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Overview

Frank has been in a serious car accident and he’s missing memories—of the people around him, of the history they share, and of how he came to be in the crash. All he remembers is that he is a lawyer who specializes in fine print, and as he narrates his story, he applies this expertise in the form of footnotes.*

Everyone keeps telling Frank that he was fine before the accident, “just a bit overwhelmed,” but as he begins to reclaim his memories, they don’t quite jibe with what ...

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Terms & Conditions

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Overview

Frank has been in a serious car accident and he’s missing memories—of the people around him, of the history they share, and of how he came to be in the crash. All he remembers is that he is a lawyer who specializes in fine print, and as he narrates his story, he applies this expertise in the form of footnotes.*

Everyone keeps telling Frank that he was fine before the accident, “just a bit overwhelmed,” but as he begins to reclaim his memories, they don’t quite jibe with what everyone is telling him. His odious brother Oscar is intent on going into business with an inventively cruel corporation.** Alice, Frank’s wife, isn’t at all like the woman he fell in love with. She’s written a book called Executive X that makes Frank furious, though he isn’t sure why. And to make matters even stranger, stored in a closet is a severed finger floating in an old mustard jar that makes him feel very, very proud.

As more memories flood in, Frank’s tightly regulated life begins to unspool as he is forced to face up to the real terms*** and the condition of his life.**** Robert Glancy’s debut novel is a shrewd and hilarious exploration of freedom and frustration, success and second chances, and whether it’s worth living by the rules.

* Yes, exactly like this.

** We can't tell you what it’s called for legal reasons, but believe us, it’s evil.

*** Which are rarely in his favor.

**** Which is a total mess.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 03/01/2014
Glossing over the fine print can cost you, as Frank, a lawyer specializing in just such fine print, reminds us in this very funny debut novel. Written in the form of a contract, each brief section covering some part of Frank's memories as he tries to put his life back in order after an accident (why does he hate his wife's book so much?; what is with the cute barista?; and what is with that finger floating in the mustard jar?), the work wittily explores the little moments that add up to disappointment and regret. The plot is fairly easy to piece together, but it is the getting there, going through the fine print of Frank's brain, as it were, that is all the fun. The footnotes throughout the work are a highlight and should not be skimmed over. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of bleak humor.—Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/03/2014
Frank Shaw wakes in a hospital bed with amnesia, unable to remember his family, his job, or the car accident that landed him there, in Glancy’s debut novel, a clever office send-up that depicts one man questioning (quite literally) who he is, and who he wants to be. Frank’s memory does slowly return: he’s a lawyer in a London-based family-owned firm, living with his corporate-career-climbing wife, Alice. But as the story progresses, Frank begins to doubt whether everything is as it seems. There’s a secret new group within his firm that resides behind a door no one else seems to see. Alice made her name by writing a bestselling business book, but the mere sight of it makes Frank furious. And why does he have such a fondness for the children’s figurine with detachable organs that he found in the closet at home? Replete with obsessive footnoting, wry observation, and e-mails from Frank’s globe-trotting brother, the book follows Frank’s struggle to become the person he wants to be (whomever that is) and is a remarkably fun read. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Frank sorts through the “terms and conditions” of his life in agonizing, comic detail, mingling fantasy and reality . . . . The format (emails and obsessive footnotes) is entertaining, and the author’s insights into the predatory aspects of human behavior are spot on." —New York Times

 

"A clever office send-up that depicts one man questioning (quite literally) who he is, and who he wants to be . . . . A remarkably fun read." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

"Hilarious . . . . An original office comedy that dots all the I’s and crosses all the T’s: Think a dash of Office Space, a pinch of Palahniuk and a glance at Regarding Henry." —Kirkus Reviews

 

“Carefully plotted, fresh and amusing . . . . Frank, himself, is wryly funny and likeable, so much so that when he eventually exacts his delightful and appropriate revenge you feel like cheering.” —Midwest Book Review

 

“Delivered with a profusion of witty quips and tongue-in-cheek footnotes, Glancy’s first novel is written with a wry humor that belies the poignant life lessons within.” —Booklist

 

“Original, very funny and very poignant. Read it!” —Paul Torday, author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

 

"An extravagant treat of an office novel, for fans of Memento and The Mezzanine. I loved it." —Ed Park, author of Personal Days

 

“It’s wonderful. Funny, poignant, simple and profound – it’s the kind of book I absolutely love. And it has the best ending I’ve read in a very long time.” —Gavin Extence, author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods

 

“This great debut feels fresh and playful, and exceptionally readable (footnotes have never been so addictive). Every book seems to have ‘funny and life-affirming’ written on it but this one actually is.” —Matt Haig, author of The Humans

 

