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by James Hynes

Pub Date: April 5th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-45645-X
Publisher: St. Martin's

A darkly comic portrait of the Job from hell follows the vertiginous downward spiral of a failed academic who loses his wife, his career, his self-respect, and possibly even his sanity.

As jobs go, temping is about the worst. So for Paul Trilby, a once-promising literary theorist with a Ph.D. from a top-notch university up north, the Texas Department of General Services (affectionately known as TxDoGS) is nothing less than the ninth circle of hell. Paul lost his wife’s affection years ago after she found out—from her cat Charlotte—that he was having an affair with one of his students. This led him (in a roundabout kind of way) to kill the cat, lose tenure, move to Texas, and become a bum. Now he works as a “technical writer” (read: typist) at TxDoGS, pulling down $8 an hour and living in an old motel, where he’s haunted by Charlotte’s ghost. But, as bad as things are, Paul’s world is far from gray—in fact, his life seems to be turning more lurid by the minute. To begin with, the man in the cubicle next to Paul dies on the job while working overtime. Then, some strange Post-its asking “Are we not men?” begin to appear without explanation. In the men’s room, where Paul often goes for his morning nap, eerie noises emanate from the ceiling, and a trio of coworkers initiates Paul into an informal lunch club that begins to seem more and more like a secret society. The only sane thing in Paul’s life appears to be Callie, the autodidact from the mailroom who becomes his girlfriend and is about his only link to the real world. But can she save him?

By turns ominous, hilarious, and genuinely scary: Hynes (The Lecturer’s Tale, 2001, etc.) offers a highly original send-up of the most unnatural activity ever conceived by the human mind—work.