In a review posted today for Barnes and Noble Review, David O'Neill argues that The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, Georges Perec's run-on tale of trepidatious corporate ambition, is perfectly suited for a contemporary generation of readers:
Perec's punch-card prose works its way through all the possible scenarios, including a Sisyphean scene in which the protagonist "quite pointlessly circumperambulates forty-five times in a row the various departments." Perec repeatedly deploys the phrase "it's one or tother" at each branch of the narrative, and continuously blurts "for we must do our best to keep things simple" as the story becomes hopelessly convoluted. In the preface, Bellos says the book is "close to being unreadable," because Perec eschews most punctuation (aside from the occasional dash), writes in all lowercase, and "simulate[s] the speed and tireless repetitiveness of a computer."
But while the book is certainly uneventful, it is far from unreadable-if anything its wit and comedy encourage compulsive consumption. It's probably better suited to today's audience than to a reader perusing it when it was written four decades ago, because it improbably dovetails with the monotone meanderings of the present moment's information surfeit. Reading The Art is like spending an hour or two on the Internet.
For those who missed the launch of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg at NYU on March 14th, SocialistWorker.org has posted the text of Paul Le Blanc's comments from the evening's event. Here's a snippet:
Aspects of Rosa Luxemburg's story can best be told, perhaps, by referring to one of her most intimate personal connections which surfaces again and again in her correspondence, over more than a dozen years. It involves her beloved Mimi, with whom she had a complex relationship.
As she wrote to one friend: "Mimi is a scoundrel. She leaped at me from the floor and tried to bite me." Mimi was, of course, her cat, although not long afterward, Luxemburg noted, after returning from Poland to Germany: "Mimi showed me she was happy with me right away and has again become high-spirited, comes running to me like a dog and grabs at the train of my dress."
Another time she reported: "I get up early, go for a stroll, and have conversations with Mimi. Yesterday evening this is what she did: I was searching all the rooms for her, but she wasn't there. I was getting worried, and then I discovered her in my bed, but she was lying so that the cover was tucked up prettily right under her chin with her head on the pillow exactly the way I lie, and she looked at me calmly and roguishly."
Rosa Luxemburg was celebrated in New York at NYU's Tishman Auditorium on March 14th, where actress and writer Deborah Eisenberg brought Rosa's remarkable correspondence to life on stage. Eisenberg joined a distinguished panel of Luxemburg scholars who reminded us of the continuing importance of Luxemburg's work today: Paul Le Blanc, Anthony Arnove, Helen C. Scott, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza.
Deborah Eisenberg, an American short-story writer, actor and teacher who received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009, is the author of several collections of stories including The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg,which has just been awarded this year's PEN/Faulkner Award.
Many thanks to Noel Benford for making this footage available. This event was organized to launch The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg.