Novellas in November 2014 Update #2: Santa Rosa, North East, Bartleby the Scrivener

Fuckin' A.

Fuckin’ A.

Check out my introductory post here, and follow along with participants The Wandering Bibliophile and Write Reads.

Santa Rosa and North East by Wendy McGrath
My rating: 2.5/5 stars
Goodreads

I’m new to verse novels and I don’t think they’re my thing. I enjoyed Karma by Cathy Ostlere, which was very structured and straightforward, but I struggle with books like these, or, like Corey Greathouse’s Another Name of Autumn, which tend more towards stream of consciousness. Kind of verse, kind of not. I can’t find the right pace for reading and I lose track of the story.

The subject matter, and the characters, and the setting, are all of interest to me. In Santa Rosa and North East, we witness the crumbling of a marriage and an Edmonton neighbourhood through the eyes of a five year old. Child narrators are tricky. At times Christine seemed too savvy for her age, too empathetic maybe. I can’t help but compare to my own five year old. Maybe there are depths to him that I don’t see yet.

There is a third book coming, to complete the trilogy. I will probably read it, as the story is compelling enough that I want to find out what happens to Christine (I already know what happens to Santa Rosa; the neighbourhood isn’t there anymore.) I found North East a smoother read than the first, so maybe I’ll hit my stride at last.

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads

Hypothesis: Bartleby the Scrivener is the inspiration for the classic 1999 film Office Space.

Evidence:

  • Bartleby “would prefer not to.” Peter Gibbons’s “just not gonna go.”
  • Bartleby regularly stares out the window (which looks out on a brick wall.) Peter “spaces out” for about an hour every morning. “It looks like I’m working, but I’m not.”
  • The less Bartleby and Peter do, the more their respective workplaces do for them. Bartelby’s boss assumes there’s something wrong with his eyes, and tries to be compassionate. The Bobs deem Peter a “straight shooter with upper management written all over him.”
  • Bartleby’s quirky colleagues would totally take out a printer. “PC Load Letter? The fuck does that mean?”
  • Bartleby also has much in common with Milton. Once fired, he simply won’t leave and hangs about in the stairwell. Milton ends up in the basement taking care of that little cockroach problem.
  • Oh, and Bartleby works in what may be the first cubicle ever. “I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice.” As Peter says, “Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements!”

Both the book and the movie are a meditation on doing nothing, but end very differently. There’s no “fuckin’ A” coming for poor Bartelby. I don’t know what else to say; this book was amazing. Hilarious and weird and sad and strangely relevant to all the office drones out there, 160 years later.

I seem to have run out of November! I finished one more novella and aim to review that in the coming days. Tell me, whether you read along or not, what’s your favourite novella? Or, what’s your favourite line to quote from Office Space? Mine is “this place… is nice,” which is great for breaking an awkward silence.

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4 comments

  1. Naomi

    Why have I never heard of Bartleby the Scrivener? On the list it goes! I have decided novellas are fun to read interspersed among bigger books. I haven’t read a lot of them yet, but I am accumulating quite a list.

  2. ebookclassics

    Great review! I think I want to read this book now. I wondered how you would feel about Melville since Moby Dick. One of my fave Office Space lines is: “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays”. .

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