"Very funny . . . . the work wittily explores the little moments that add up to disappointment and regret . . . . VERDICT Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-23
A contract lawyer with a traumatic brain injury tries to decide whether to piece together the shattered fragments of his old life or simply start a new one from scratch. It's a lot funnier than it sounds. New Zealand–based public-relations director Glancy pulls off a terrific bit of comic timing in this debut novel about a lawyer who teaches all the scoundrels in his life to read the fine print. Franklyn Shaw is a lawyer who has recently suffered a horrific car accident that has led to traumatic synesthesia and selective amnesia. "The accident had smashed my separately labelled jars—Sad, Happy, Mad—into a sloshing chaos of wild fluids," he tells us. "I wanted to laugh, cry and scream all at once, all the time." To maintain control over his mixed-up life, Shaw meticulously footnotes his observations throughout the book, and they're hilarious, relating which incidents were merely fantasies and not real or making admissions about bitter criticisms he claims not to mean. We meet Franklyn's wife, Alice, a once soft-bodied writer who has become a supersevere careerist. Franklyn saves much of his scorn for his older brother, Oscar, who holds the reins at the family law firm and makes a sport out of scorning Franklyn. His little brother, Malc, retains Franklyn's affections, but we only know him from email missives relating his backpacking adventures overseas. Franklyn's only real supporter is Doug, a Zen-minded statistician who may be the only person willing to tell him the real truth about how happy Old Frank really was in the first place. As Franklyn starts remembering things and connecting the dots about his lonely life, he begins assembling an act of rebellion that will find readers rooting for this unusual protagonist to make a clean getaway. An original office comedy that dots all the I's and crosses all the T's: Think a dash of Office Space, a pinch of Palahniuk and a glance at Regarding Henry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620406441
  • Publisher: BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 262,007
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Robert Glancy was born in Zambia and raised in Malawi. At fourteen he moved from Africa to Edinburgh, then went on to study history at Cambridge. By day he works in PR and by night he writes. He currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his wife and children.

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Read an Excerpt

Terms & CONDITIONS

A Novel


By ROBERT GLANCY

BLOOMSBURY

Copyright © 2014 Robert Glancy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62040-643-4


CHAPTER 1

CONDITION I

AMNESIA


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF TRAGEDY

If some strange and terrible thing happens to you — that's tragedy.

If some strange and terrible thing happens to someone else — that's just entertainment.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF ME

I'm not the man I used to be.

I awoke to people — who professed to be my family — telling me I was going to be fine.

How can I be fine? I've no idea who the hell you people are!

They tried to outrun the truth, to smother reality with hope, by chanting, You're fine, Franklyn, absolutely fine!

Watching my forgotten family I realised that denial is like running on a treadmill with the monstrous thing you're denying waiting for you to tire, fall, and shoot back into its hairy hands. But I knew the truth — I was far from fine. The monster had me. And for a time I lay in its dark silent embrace. When I did talk, it only made matters worse.

'Who are you people?' I asked.

One of them replied, 'I'm your wife, remember?'

My second question really put a stop to them saying I was fine.

'And who am I?'

With so few clues as to who I was, it was hard to be me. I wanted to say something to assure everyone that I was the same old Frank and that everything was fine. (But I wasn't and it wasn't.) And I certainly knew when I said something wrong. Their faces leaked little rivers of worry and they'd look at me askance, as if I'd fallen out of focus, as if I'd said something unsuitable. Which was exactly the problem: I no longer suited myself. (Failure to fulfil a contract is called impossibility of performance and that was my trouble — I kept saying things pre-crash Frank wouldn't say.) The only thing I remembered for sure was that before the crash people just called me Frank. But after it they reverted to using my full name — Franklyn. I lost a personality but gained a syllable.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF SENSES

Mine no longer made sense.


When I saw my face I didn't recognise myself. The mirror reflected a pulped stranger: bloated eyes adrift in blood, shattered fence of teeth, gross mushroomed cheeks. And my new world wasn't much prettier either. It was a place wedged with warnings. Machines released shrill cries calling forth fast-moving medics. Signs on floors shouted, Slippery When Wet! Screams rose from distant corridors only to be snuffed out. My drugs came with lists of warnings as long as Russian novels. A red button declared, Press in Emergency!

My body was incessantly panicking, urging me to press the button all the time. Initially I did press it all the time. They disconnected it. Then I started screaming, Help, help, I cant remember who I am! They injected drugs, which muffled my panic below a hundred blankets where no one could get to me. I wished they'd reconnect the button. I missed it.

My terror was heightened by my muddled hormones. The accident had smashed my separately labelled jars — Sad, Happy, Mad — into a sloshing chaos of wild fluids. I wanted to laugh, cry and scream all at once, all the time. Also, the nerves that once ran along separate pipes to my ears, eyes, nose and mouth were plaited into a confused braid. So I saw green and tasted fish, heard screaming and saw blue, smelt cheese and heard music.

