An intriguing consideration of this bewildering “liminal in-between time in the history of work.”

THE NOWHERE OFFICE

REINVENTING WORK AND THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE

An entrepreneur and business consultant shows how the world of work is being remade—and so rapidly that in some respects it’s unrecognizable.

Even before the pandemic, Hobsbawm observes, transformational shifts were occurring in three areas that had implications for intellectual and office work: politics, “specifically the issues of inequality and sustainability”; society, with the largest cohort of workers being Generation Z but mingling generations on either side; and technology, with a shift to what’s called the metaverse, “where virtual reality becomes far more real in our lives than we ever thought possible.” The pandemic accelerated the recognition that people didn’t need to work in an office on a regular schedule, and that in turn sped up the “increasing backlash against work”—work, that is, that did not have a clear purpose and wasn’t life-enhancing in some way. As Hobsbawm observes, such work is generally simple, at least in its conception: We’re going to fix this problem; we’re going to build this. Yet offices have grown complex, mostly due to the proliferation of complexity-making middle managers who aren’t needed in a world of remote work, wherein “much management energy will need to go into fresh challenges: scheduling hybrid working, reframing the measuring of performance.” In this matter, writes the author, corporations must reframe both their approaches to human resources, returning the “human” to the equation, and their relationships with their employee: “The onus should be less on the employee having their performance evaluated and more about the organization being asked: how are we performing for you?” There may be institutional resistance to such changes, but, Hobsbawm warns, the genie is out of the bottle. Those Gen Z and millennial workers simply aren’t going to show up to places that treat them like cogs in an outdated machine.

An intriguing consideration of this bewildering “liminal in-between time in the history of work.”

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-541-70193-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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