Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review On Business Fiction

See Workplace Fiction That’s True to Life from this past Sunday's New York Times by BRYAN BURROUGH. It is a review of the following book:

Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work edited by Richard Ford.

Here is an excerpt from the review:

"I’VE often wondered why there aren’t more strong works of fiction dealing with the business world. Offhand, with the possible exception of Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Richard Ford’s real estate dramas, or Michael Crichton’s forgettable “Disclosure,” I can’t think of many novels of recent years that grapple with the kinds of issues most business people encounter.

Invariably, what we get instead is the corporate thriller. You know, young Ned lands a job in the mailroom at Faceless Colossus Inc., climbs the ladder to middle management, then finds his boss in a pool of blood and balance sheets in the conference room, then uncovers a giant global conspiracy to subvert humanity in the boardroom, then goes on the run, where he is pursued by stern men in Joseph Abboud suits as he and the inevitable girlfriend scramble to save their lives, the world and, I don’t know, their 401(k)s. The villain is always the C.E.O.

The paucity of thoughtful business fiction, I surmise, has to do with the novelist’s preference for matters of life and death, or at least love. Writers yearn to put their characters in jeopardy, whether actual or emotional, and at first glance the main thing at stake in most corporate dramas, real or otherwise, is money. If the crucial issue is whether Faceless Colossus makes its earnings estimate for the quarter, or whether young Ned gets that bonus, well, not many novelists want to go there.

Which is kind of a shame. Television, after all, has set all kinds of excellent tales in the business world. “Mad Men” jumps to mind; it actually finds drama in the gritty realities of account management. “L.A. Law.” Heck, even “Ally McBeal” had its moments.

These shows also illuminate the lives that people lead in the workplace — another part of experience that is not especially well represented in fiction. Sloan Wilson (“The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” published in 1955), Joshua Ferris (“Then We Came to the End,” from 2007) and Mr. Ford are among the few who have found fictional inspiration inside the office."

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