Dra-, the incompletely named anti-heroine of this brilliant novel, is trying to get a job. She isn't sure what kind of job, or where, or what its purpose is, she only knows she must find one. Dra- wanders through the bleak, labyrinthine corridors of some great unnamed workplace getting unsolicited advice, which sounds more like seduction or therapy than career counseling, from characters with names such as Manager and Administrator and Nurse. The quirkiness and clarity of Stacey Levine's language, the comedy and darkness of her vision, mark her as a worthy heir of Jane Bowles.
From Kirkus Reviews
Kafkaesque first novel, the 39th entry in Sun & Moon's experimental New American Fiction series, from the author of My Horse (stories, not reviewed). One might almost say that Levine is slavishly Kafkaesque, down to her use of the tired device of incompletely spelling her protagonist's name: ``Dra--.'' Nonetheless, she takes on an important theme, focusing on the modern American obsession with jobs and careers. Poor Dra-- is a confused young woman, shy, indecisive, and paranoid. As the story begins, she's out of money and powerless, and proceeds to a nameless employment agency with the vague feeling that only a job can give her an identity. At first, Dra-- is afraid even to enter the agency because of her irrational fear of a man who works there. Once inside, she must endure a mockingly upbeat lecture on the virtues of holding a job, as well as a sort of group support session for those who have not ``succeeded.'' Finally, she's offered a choice: a job at a ``remote encampment'' researching and classifying dust, and one ``monitoring and maintaining a small water pump.'' Dra--, who seems always near mental collapse, can't choose between these equally meaningless alternatives. Even her employment counselor allows that ``jobs are tedious and death-making,'' and thus it may be that Dra-- is one of the saner inmates of this mad world. As she cringes and hesitates, postponing the inevitable, she eavesdrops on the conversations of working people, all of whom have adapted to that world, and seem truly and completely insane. Work is madness, Levine suggests, and anyone who has not had a ``career'' but has suffered instead through a succession of mind-numbingly banal jobs, is likely to agree. Levine's variations on Kafka wear thin, but her satire of work is clever, unsettling, and timely. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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