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Personal Days: A Novel Paperback – May 13, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Park's warm and winning fiction debut is narrated by a collective we of youngish Manhattan office grunts who watch in helpless horror as their company keeps shrinking, taking their private world of in-jokes and nicknames along with it. The business itself remains opaque, but who eats lunch with whom, which of the two nearby Starbucks is the good Starbucks, and whose desk knickknacks have the richest iconography become abundantly clear. What starts out feeling like a cutesy set of riffs evolves into such a deft, familiar intimacy that when the next round of layoffs begins in earnest, the reader is just as disconcerted as the characters. As office survivors Lizzie, Jonah, Pru, Crease, Lars and Jason II try to figure out who's next to get the axe, mysterious clues point to a conspiracy that may involve one or more of the survivors. By the time answers arrive, Park—former Voice Literary Supplement editor, a founding editor of the Believer and the creator of the e-zine the New York Ghost—has built the tension masterfully. Echoing elements from Ferris's debut smash, Then We Came to the End, Park may have written the first cubicle cozy. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

This comic and creepy début novel takes place in a Manhattan office depopulated by "the Firings," where one can "wander vast tracts of lunar workscape before seeing a window." The downsized staff huddle like the crew of a doomed spaceship, picked off one by one by an invisible predator. Crippled by computer crashes (one worker suggests that the machines are "trying to tell us about the limits of the human"), the survivors eddy in a spiritual inertia; when one of them is banished to "Siberia"—a lone desk on another floor—no one can muster the energy even to reply to her increasingly anguished e-mails, until, one day, she is simply no longer there. Park transforms the banal into the eerie, rendering ominous the familiar request "Does anyone want anything from the outside world?"
Copyright ©2008Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812978579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978575
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ed Park is the author of the novel PERSONAL DAYS (Random House), which was named one of Time's top 10 fiction books of 2008 and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. He is a founding editor of The Believer and a former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement, and is executive editor at Penguin Press. He has recently written introductions to Anthony Powell's AFTERNOON MEN and Russell Hoban's TURTLE DIARY, and liner notes for the Criterion editions of ROSEMARY'S BABY and SAFETY LAST!

BUFFALO NOIR, co-edited with Brigid Hughes, will be published in November 2015.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By SSLYBY on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Personal Days is both funny and clever - it can be enjoyed for its hilarious and familiar observations of contemporary office life absurdities and appreciated for Ed Park's witty writing style. It's the perfect literary companion to Dilbert, The Office, and Office Space.

The characters are sharply portrayed with satirical affection - reading the book was like starting a new job and meeting a new set of coworkers who could become one's friends or nemeses.

The plot is gripping and culminates in something rare in many of today's novels - an ending that is both satisfying and leaves one guessing.

I highly recommend Personal Days and look forward to more of Mr. Park's refreshing voice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nelson H. Wu on September 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Take this hilarious, biting satire to work and sneak a read whenever you need reassurance that offices everywhere are as crazy as yours. In "Personal Days," employees at a New York firm bicker and squabble over everything from who should take responsibility for a paper-jam to who has dibs on the "limited-edition Japanese Post-its." In between, they gossip, consume loads of coffee and cigarettes and, when they have time, actually squeeze in some work. Occasionally, they're rewarded with a "deprotion, which is a promotion that shares most of the hallmarks of a demotion." The Kafka-esque absurdities pile up. For instance, you never want gushing praise from the boss -- it's an unconscious sign, "like a poker player's tell," that the boss is mentally preparing himself or herself to give you the pink slip. And after all the laughs, writer Ed Park knows just when to get profound and touching on us. His book bursts with creativity -- at times too much of it. Indeed, if there's any complaint at all, it's that "Personal Days" is another of those books that plays with typesetting and fonts and gimmicks. The last section is a 50-page, one-sentence rant. On the plus side, you won't mind working overtime so you can finish reading it in one sitting.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
The first thing you need to know is that this is a story about a small group of young, whiny, white-collar, Manhattan employees of some generic giant corporation based in Omaha. None of the characters are developed in any manner beyond some jaunty nicknames and a few personal tics, peeves, and obsessions, so if you like to read about fleshed-out "real" characters, move on. Next, you need to know that it's a black comedy about corporate downsizing and the shallow communities formed by coworkers. If that doesn't sound interesting, then move on. (Caveat: If it does sounds interesting and you've already read Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, you may be disappointed by how much of the same territory is covered...) Finally, you need to know that it's structured somewhat awkwardly. Both the first and second sections unfold in paragraph-sized scenes or vignettes. However, the first section is written in the first person, while the second section is written in a more distancing third person. Then the third section is a 45-page run-on sentence email from one of the peripheral characters to another. This all feels rather gimmicky and unnecessary, so if you like your narratives served "regular," move on.

Anyway, the book kicks off with a handful of workers amidst an ocean of empty cubicles, as "the firings" have decimated their ranks. Their main concern is "who's next?" -- a topic they pick at like a scab, huddled over desks, in emails, and at happy hours. Confusing their speculation is that there are several layers of management, and no one is really sure how the hierarchy works. Not to mention the suspicion that one of the managers must be a spy for their new owners in California.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andy l on June 3, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
Personal Days is a funny and sardonic read, and while the laughs come quickly, at times somewhat painfully, in a good way, there is real intelligence to this book. The characters seem to be dashed off at first glance, but quickly you find that they feel real and complete, or at least as real and complete as any of the people in real life that we get to know in the same way: through quirky episodes and odd monikers and annoying or endearing tics. PD is a quick read, full of laughs, but take your time and you'll be rewarded.

I don't write many reviews.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on June 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
I LOVE this book. At first I was reading it very quickly because it is so g-damn funny and is so fun to read. Then I read slower and slower until I was only allowing myself to read a few pages at a time because I really didn't want it to end. Just a brilliant piece of work--and not only are the sentences so good (jokes within jokes within jokes) but also the structure of the book is exciting and the overall movement of the plot is extremely interesting. It moves from a very light, funny, almost sitcom-like environment gradually to a very bleak, strange, lonely place, where each secure part is torn away, piece by piece, and a single last character is left, alone, calling out into what can only seen as apocolyptic gloom. Wow. My kind of book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Dumont on April 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
...(hope!) that it would be an amusing tale of modern life in the office. And it was just that as I was reading Part I of the book. Amusing and interesting enough to hold my interest while not exactly certain who was who among the collected characters whose story was being related by means of the first-person plural point-of-view, an interesting narrative sleight of hand by the author. But when I kept hitting various laugh-out-loud parts I realized I was onto something else.

Part II is rendered by means of a classification system somewhat along the lines of a legal code or contract which I found to be fascinating in its own way, although some readers probably won't care for it. Whatever. The story flows along with or without it. The high point of Part II consists of a piece of found literature--a handwritten notebook containing observations, aphorisms, and other pearls of wisdom gleaned from the collected texts of a number of high priests and practitioners of the business arts. One bombastic absurdity is piled upon another.

Part III of the novel consists of a single Joycean sentence written by one of the principal characters (the period key on his laptop is broken) while trapped in an elevator. This section clarifies and illumines much of what came before. The story then continues to build to a quite surprising climax.

Personal Days is the first novel I've read in quite some time, or ever, that when I was finished I immediately turned back to the first page and began re-reading. It was even more enjoyable the second time through.

Beyond the laughs and the literary pyrotechnics, Park has woven a serious theme into Personal Days with the use of the leitmotif phrase "Where does the time go? Where does the life go?
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