Dr Mills assured me that this synaesthesia was simply my brain's attempt to find new ways back to old memories. My sense and sensibilities were so scrambled that when Dr Mills drank a coffee I saw the steam rise like a deep bass note vibrating my tangled senses and triggering a feeling, a deeply embarrassing feeling — a crush. As I listened to Dr Mills' coffee, I realised that feelings are stickier than memories.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF COFFEE

Its taste never lives up to the promise of its aroma.


This sticky, curly, embarrassing feeling — this silly crush — snagged my first real memory. I remembered that I hated coffee but I was madly in love with the coffee lady from the café in our office block. Her chocolate-brown hair poured down her face and her bosom was forever rising up towards me. I recalled spending many hours trying to think of witty, interesting things to say to her.

This one time, when it was just the two of us in the café, I said to my beautiful barista, 'Your coffees are amazing.'

She smiled. Her lips don't thin when she smiles, they fatten, and as she frothed the milk, a speck flew up and landed on her breast. It was right then that I decided to do the most impulsive thing I've ever done in my safe little life — I leant across the counter and wiped the speck away. She looked as if she was about to slap me, I flinched, she grabbed my head, pulling my face to within a whisper of hers, and in the flustered moment she covered me with espresso kisses, her breath warm, rich, full of love, her body bending towards me as her breasts ...


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF MY WIFE

Alice is my wife — allegedly.


My alleged wife, like many of my visitors, seemed very nervous when she came to see me.

Why? Were they worried I wouldn't recognise them? Maybe they were hopeful they'd be that special person — the key — the one whose mere presence would miraculously unlock me? Or was it that people were nervous because I'd been a complete bastard?

Was Old Frank a real twat?

I discovered early on that no one would tell me what I had really been like. When I asked my wife, she offered only the vaguest sentences; words that could have described a billion other people: 'You were, are ... a nice chap and funny, really driven and ...'

It was like that awful 'Personal Section' in curriculum vitaes — my CV personality. So I accepted that I was the only one who could really discover who I once was — I knew no one would ever tell me the unvarnished truth.

But my nervous wife did drop some clues which made me realise that my memory wasn't entirely deleted. (Where my short-term memory was a burnt-out office, some long-term memories were safely backed up in a warehouse far away.) So when my wife told me I had a brother called Malcolm, two words bobbed from my amnesiac soup and I shouted triumphantly, 'Fuck this!'

She laughed, 'That's right. Malcolm liked saying that. We've tried to track Malcolm down, but he's off travelling, God knows where ...'

My wife kept talking but I wasn't listening: I was, for a moment, mesmerised by my own hand and I could only really focus on one thing at a time. (My concentration was the most under-staffed department of my broken brain; it was just one guy frantically adding to an endless To Do list unspooling behind him like toilet roll.)

'... you listening, cotton-brain?' she said, but winced at what a bad thing that was to say to a brain-damaged person. 'Oscar? Your older brother? Remember? Oscar? Tall ... He's um ...' As I watched her strain to describe Oscar, I realised that people knew friends and family so well that they didn't really see them any more. (Everyone becomes invisible.)

I, on the other hand, was overpowered by details. My blurred vision meant that features shot out of people's faces like caricatures — Dr Mills' bald head; Alice's black bob — but what I lacked was the glue to stick the right feature to the right person. So in my woozy underworld Dr Mills appeared with Alice's black bob, or Alice with Dr Mills' bulbous nose hanging grotesquely off her face. (Legally, confusion of goods describes a situation in which the property of two persons becomes inseparably mixed — I suffered confusion of features.)

I must have flicked in and out of sleep because Oscar was suddenly there, sitting stiffly beside my wife, as if he'd popped out of thin air, or in his case fat air, as — it turned out — he was an extraordinarily large man. The two of them were tense, sitting in silence, one fat, one slim, both watching me. I noticed that they never talked to each other directly and I sensed that they hated one another.

Oscar had a bag of plums, and he said, 'Franklyn, having another snooze, eh? Brought you these. People always bring grapes. I upped it, brought you plums. Basically giant grapes.'

And a rancid green smell oozed from somewhere.

Oscar picked the price sticker off a plum and rolled it around his fingers. I took a plum and admired it: taut skin marbled with thin crimson veins running deep into the dark flesh within — this perfect design overwhelmed me and I said, 'Can you believe this?' to which Oscar, still staring at the price sticker, barked, 'I know! £2 for a few plums! It's daylight fucking robbery!'

I must have looked confused, because Alice and Oscar realised I wasn't talking about the price. They laughed hard and loud, forcing the tension around us into temporary submission.

My wife said, 'That was so funny, Franklyn.'

