THE GRAND LIFE by Jan Novak

THE GRAND LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Czech-born Novak (The Willys Dream Kit; 1985) hits the corporate man with low satire written in high style in this story of one George Clifton's transformation from a managerial wallflower into one of the boys, only more so. In 24 years at a utility, which in Novak's description of the stagnant bureaucracy could easily have been imported from the Communist bloc, George has been a pleasant smile--no help to underlings, no trouble to superiors--most concerned with the punctuality of his 9 a.m. bowel movement. One day, however, he returns from the wrong meeting feeling foolish--only to discover his underlings mocking his stale life. Enraged, he junks his healthy lunch to go to a bar where he gorges on his first Reuben sandwiches, then buys a surplus Army jacket and befriends his one nemesis, Fat Fred, a weary veteran of the slothful life. From a bar phone, George okays wife Mary Ellen's longstanding secret desire for breast implants; within days, she is no longer ""raisin chested"" but ""cantaloped."" So begins George's gaudily American rise and fall, starting with a backyard cookout at which the group's obsession with Mary Ellen's ""front bumper"" drives Fat Fred's already unstable wife over the edge, and culminating in George's first affair, with a Hispanic office girl, which is so flagrant it causes his demotion. Throughout, Novak shows a sly appreciation for business, speak--so often dismissed as merely meat-grinding the English language--making his subtle parody of it an important part of the show. An intelligent, affectionate, often amusing piece of satire; still, Novak could aim at grander targets. The corporate drone has been whacked on this particular chin before.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster