in Information Technology, because you see, the internet is getting more and more common, and people communicate electronically more and more, and so it’s an expanding area of law.”

(Me, editing html tags and reading Gmail, hotmail and Outlook simultaneously): “…Right”.

Anyway, you know what’s more annoying than that? When said co-worker, after delivering whatever Captain Obvious monologue he’s felt the need to share, finishes with “Anyway, I didn’t mean to disturb you”.


Because, you see, he does mean to disturb me. He hovers over my desk thinking of something to say and then says it despite the fact that I am making a minimum of eye contact, keeping my face as blank as possible, and replying in monosyllables. He’s only saying that he doesn’t mean to disturb me because that forces me to say “Oh, no, that’s fine” and therefore enable him to launch into Captain Obvious Two: The Return of Captain Obvious. This morning I tried a new approach:

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to disturb you”

“Oh, well. Never mind. Have a good lunch”

Do you want to guess if that worked? No, that did not work. Apparently the fact that sounds came out of my mouth was enough encouragement to continue talking about, God I don't know, That Time He Captained An Important Rugby Team Whilst Simultaneously Defending Three high Profile International Drug Smugglers or something.

If I don’t update tomorrow, I’m counting on you lot to post bail, okay?

Introducing a New Segment: Monday Book Review

This is going to take a little bit of background, but bear with me. Or go do some work, I don’t care.

For my birthday this year, the wonderful Matt and Michelle gave me this book. I’m not normally one for book lists, because they tend to be biased towards white American men with an occasional Token Minority Voice (usually Toni Morrison) thrown in for good measure. But this book is amazing. It provides full page reviews of each of the 1001 books. It lists them in chronological order of publishing, so it forms a sort of history of the novel. It includes popular fiction where it’s considered influential; Dorothy Sayers, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov. And I am hooked. I worked out that I had already read 199 of the books on the list, and am now trying to work my way through the rest of them. This is proving more time-consuming than expected, because every time I go to the library I find other, non-List books that I want to read, and then I read them instead, and so he whole process might take me a little longer than the original estimate of eight years.

So I thought well, nothing like a public deadline to make myself do things, and I do so enjoy imposing arbitrary obligations on myself in order to turn a leisure activity into a social chore (…hang on), and so here is the Inaugural Book Review of a List Book.

Book 202: Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Froer.

I was prepared to dislike this book. I thought it’d be gimmicky and trying too hard to be artistic and deep and unusual. I was wrong.

The plot interweaves two narratives into one story. Jonathan Safran Froer is writing the history of his family from the 1800s onwards, growing up in an Ukranian shetl. In order to piece together the history, he travels to the Ukraine, and with the help of a translator named Alex tries to search for a woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis.

The sections concerning that trip are told by Alex, and a lot of the humour comes from his idiosyncratic use of English. They’re interspersed with the chapters written by Jonathan, in third person, narrating the life of his great-great-great-great-great grandmother. Jonathan sends his chapters to Alex, who comments on them and then sends back his own chapters, and the friendship between the two men exists between the lines of the narrative.

It manages to be self-reflective without being all Look At Me I Am Metafiction And So Very Very Deep In My Metafictionness. The narrators are funny and sad and completely knowable. The unavoidable bit where the Nazi atrocities are detailed is not gratuitous, which I really appreciated.

This is the most unliterary review ever, but suffice it to say, this is a really good book and I should really stop assuming that brilliant young authors (who have actually been published and achieved fame in a world I merely look at longingly from a distance) are actually pretentious and irritating. It’s just bitterness talking. The book rocks.


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