London and the South-east by David Szalay

London and the South-east

David Szalay

According to the blurb, the realm of work is neglected in British fiction – and this is what makes this book for me, along with some beautiful descriptions and a strangely endearing but bumbling main character. At times, Paul’s paranoid and naïve ramblings can be a bit confusing and infuriating as they slow the story down, but don’t let this spoil your enjoyment, when the story gets going it is engaging and interesting. In the end his realisation that ‘a man is his job’ is the premise which carries the book and his exploits in the worlds of salesman, gardener, street-cleaner and shelf-stacker are both humorous and charming.

Extract

He does not fully understand it himself. It is a job that has served him well, more or less, on and off, for over fifteen years. It is all he knows, the only thing on his CV ... He is a salesman - 'a man is his job'. And it is his job. Yes, he is tired of it. And yes, there is the hypocrisy of being an advertising salesman whose interior monologue increasingly fulminates against advertising wwhenever he sees it. And yes, lately he has not being doing well. Lawrence had been losing patience with him. And not without reason. These ups and downs, though, are simply part of what it is. He knows that he could walk into any of the major comission-only outfits ... and just start working. Sit down at a desk and pick up the phone. The new scenery would probably freshen him up, and the sales would be there. He would make money. So why not? Why is there such an immovable bar of opposition to it in his mind? And there is. He himself is surprised at the strength of it.

Parallels
  • Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About by Mill Millington
  • The We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
  • Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet