The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise

Overview

A long-suffering employee in a big corporation has summoned up the courage to ask for a raise. But as he runs through the coming encounter in his mind, his neuroses come to the surface: What’s the best day to see the boss? What if he doesn’t offer you a seat when you go into his office? And should you ask that tricky question about his daughter’s illness?

You can try to navigate these difficult decisions for yourself at ...

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Overview

A long-suffering employee in a big corporation has summoned up the courage to ask for a raise. But as he runs through the coming encounter in his mind, his neuroses come to the surface: What’s the best day to see the boss? What if he doesn’t offer you a seat when you go into his office? And should you ask that tricky question about his daughter’s illness?

You can try to navigate these difficult decisions for yourself at www.theartofaskingyourbossforaraise.com ... 

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is a hilarious account of an employee losing his identity—and possibly his sanity—as he tries to put on the most acceptable face for the corporate world, with its rigid hierarchies and hostility to ideas and innovation. If he follows a certain course of action, so this logic goes, he will succeed—but, in accepting these conditions, are his attempts to challenge his world of work doomed from the outset?

Neurotic and pessimistic, yet endearing, comic and never less than entertaining, Perec’s Woody Allen-esque underling presents an acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work, as pertinent today as it was when it was written in 1968.

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Editorial Reviews

Arthur
“An acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work.”
Bookforum
“A hilarious and inventive office-drone odyssey.”
City Arts
“A brilliant … conceptual, comedic novella from the writer who wrote the postmodern masterpiece Life: A User’s Manual.”
The Millions
“We readers will have to deal with the fortunate burden of clearing shelf-space for another novel by Perec this spring, with the first English translation of The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise.
Slant Magazine
“[A] terribly compelling work, one that does a great deal with very little. With his use of repetition, which also evokes a pre-set mechanism, Perec establishes a rhythm of sorts, while his subtle deviations from the pattern serve as moments of dark comedy.”
Harvard Crimson
“As a witty indictment of corporate culture and an artifact from one of the 20th century’s most bizarre literary movements, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise—as with all the works of Georges Perec—is a puzzle too absurd not to explore ... [it] will interest any reader who has ever worked in a large bureaucracy and considered himself underpaid.”
LargeheartedBoy.com
“We defy you to walk by this book and not pick it up. Perfectly packaged and immediately intriguing!”
bestdamncreativewritingblog
“[A] fun read for someone who enjoys computer programming and corporate irony, and would make a perfect gift for the office mate with a good sense of humor.”
From the Publisher
“Its wit and comedy encourage compulsive consumption.”—David O'Neill, Barnes and Noble Review

“A hilarious and inventive office-drone odyssey.”—Bookforum

“We readers will have to deal with the fortunate burden of clearing shelf-space for another novel by Perec this spring, with the first English translation of The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise.”—Most Anticipated Books of 2011, The Millions

“As a witty indictment of corporate culture and an artifact from one of the 20th century’s most bizarre literary movements, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise—as with all the works of Georges Perec—is a puzzle too absurd not to explore ... [it] will interest any reader who has ever worked in a large bureaucracy and considered himself underpaid.”—James K. McAuley, Harvard Crimson

“Perec’s novels are games, each different. They are played for real stakes and in some cases breathtakingly large ones. As games should be, and as literary games often are not, they are fun.”—Los Angeles Times

“We defy you to walk by this book and not pick it up. Perfectly packaged and immediately intriguing!”—A Largehearted WORD Book of the Week

“A brilliant ... conceptual, comedic novella from the writer who wrote the postmodern masterpiece Life: A User’s Manual.”—City Arts

“An acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work.”—Arthur

“Perec’s knack for absurdity and circumlocution ensures that each iteration is novel and urgent.”—Full Stop

“[A] fun read for someone who enjoys computer programming and corporate irony, and would make a perfect gift for the office mate with a good sense of humor.”—bestdamncreativewritingblog

“[A] terribly compelling work, one that does a great deal with very little. With his use of repetition, which also evokes a pre-set mechanism, Perec establishes a rhythm of sorts, while his subtle deviations from the pattern serve as moments of dark comedy.”—Slant Magazine

