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In praise of circumperambulation: David O'Neill reviews The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise

Morgan Buck24 March 2011

In a review posted today for Barnes and Noble Review, David O'Neill argues that The Art of Asking Your Boss for a RaiseGeorges 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.

Visit Barnes and Noble Review to read the article in full. Those interested in a hands-on approach to this convoluted enterprise are encouraged to pay an online visit to the office of Mr. X.

Filed under: reviews