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You Look Nice Today: A Novel Hardcover – September 17, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this sardonic, entertaining legal thriller about a discrimination suit brought against a high-level corporate executive by his administrative assistant, Fortune columnist Bing tells a story of sexual harassment that's not about sex. Robert Harbert, or Harb, executive vice-president of Global Corporation's Total Quality department, falls for gorgeous uber-temp of indeterminate race CaroleAnne Winters, who saves the day on an important project. Recognizing her talent, Harb hires CaroleAnne full-time, but their cordial business relationship quickly grows too cozy: Harb gets CaroleAnne a corporate apartment to help her escape an abusive husband, gives her his aging car and brings her on business trips, which include boozy late nights that stop short of physical intimacy. CaroleAnne's behavior becomes erratic, though, when her spiritual side surfaces and she begins holding prayer meetings with a companion in the company's empty offices. Her tightly wound demeanor in the office is a harbinger of trouble to come, and when Harb tries to diffuse the tension between them by offering CaroleAnne a promotion to a different department, she refuses it, quits her job and sues Harb and the firm for sexual harassment and cultural insensitivity, to the tune of $150 million. The density of detail makes for slow going early in the novel, but the account of the civil trial that follows is a riveting and often hilarious account of CaroleAnne's fabrications and the corporate legal response, with Bing exposing the ways in which seemingly ordinary problems and human foibles take on new dimensions when they hit the legal system. Though the conclusion is a bit of a letdown, this is a great read and Bing's best take to date on how people cope with the political idiosyncrasies of the buttoned-down business world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

Bing's satires of the business world have the allure of inside dope, given that their pseudonymous author is also a corporate executive. His latest novel concerns one Robert (Harb) Harbert, who seems too human to last at the Global Fiduciary Trust Company: "More than one fellow officer had told him that his need to trivialize and ridicule corporate life would get the better of him one of these days." In fact, Harb's undoing is his compassion for his secretary, an apparently vulnerable creature named CarolAnne. She repays his cloying kindnesses (generous raises, a car, an apartment) with a harassment suit. The second half of the novel is a series of transcripts from the trial. Unfortunately, the courtroom animates Bing's comic gift less effectively than the daily grind of the office and the soul-smothering masquerade of being a company man.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (September 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582342806
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582342801
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,697,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stanley Bing is a columnist for Fortune magazine and the bestselling author of Crazy Bosses, What Would Machiavelli Do?, Throwing the Elephant, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy, 100 Bullshit Jobs..And How to Get Them, and The Big Bing, as well as the novels Lloyd: What Happened and You Look Nice Today. By day he is an haute executive in a gigantic multinational corporation whose identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in business.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stanley Bing delves into the world of coroporate paranoia and loneliness in this novel, told by the perspective of world-weary Fred Tell, who explains in pungent, fast-paced, insightful prose how his business friend Robert Harbert must suffer all sorts of bizzare accusations from his one-time friend and assistant CaroleAnne Winter, a scandalously-dressed woman who becomes convinced that the office, headed by Herbert, is out to get her. The trial, based on CaroleAnne's bogus lawsuit of sexual harassment, examines a major theme in the novel, namely America's inability, through its often bovine-minded populace, to discern between rational and cheap argumentation. Fred Tell suffers from a viable fear that the jury is too uneducated and brainwashed by unexamined emotionalism used by CaroleAnne's attorney to see through her paranoid delusions. I'll let you read the book's conclusion to see what the jury decides.
The themes of corporate loneliness, suffocating paranoia, and insanity, rendered so well in this book are also done well in two companion novels, Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings, and The Ignored (a horror novel, if you can believe it) by Bentley Little.
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By A Customer on December 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I ripped through this book in two days! It was a funny spoof of office life, (particularly in a big corporation). The plot centers on a lawsuit charging sexual harrassment in the office. This allows a thoughtful look at how ordinary office interactions, the ones that allow us all to express a bit of personality, a little humanity, even within the confines of the corporate mold, may be twisted and misinterpreted to seem unfair and oppressive.
The narrator is a sketch, a very funny "unreliable narrator" who tells us all we need to know without always realizing it. It is rare to find a book that captures the corporate ethos the way this one does -- the camaraderie, the understanding of rank, latitude in behavior depending on position, the helplessness of the senior managers without their support staff, the addiction to expense account living.
The ending is bittersweet, the only ending possible. Don't miss this book!
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Format: Hardcover
This is one book that will genuinely affect different readers
many different ways. Although mainly told from the perspective
of a narrator who is a friend of all concerned and is the head
of corporate HR, many readers will identify with different
players in this drama. Plus, the corporation that employs all
these people is part of the problem and possible solutions.
Throughout the personal drama involved, and the tragedy that is
played out on several levels, the corporation seems to have the
most impact on the greatest number of lives, even though corporations are supposed to have no souls and therefore, no
personal feelings.
The head of a special "quality" division is on the rise, as is
his division during the days of corporate growth and profit,
and when a lovely temp solves her first big problem in such an
easy, smooth way, she is promptly hired as an assistant to that
head. Everyone in the division seems to like the woman, and
she is helpful and hard-working, but her personal life intrudes
into her business life, as it often does; in her case, that personal life is a hard one, and she shows up at work having
obviously been beaten by a thug of a husband. Everyone feels
sorry for her, and they all try to help her through that trauma.
She gets promotions a little too early, and she gets nice cash
bonuses ahead of time, and she grows in importance as so many
people lavish extra attention and graditude on her. She advances in the corporation beyond her experience or education,
and no one seems to mind because she is so dedicated to the company and its profits.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A must for anyone who's ever worked in any kind of office at any time. Hilarious, literally lol funny... centers on a comic but horrible and all too plausible trial. "At this point the judge literally stood up on his dais-- which made him slightly shorter-- and screamed "I've had it with you, Buster!"

This is the story of a corporate scandal, told by Tell, the head of human resources-- and naturally, the person who knows everyone in the company. But if you think this is a kind of Bill/Monica tale, think again. This book takes on a larger picture-- Harb, the Executive Vice President in charge of Total Quality, who is accused by his offbeat but incredibly efficient secretary CarolAnne, is a hapless Everyman. What this book is really about is not so much the manipulation of sex in the workplace, but about the way Work and the Office have become Life for so many of us. Harb's real tragedy is not so much his infatuation with CarolAnne which is more chivalrous than anything else, but his discovery of himself after years of distraction with empty pursuits, travel, material achievements, brought on only by this unjust persecution. It's not only his tragedy, but also the tragedy of his wife Jean, who realizes too late that she loves her husband as a person and not a role, Tell, Harb's friend who comes to see how the office cameraderie can never be the same, and for the reader who had been seduced into the "Lou Grant/Mary Tyler Moore" chumminess of the corporate world. The book stayed with me. The author doesn't fake either a happy or a tragic end but one that is ambiguous, leaving me to reflect on where happiness lies. This is a fascinating look at the dangers inherent in human communication, and in where we put our joys.
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