“Certainly something different, and quite enjoyable.”—Complete Review

The Barnes & Noble Review

Grizzled professional writers lucky enough to labor under an institutional umbrella may blanch at the title of the new Georges Perec book, The Art of Asking Your Boss for A Raise. One can almost hear David Brooks exclaim "A raise, now?! In this economic climate?" while to a younger generation of pajama-clad perpetual freelancers, the words boss and raise may simply not compute. But Perec has proven that working against dishearteningly steep odds can inspire a bravura performance. After all, who would've thought that an entire novel could be written without the letter "e", as Perec famously did in his playful 1969 work of fiction A Void (La Disparition)? And that it would actually be good? Such adroit hubris will serve well any Oliver Twist-like scribe audacious enough to ask his boss for more, sir.

The Art (the full title, smartly shortened by the publisher on the book's cover, is The Art and Craft of Approaching Your Head of Department to Submit a Request for a Raise) came about through a happy accident of history that seems preordained -- or at least too good to be true -- in hindsight. As translator David Bellos recounts in his introduction, in the late 1960s Jacques Perriaud of Paris's Computing Service of the Humanities Research Center endeavored "to challenge a writer to use a computer's basic mode of operation as a writing device," and Perec, then an obscure author and archivist, landed the assignment. The piece and accompanying flowchart were published in a journal devoted to "programmed learning," which hardly anyone read, and The Art became a stage and radio play before it was eventually reworked into a chapter of Perec's masterwork, Life: A User's Manual (La Vie mode d'emploi) in 1978.

The corporate world sketched in Perec's slim volume recalls the absurd bureaucratic modernism of Jacques Tati's 1967 film Playtime. Bellos relies on the word circumperambulate (not found in any dictionary, but resurrected from his boyhood Latin class) in his translation. It's a signature term that perfectly captures both the essence of this book as well as Tati's placid and circular cinemascape. As Perec writes:

[W]e advise you that in order to cope with the boredom that your monotonous pacing could easily prompt you should go have a chinwag with your colleague ms wye provided of course not only that ms wye is at her desk if she is not you would not have much of a choice save to circumperambulate the various departments which taken together constitute the whole or part of the organisation of which you are an employee unless of course of course you were to go back to your own desk to wait for more auspicious times.

Perec's punch-card prose works its way through all the possible scenarios, including a Sisyphean scene in which the protagonist "quite pointlessly circumperambulates forty-five times in a row the various departments." Perec repeatedly deploys the phrase "it's one or tother" at each branch of the narrative, and continuously blurts "for we must do our best to keep things simple" as the story becomes hopelessly convoluted. In the preface, Bellos says the book is "close to being unreadable," because Perec eschews most punctuation (aside from the occasional dash), writes in all lowercase, and "simulate[s] the speed and tireless repetitiveness of a computer."

But while the book is certainly uneventful, it is far from unreadable -- if anything its wit and comedy encourage compulsive consumption. It's probably better suited to today's audience than to a reader perusing it when it was written four decades ago, because it improbably dovetails with the monotone meanderings of the present moment's information surfeit. Reading The Art is like spending an hour or two on the Internet.

Intrepid employees bent on bettering their salaries, beware: your boss, too, may have read this volume and learned from Perec. The Art is written in a single exhalation (it appears to be one seventy-seven-page-long sentence). The narration runneth over, and the prose's mechanistic cadences often sound like the desperate bluster of a blowhard intent on buying time. Recent U.S. history has taught us that the easiest way to refuse a reasonable proposition is to filibuster: simply spout data ad nasueum until your adversary tires, circumperambulates away, and waits for more auspicious times.

--David O'Neill

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844674190
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/14/2011
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 981,863
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Georges Perec was one of the most important experimental writers of the twentieth century. His many works include the novels Life: A User’s Manual; W, Or, The Memory of Childhood; and The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise.

David Bellos is the author of a number of award-winning literary biographies and the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for translation in 2005. He lives in New Jersey and teaches French, Italian, and Comparative literature at Princeton University.

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