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Preview: Personal Days

Personal Days

The official blog for the novel 'Personal Days' by Ed Park

Updated: 2018-03-05T16:38:32.707-08:00


Sad desk salad days


At Metro, Alizah Salario looks at some books about modern workplace culture that "just may give us clues into how the inhumanity of the desk lunch became acceptable behavior"—including...

"Personal Days" by Ed Park: If you must stuff your soul in a drawer each morning in order to tolerate going into the office, then this book has your name on it. In Park's stellar debut, as an unnamed New York company unravels, its employees grapple with the futiliy of their work and seek meaning beyond it. Think "1984" meets "Office Space."

The Believer Turns 10! Come Celebrate Thursday, March 7!


Join us March 7th, 7:30pmle Poisson Rouge158 Bleecker StreetNYC 10012with Nick Hornby.Vendelia Vida.Heidi Julavits.Ed Park.Sheila Heti.Ross Simonini.Dawn of Midi.Gabrielle Bell.Amanda Filipacchi.DANCING.Champagne cupcakes, deviled strawberries, and drunken brownies from Spirited BrooklynGet your tickets ($10) here. Price includes a copy of March/April Anniversary issue!Can't make it? We'll be at Greenlight, Brooklyn, March 25thforward to a friend | Get $5 off a subscription (promo code: anniversary)[...]

Two events!


On Thursday, February 21, I'll be reading at Temple University (along with student reader Jacob Mazer). It's free and open to the public. Location: Women's Studeis Lounge, 8th floor, Anderson Hall, 1114 W. Berks St. (Click above for more details.) Begins at 5.

And on Thursday, March 7, I'll be doing a PowerPoint presentation on Borgesian mammals in children's literature—part of the Believer's 10th anniversary party at Le Poisson Rouge. Also on the bill: Nick Hornby (!), the great Sheila Heti (!) interviewing the wonderful cartoonist Gabrielle Bell (check out her interpretation of this Emily Dickinson poem) and one of my favorite novelists, Amanda Filipacchi. Doors open at 7. 



I'm excited to be reading for Temple University's Poets & Writers series! The reading is on Thursday, February 21, at 5 p.m.—more information here.

Totally wired


A smart review from Dennis Kaplan has appeared at Eclectica (way back in the end of 2011):

There is not much plot to Personal Days, but part of the joyride is in the succession of familiar moments held up for inspection: the awkward elevator encounter, the too-peppy email, the infuriating battles with computers. Park's primary weapon is humor, but the absurdities he throws at us evoke deeper questions: is this the only way? Are people really wired for this? In one minor but telling moment we witness a desk jockey named Laars trying to locate a file on his computer.
The next day, Friday, the Sprout asks Laars for a file from last year. Laars's system of folders is so byzantine, his naming conventions so idiosyncratic, and his memory so poor, that he often has to do a global search of all the contents on his computer if he's looking for a file more than a few weeks old. He tries to guess what word might spring up in the document title, then hits Search.

I don't understand, the computer says.

September World Tour (a/k/a St. Louis-NYC-NYC)


I'm excited to be doing some events this month.

First up is at Washington University in St. Louis, where I'll be reading from and talking about Personal Days. That's on Thursday 9/20 at 8:00 at Hurst Lounge. Details here.

Then there are back-to-back dates in NYC:

¶ On Thursday 9/27 at the Asian American Writers' Workshop (110 W. 27th St., Suite 600), I'll be reading with Katie Kitamura, author of The Longshot and the new novel Gone to the Forest. More details to follow.

¶ The following evening (Friday 9/28 at 7 p.m.) I'll be talking to Antoine Wilson about his new novel, Panorama City, at McNally Jackson (52 Prince St.).

Reading on June 13 in Washington Heights!


PERSONAL DAYS, DESPERATE NIGHTS: A Reading with Ed Park, Jon Michaud, S. J. Rozan, and S. A. Solomon A reading with Ed Park, author of the multi-award-winning novel Personal Daysand the founding editor of the Believer; Jon Michaud, author of When Tito Loved Clara (set in Inwood and named as Barnes & Noble Review’s Year’s Best Reading 2011); S. J. Rozan, editor of Bronx Noir; and S. A. Solomon, contributor to New Jersey Noir. Click here for more info.



