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21 Dog Years: A Cube Dweller's Tale Paperback – August 26, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1998, Daisey gave up his life of frequenting cafes, temping and participating in small-time theater to join an up-and-coming bookseller called Amazon.com. Here, he offers a kind of workplace coming-of-age memoir the young hero comes to terms with his ambition, synthesizes it with his liberal arts education and finally spits it out. All the dot-com punching bags are here: the lampooning of new economy jargon, the girlfriend worrying about her boyfriend's sudden obsession with the company picnic, and jokes about Pets.com. What saves the book from being an exercise in shooting fish in a barrel is Daisey's sharp eye: he renders even banal corporate moments with energy and wit. (On a clueless colleague: "No one does tai chi at ten am in front of their coworkers around a coffee kettle unless they want to be hated.") Class-conscious to the point of obsession he has ambivalent thoughts about his "startlingly sharp, attractive" managers and dreams of "social hacking" his way into becoming a Net executive Daisey flirts with a broader social critique of bourgeois values. Still, his incessant flippancy blocks real insight. At the end, when an imaginary e-mail to CEO Jeff Bezos turns unexpectedly vicious, readers may wonder how a man so aware of and so glib about his employer's flaws comes to play the role of the exploited proletarian. Still, Daisey's talent for the punch line, along with his facility for sketch comedy, makes the book an enjoyable, if unedifying, experience, like an afternoon playing foosball.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Amazon.com may have made many mistakes since it opened its e-doors for business, but the one it made in hiring Daisey to do "customer service" in 1998 continues to haunt the company in a big way. Daisey is a writer, playwright, and actor who has mined his employment experience at Amazon.com to produce, first, a one-man show and now a memoir recounting his life as an Amazonian. His vignettes and anecdotes, while at times sophomoric, are quite funny, especially his explanation of how his book got its canine title: "Conventional wisdom held that Amazon Time was equivalent to dog years, which meant that one actual human year equaled seven Amazonian ones." Daisey started his dot-com job in 1998, responding to telephone orders as a "phone monkey." His description of the "freaks" he worked with, the "gothic" work environment itself, and the crazy incoming calls make for hilarious reading. Additionally, Daisey's amusing reflections on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos portray someone who seems remarkably disengaged, even when his company's stocks are falling. After getting promoted to an equally unsatisfying regular office job, Daisey finally quit, cashing in his stock options. This is an eye-opening testament as to how truly dysfunctional a dot-com can get. Recommended for all nonfiction collections in public libraries. Richard Drezen, Washington Post/New York City Bureau
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074323815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743238151
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mike's book is terrific -- both very funny and extremely well-written. I can vouch for most of the second half of the book -- he really did find stock option information for the entire BizDev department in the bathroom, and his boss really wouldn't speak to him for months after Mike caught him playing Rogue. It sounds like these stories are made up, but they are not. (Which, I guess, makes them even more horrifyingly funny).

I have to admit that I disagree with Mike's main conclusion -- that we were just spinning our wheels at Amazon, scurrying around but not getting anywhere. The truth is, we have built a great company here, and I am glad to be a part of it. Some of the reviewers who provide blurbs for the the book seem intent on using it to buttress their pre-concieved (and ill-informed) notions about "the New Economy hangover" or "the pointless toil inside an industrial madhouse". Don't believe the hype. Everyone's experience at Amazon is different, and all I can say is that I wouldn't trade mine for anything.

...
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Format: Hardcover
There have been many books about the dot-com "revolution," but most have been written by still-rich CEOs of failed ventures who seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of people who worked below them, or else have been business analyses of what went wrong. Though I did not work at a dot-com, many of my peers did, and I was interested in reading something that captured more of the heart of the experience for the average employee. Daisey has done this beautifully. As its cover promises, this book is really funny, but it also is quite moving and honest. His story of being seduced by the dream of a better life just around the corner, just out of reach, is all too believable. It captures an important moment in the life of my generation, the total fall-out of which we've all yet to see.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Self-described Gen X slacker and dilettante (and now author and comedian) Mike Daisey responded to the following ad in the *Seattle Weekly*:
CUSTOMER SERVICE TIER 1: LAME TITLE - COOL JOB. He says "the rest of the ad mentioned good pay, flexible hours, and a `hip and quirky work environment." Thus began his endeavours within our Host here at Amazon.com. In the beginning, he says, life in Amazon Customer Service "was half socialist boot camp and half college party dorm." He later was promoted to "Business Development." It is an often humourous glimpse within the belly of this beast - fleas and all. (I was going to say "warts and all," but then we're talking about Dog Years here - and there is some discussion in the book about employees bringing their dogs to work, and I'm going to talk about Pets.com in a minute - so I modified the metaphor.)
I don't know how true the information is - some of it would explain events that have occurred in this reader's experiences with Amazon.com. Hmmm. And his description of the Dot.com frenzy, especially the rise and fall of Pets.com, is entertaining and astute. Darn, I miss that sock puppet dog!
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Format: Hardcover
Then you'll find this book to be hilarious! I love Amazon, don't get me wrong. But this book is great! Pokes gentle fun at our favorite company.
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Format: Hardcover
Yes, this book is about Amazon, but that is only a side issue. This is more like Dilbert moved into this decade. It is funny, insightful and accurate. There are some sexual references, so it may not be for youngsters, but it is probably no more than they hear in school anyhow.
So, what is the point of the book? It is humorous, which is good. It also helps the rest of us who are stuck in similar situations to laugh at things and get us through it. Although the "letters to Jeff" are a bit off for me, everything else smacks true-to-life for most people, especially the same generation as the author (which might include you and me).
It is easy reading and can be read in small chunks of time (great for reading in your "library" or while standing in line). While it is funny, it probably will not make you embarrass yourself if you are reading in public.
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Format: Hardcover
Mike Daisey has a gift for taking perfectly ridiculous situations that he found himself in the middle of and making them not just humorous but side-splittingly funny. I've seen the play on which this book was based, and the book isn't a transcription. In fact, it's an entirely new level: it's a love story. Well, two love stories. One of the love stories is about him and his now-wife, and her sensible, grounded, occasionally wild-party animal advice and behavior. The other love story is about a crush on a company and its founder (well, this company that you're reading the review on).
The book waxes and wanes both love stories, though you know he's going to wind up with the girl, not the stock options and the guy.
I worked at Amazon.com before Mike's tenure, and I recognize many of the portraits in the book. I left before I lost my soul to overwork; the corporate culture was a thing of beauty when I was there. I still work for a living, and Mike works incredibly hard to turn the grist he got during the height of dotcom insanity into a beautiful set of life lessons that, hopefully, we'll all take to heart. I know I did and still do.
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