In the Wall Street Journal recently, Ann Patchett wrote “recommend the books you like, even to strangers.” So I am recommending “Then We Came to the End” by Joshua Ferris. Before you buy it, let me tell you that I enjoy gallows humor. This book is about an ad agency in Chicago in the midst of a business downturn. Sound familiar? The book may resonate with its painful, incremental lay-offs and staff trying their best to keep busy and desperate to look good at their jobs.
I laughed out loud at the controversy over an office chair. When someone left the agency, his chair was appropriated. Eventually, the office manager tried to retrieve the chair but by then no one knew who actually had the original chair, given the many rounds of lay-offs. It was even funnier after I received an e-mail at work asking who had taken a former co-worker’s chair. This was followed by a second e-mail stating that the chair recently placed in her cube was a poor substitute and not the real chair. In this case, life imitates art.
Reading provides a portal into another person’s experience and enables us to “feel empathy for people we’ve never met”, as Ann Patchett so simply and elegantly stated. Empathy is needed in these difficult times as is a good laugh.