Paul La Farge reviews Sergio de la Pava's tremendous new novel A Naked Singularity for the Barnes & Noble Review—and slips in a nice reference to Personal Days:

De la Pava has been compared to the novelist William Gaddis, a great renderer of American speech in all its odd registers, and the comparison isn't inapt: the comma-free prose of A Naked Singularity feels almost embarrassingly contemporary, as if we were watching a new literary norm hatch from its egg. De la Pava's long courtroom scenes, told mostly in dialogue, also recall Gaddis's comic novel A Frolic of His Own, except that where Gaddis entertained the reader with the absurdity of civil procedure (my favorite instance of this being the lawsuit brought by the Episcopal Church against the Pepsi-Cola Corporation for trademark infringement, on the grounds that "Pepsi-Cola" is an anagram of "Episcopal"), Casi's story vibrates with grim intensity. Years and lives are on the line; one of the things A Naked Singularity captures best is Casi's perpetual overcommitment, his impossible attempt to do right by too many people who, too much of the time, can't do right by themselves. There are a number of good novels about work (Ed Park's Personal Days, for example) but not so many about overwork, and this is one of them.
The sidebar has links to de la Pava's novel, Gaddis's A Frolic of His Own, Infinite Jest, and PD. Heyyy—I'll take it!™

Post-Fordist Office Drudgery


From Anton Steinpilz's "First-Person Corporate," in The New Inquiry:

It might be, however, that Tretyakov’s biography of the object was an idea whose time had not yet come and may now only be just arriving. Specifically needed was development in the direction of what has come to be termed “post-Fordist” relations of production, in which value inheres no longer in goods primarily but in information and services. Within such relations, labor becomes immaterial, and Tretyakov’s conveyor belt doesn’t so much disappear as attenuate and ramify, becoming more a mediating trope than a real mechanism. In the novel
Personal Days (2008), author Ed Park offers a spirited send-up of postmillennial, post-Fordist office drudgery. The final section consists of an enormous e-mail composed on a laptop by a character named Jonah while he is trapped in an elevator. The correspondence, addressed to a former colleague of Jonah’s named Pru, ends with this arresting observation:

You said yourself, once, waiting for stuff by the asthmatic printer, that the office generates at least one book, no, one novel every day, in the form of correspondence and memos and reports, all the reams of numbers, hundreds of sentences, thousands of words, but no one has the mind to understand it, no one has the eyes to take it all in, all these potential epics, War and Peace lying in between the lines [...]

Here Park manages to articulate a narrative point of view you might call first-person corporate — which, incidentally, he marshals throughout the whole of
Personal Days to great effect, giving new impetus and texture to Dilbertian anomie. The resonances with Tretyakov’s biography of the object are obvious; but whereas Tretyakov points toward overcoming workers’ alienation, Park simply characterizes such alienation in terms consistent with 21st-century work life. Tretyakov imagines a novel without a hero. Park imagines one without a reader.

Two readings, April 23 & 25, in NYC!


In a couple weeks, I'll be reading twice—

1) On Monday, April 23, at 7 p.m., I'll be appearing at the First Person Plural series at Shrine World Music Venue (2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., near 134th St.), along with Tiphanie Yanique (HOW TO ESCAPE FROM A LEPER COLONY) and the playwright Bathsheba Doran (KIN). More info here, and good directions here.

2) And on Wednesday, April 25, at 6:30—a mere two nights later!—I'll join Hannah Tinti and David Rakoff for Columbia Magazine's second annual LIT night. It's at the Columbia Alumni Center, 622 113th St. (between Broadway and Riverside). (Click above for free reservations.)

I plan on reading new material—we'll see how that goes. It might be old material. It might be rarities. It's a mystery at this point!

Almost mysticism


Ben Godby gets attacked by books, including Personal Days—fortunately, he doesn't mind:

"Personal Days" by Ed Park: This book was laugh-out-loud funny, but also incredibly insightful into the office-worker experience. There's something really dirty about insights into the experience of working in an office, like it's something we all know we shouldn't be doing even though we're doing it, but that's just that and let's live with it and laugh along with Ed Park. The story is told in various parts, at first in a sort of royal-we of a particular team in a company that is being re-structured into non-existence, then as a sort of legal document showing snippets of silliness as the team collapses, and finally in an enormous essay written by one of the team members that lacks a period key on his keyboard about how he uncovered a certain mystery in the office. There's a lot of almost mysticism in this book: the people that leave the office sort of die, or sort of come back as weird mutated versions of themselves. Amazingly good.

Readings? Readings!


I'll be reading twice this spring:

1. On April 23 at 7 p.m., I'll be joining Bathsheba Doran and Tiphanie Yanique for the First Person Plural series at Shrine (2271 Adam Clayton Blvd.) More info here.

2. A few days later I will be somewhere else, I think around the Columbia campus—details soon!

"The Golden Path"


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Chipchase and Maltravers


At the National Book Critics Circle blog, the one and only Damion Searls not only said nice things about Personal Days, but mentioned it in the same breath as a book by one of my heroes, Anthony Powell. The question: What's your favorite comic novel? (Over to you, D.S.)

Can I name two? Anthony (Dance to the Music of Time) Powell's little-known third novel, Agents and Patients, is hilarious: rogue Freudian screenwriter-adventurers Chipchase and Maltravers try to take dim, well-intentioned, wealthy Blore-Smith of everything he's got. Somebody get this book back into print!

But only humor of your own moment can touch you to the core. The funniest book I've read from the past ten less-than-hilarious years--both deeply moving and literally-laugh-out-loud-in-public funny--is Ed Park's Personal Days, an office dystopia fizzing with formal and verbal energy.

