Temping

Overview

Temping is about a no-longer-so-young man who is a temporary secretary, then returns to graduate school, and gets a job teaching the theory of humor--in Finland, where he also manages a circus. The book opens in Seattle and encompasses Hong Kong, France and Finland. It has a love story, rivalries between the hero and other academics, religious ecstacy and several attempted murders. Its characters include Finland's saddest poet, an evil dwarf who is both circus performer and a senior Professor of the Comic, and a ...
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Overview

Temping is about a no-longer-so-young man who is a temporary secretary, then returns to graduate school, and gets a job teaching the theory of humor--in Finland, where he also manages a circus. The book opens in Seattle and encompasses Hong Kong, France and Finland. It has a love story, rivalries between the hero and other academics, religious ecstacy and several attempted murders. Its characters include Finland's saddest poet, an evil dwarf who is both circus performer and a senior Professor of the Comic, and a beautiful, young, blonde acrobat. Temping is a madcap take on the seriousness of life. And it has a happy ending!
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Heavy-handed satire about a disaffected man's reluctant engagement with life. Narrator Milhouse Moot has always scorned permanence. A temporary worker for ten years, most recently at the Foundation for Emotionally Troubled Peacocks, he's encouraged by his psychologist to return to graduate school. He chooses to study at the same Seattle campus where he toiled as a temp, writing his dissertation on comedy and teaching undergraduate English to pay the bills. Later, the psychologist gives him another assignment: Find a girlfriend. Moot has always eschewed relationships; during a short trip to Hong Kong, however, he spies Liisa, a former student working in a circus as a unicyclist. After returning to Seattle, Moot sets aside his vacillating ways, pursuing and eventually marrying the lovely young woman. He applies for a teaching position in Finland, where he is "to teach comic sketches in regional American comic dialects, literature of repartee in English, and a conversation course called Small Talk and Conversation Stoppers in which the emphasis was on talk show type exaggeration and blasphemy." Moot immediately runs afoul of Marcel Nations, a former circus midget who took to the academy after an unfortunate cannon accident. The two men become rivals, competing for Liisa's affections and for departmental resources. Their feud culminates in a talent competition, which Nation wins (his act includes looking up women's dresses while roller-skating and whistling Randy Newman's "Short People"). As a next move, Moot establishes a circus, hiring mentally retarded patients as clowns and Liisa's family as "historical relics": Her brother is placed in a booth titled "Youth Gone Weird," while her fathersits under a banner that reads "The Sad Poet: A Historical Relic of Finland." Though wildly successful, Moot decides to lower the Big Top and return to his family and university life in Seattle, having finally discovered permanence in his wife's love. Some funny lines, but uninspired overall.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780930773762
  • Publisher: Black Heron Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Pages: 217
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kirby Olson is an assistant professor at SUNY-Delhi, teaching philosophy, mythology, and literature. He has been a freelance writer, publishing art and literary criticism, poetry and translations from the French in Partisan Review, Exquisite Corpse, Second Coming, American Book Review, Pacific Northwest Magazine, and other journals. Temping is his first novel.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2008

    Kirby Olson's Temping

    Somehow I stumbled upon this novel. It is an entertaining read, so absurdly hilarious at times that I had tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard. There is also quite a bit of philosophical thought in this book which together with the humor is a fresh combination. The main character is an anxious loner plagued with nervousness and strange theories of life and beauty that he has developed in his solitude (seemingly as a defense mechanism), but he is also endearingly naive. Sometimes you want to shake him, other times hold him and let him cry on your shoulder. It's a relief that he finds some normalcy in the end with the family he somehow winds up being a part of. This book has some uneven and frustrating parts, not a 'masterpiece' in the traditional literary sense of the heavy, canonical novel that takes itself seriously. It's a different genre altogether, belonging in some strange underground category. If you are a fan of absurd humor and enjoy your intellect being tickled, this book will make you laugh and perhaps even your head will spin. It is straightforward and doesn't play tricks on the reader, which I so appreciate.

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