- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Picador Australia; First Edition edition (September 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330423509
- ISBN-13: 978-0330423502
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,950,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Pin Striped Prison Paperback – September 1, 2008
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Why is that so many of the smartest people in the world get to their 30s and realise that doing everything 'right' has made for an existence they never really wanted? The Pin Striped Prison is a funny, frightening look at how big firms seduce brilliant students into joining the corporate world, with all its perks and excesses, and at what happens next. Crazy work hours swallow these young professionals' lives, just as dry cleaning, taxis and take-away food swallow their large salaries. And by the time they discover their work is fundamentally boring, they are usually captives of the debts they've incurred to get a lifestyle that will compensate them for their life. What does it mean for us as a nation when so many of our cleverest people are siphoned off from careers in which they could be doing something useful? The Pin Striped Prison is a smart, witty look at the consequences of selling your soul.
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If you are considering going to law school, you should read this BEFORE you start.
I rarely read for leisure nowadays, as I'm often too tired to do so after a long day or week's work in the office. But when I picked up the book for the first time, I couldn't put it down. It is hilariously insightful. I could relate completely as a lawyer in a top tier firm, having gone through the university clerkship process, high school HSC etc and been deeply involved in how it all works.
Any Australian lawyer, investment banker or accountant working in a top tier firm will thoroughly enjoy this read as we're a cynical bunch. If you have a hardcopy, hang onto it as it's worth $150 (used) via Amazon, and now only available on kindle. (I'm holding onto it as one of my favourite books of all times!)
"The Pin Striped Prison" is laugh-out-loud-hilarious in parts, yet it has a serious subject - how idealistic nerds get sucked into ridiculously dreary careers with, for example, "the buzz of becoming an expert on market segmentation in the industrial adhesives industry". The author knows her reader. She won a perfect mark at high school, and then a journalism cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald, despite having studied law instead. She has since been a finalist for Australian journalism's Walkley Awards. Yet her lists of "Top excuses for selling out", "What lawyers say about work-life balance", and "Could you be a neurotic, status-conscious, overachieving, workaholic control freak?" would fit perfectly between the covers of a Mad Magazine "Super Special". Hopefully the next edition will have a "fold-in" at the back.
The book is worth getting for the social tips alone, even without the hard reportage about the profile of what is an "organization kid", big firms' little tricks such as "golden handcuffs", and more soberly, exactly what kind of child becomes suicidal over study. Social tips include the categories of people at big firms. Whereas a "hothouse flower" might have superior academic results, "old roses" engender real trust amongst partners. "Trust means knowing that the new recruit will act appropriately in a social setting. When a closing dinner takes place at Flower Drum or Nobu or Rockpool or Claridge's, the firm wants to know that a recruit will not gawp at the surroundings and the prices". Or at a twilight sailing event for team-building, old roses "favour worn ensembles of expensive clothing: a faded old Ralph Lauren polo shirt, shorts from university rugby days; items which indicate breeding and expensive tastes but not vanity..." Yet the back cover describes her as "an escapee" from this world; her subject of a career with a big firm.
In his note on Austen, Lewis argued that the very watershed of each of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma is an undeception and awakening. "The Pinstriped Prison" addresses a similar theme in a modern setting; complete with scientific studies as mentioned earlier. Like those comedies the book has a happy ending, for the reader personally should you choose to accept it.
If one must find a flaw in order to be a critic, any personal criticism withers in the consistent sunniness of the book, perhaps even because of the dreariness of its subject matter. Nor can one truly criticize its reportage or tight prose. Its careful manner is clearest in the way that the author criticises. There is not even a trace of shrill condemnation, despite the reference to hate in the by-line of the book.
It would have been helpful to have an index, but the book is addressed to "prisoners" rather than academics, particularly at just 272 pages. Firms are mentioned rather than singled out so as to make an index useful. Yet the careful research behind the book allows it to offer a weighty contribution to an important subject.
Overall, the topic could have been dealt with in a lot more depth. There is a serious need for this topic to be dealt with; the brain drain of people into essentially non-productive jobs (at least for society as a whole), is an important issue. There are also a large number of factual errors throughout the book (the Big 5 accounting firms disappeared and became the Big 4 before the author had even left university).
Finally, the authors own prejudices come out strongly and it appears she is carrying a very large chip on her shoulder. I'm not sure why, she only interned in law for a little while and ended up doing the career she loved.
If you are looking for a light Saturday afternoon read, then give this a go. If you are after some serious analysis and insight into the world of the burnt-out corporate lawyer - forget it.