Spinal column



Both images from We Pitched a Tent at Night:


Panel this Thursday (6/16) in NYC; Post45 piece on PD


How to get your book published: From Writing a Query Letter to Signing a Contract
Thursday, June 16, 2011, 7PM

Are you a recent MFA graduate trying to figure out how to turn your manuscript into a novel? Or a a journalist who dreams of publishing the next Maximum City? Or maybe you're writing short stories on the side and looking to craft a collection.

At whatever stage you may be, these prominent writers, esteemed editors, and ace agents will walk you through the process of getting your book published. From rising above the slush pile to choosing an agent, Juliet Grames (Senior Editor at Soho Press), Kirby Kim (William Morris Endeavor agent), Wendy Lee (author of Happy Family and editor at HarperCollins), Ed Park (author of Personal Days and editor of The Believer), Zohra Saed (editor at UpSet Press), and Monique Truong (author of The Book of Salt and Bitter in the Mouth) will share their insights, experience, and expertise. Jin Auh (The Wylie Agency) will moderate the panel discussion and Q&A session.

The Asian American Writers' Workshop is at 110-112 West 27th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), 6th Floor, Buzzer 600


"The fact that the reader is not told the race of most of the characters in the novel, even after letting it slip that some are black or Asian, disrupts the assumption that, if one does not know the race of a character in a novel, then he or she is probably white...."

—from Min-Hyoung Song's "Race and Racelessness in Personal Days," at the Post45 website.

Sloane Crosley and Ed in conversation


I'll be talking to Sloane Crosley tonight at 7 at McNally Jackson (52 Prince St.)—more info here! Sloane's second book, How Did You Get This Number, is just out in paperback.

April doings


File under "!": The great Arthur Phillips on Personal Days, at the Barnes & Noble Review:

"Another debut. In one of those odd burps of culture, 2007-8 produced two novels about office politics and sociology written in the first person plural, Personal Days and And Then We Came to the End. Park's book is the less well-known, but very undeservedly. It is extremely funny, dead-on in its descriptions of slacker work ethics and corporate compromise. And, then, out of nowhere, it's somehow very moving, showing how youth's fragile idealism can shatter under the weight of bad decisions and economics."


I'll be reading this Tuesday (4/12) at the Believer edition of KGB's "True Story" night, with Deb Olin Unferth, author of the memoir Revolution. Doors at 7.

Chair + readings


(Photo from Jessica)


On April 12, I'll be reading at KGB's "True Story" night with Deb Olin Unferth—she'll be reading from her wonderful new memoir, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, while I'll be reading from...uh...I'll figure something out. (Maybe this?) More here.


On May 4, I'll be in conversation with...Sloane Crosley! We'll be yapping it up at McNally Jackson, on the occasion of the paperback release of her second essay collection, How Did You Get This Number.

Elevator pitch


Number of people trapped in elevators, 2010

Manhattan User's Guide

Annals of staplerdom


• You know, we were about to deduct points for the fact that Stefano Tonchi’s assistant wouldn’t have her own stapler, but then we realized that in our offices, we are constantly looking for staplers.Plus 2. Seriously, only Grub Street Dan has one, and sometimes it’s difficult to find it even on his desk, as it is constantly covered in an avalanche of free booze and graft. It is good to be Grub Street Dan. Swag and a stapler.
New York's Daily Intel

Pretend ductwork


Around his plant-strewn work cubicle, low whirring air sounds emanated from speakers in the floor, meant to mimic the whoosh of conventional heating and air-conditioning systems, neither of which his 222,000-square-foot office building has, or needs, even here at 5,300 feet elevation. The generic white noise of pretend ductwork is purely for background and workplace psychology— managers found that workers needed something more than silence.
—"Soaking Up the Sun to Squeeze, NYT

"Living & Writing New York" — a reading at Fordham this Tuesday 2/8


I'll be reading and participating in a panel on February 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Fordham (the Lincoln Center campus, in Manhattan). The topic is "Living & Writing New York." I'm not sure what I'll read!

The other writers are Arthur Phillips, Mary Elizabeth Williams, and Jim Dwyer.

Rather complex directions here. It's in the 12th floor lounge at 113 W. 60th St.

Open City #30 — reading and party


The new issue of Open City has a story of mine—I'll be reading (with Alissa Quart) at the party around 8 tonight. It's at The Magician, 118 Rivington (Essex/Norfolk). $15 gets you open bar and a copy of the issue (which also features one of my favorite novelists of yore, Louis B. Jones)...

Reminder! SWEET: Actors Reading Writers (12/2)


This Thursday (12/2) at 7:30 p.m. at Three of Cups (83 First Ave. @ 5th St.), come listen to actress Joya Mia Italiano reading from Personal Days!

Other performers will do dramatic readings of work by Sonya Chung, Jonathan Dixon, poet Maya Pindyck, and the one and only Amanda Filipacchi, whose Love Creeps is one of my favorite comic novels.

(Here's the Facebook page for Sweet: Actors Reading Writers. And here's the same information configured slightly differently on my glorious webpage.)