As the laughter faded — and the tension regained its hold — I became overpowered by the foul green smell. Oscar looked at me hard as if expecting me to say something. He was ill at ease. I smiled; my shattered teeth sparked a licker of disgust on Oscar's face as he said, 'Do you remember much about your little episode, Franklyn?'

Little episode!

My wife's hand shot across the divide between them and grabbed Oscar's knee. He jumped a little.

'What do you mean?' I said. 'What little episode? I was told I was in a car accident.'

My wife smiled — her hand released Oscar's knee and the gap between them flared bright — when she said, 'Nothing, nothing, nothing at all, Franklyn. You were rather tired ... stressed and tired, before your crash, that's all ...'

But the sharp silence that followed — which I saw as a violet scream — suggested they were hiding something from me. Exhausted by my sensory cocktail I lay back and stared up at the white ceiling. The violet scream faded, the green stench paled, and I sank into a colourless sleep.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF THE SPLEEN

You can live without it but it makes life just a little bit harder.


Mornings began with Dr Mills giving me an update on my condition. It was almost comical — were it not tragic — the way he sat with his glasses hanging of the end of his nose detailing my grim anatomical itinerary.

'So, Mr Shaw, your bones are healing well, ribs are still loose but they'll heal, both your collar bones remain fractured. The amnesia we shall be monitoring very closely. Blood pressure is stabilising but your panic attacks are still frequent. And, finally, I'm sorry that we failed to mention this to you after the accident, it was a clerical error, and we should really have told you earlier, but I have to tell you now,' and he leaned in slowly as if about to confess something terrible and said in a solemn tone, 'you can live without it, so please don't panic, but we had to remove your soul as it was ruptured in the accident.'

'You removed my soul?' I squealed.

'No, no, that's not my department,' he said, smiling slightly. 'Your spleen. We had to remove your spleen, which was ruptured in the accident. Yes, as I say, it's not an essential organ. It just means you may be a little more susceptible to infection. The spleen is a very clever little additional filter but if you have a healthy lifestyle you can survive without it. No problem at all. In fact, history shows that many great men have survived, and even thrived, without their spleens ...'

He left the sentence hanging, so I smiled, waiting for him to list some of the great men who had thrived without their spleens, but Dr Mills merely snapped shut the file and walked of to his next patient.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF MALCOLM

He was nowhere to be seen.


My wife visited, dropped off my laptop, and opened my personal email account in order to help spark my memory. I dug into my past. It was an embarrassingly shallow excavation. It seems I didn't suffer an abundance of friends. In fact, besides spam mail, the only consistent communication was from my younger brother, Malcolm, and from his sparse correspondence it was clear he was often of the grid. But his emails made me love him instantly.

From: fuckthis@hotmail.com
To: franklynmydear@hotmail.com
Subject: A Greek Tragedy

Frank — hi!

Ended up on a Greek train platform with a Scottish vagrant last night. Missed the train and we were locked in the station.

Before he fell asleep his exact words were, Don't worry, pal, I'm no thief — I'm just a wee bit of a murderer

He actually said that then fell asleep, leaving me bolt upright.

Eventually exhaustion came to collect me and I fell asleep too.

Luckily — he turned out to be a liar.

When I woke up he'd stolen everything including the sleeping bag I'd been in. Phew!

Love and lies, Malc

PS Saw this on a sticker today: The heart is a blind, hopeful organ, beating patiently, craving excitement and love. If you only feed it solitude and fear, one day it will give up on you.


TERMS & CONDITIONS OF HAPPINESS

Hysteria is just a hop away from happiness.


By the time I returned home my vivid panic had downgraded to anxious elation. I felt like a spy watching a stranger's life. And, man, what a life! My wife: beautiful. The flat: amazing. It's odd what you remember. I remembered exactly where the teaspoons were kept, but I still had no idea how I used to feel about this woman who was my wife. She seemed nice, though, and quite sexy. (The only thing was, she was always watching me.)

Time and dental work had deflated my face to its original size, my eyes cleared, and all that remained was a scar on my forehead that I covered with my fringe. My senses had divorced and were independent again. And my memory was returning like the reconnection of a thousand torn fibres, an itch on your nose when your hands are occupied, screaming, scratch me, scratch me. I was still dopey due to the wide spectrum of anti-psychotics and painkillers but by the time I arrived home I was so happy I thought I might burst. They say that people who walk away from near-death experiences are filled with overwhelming joy. What they don't tell you is that the feeling is finite. It fades. Mine faded fast.

After a few drifting days, the first strange thing I noted about my life was that I was so completely absent from it. Like a murder scene in which someone had cleaned up all evidence of me. Was I one of those people who simply floated through life without leaving a mark? The lat was very feminine, with its white walls and profusion of cushions. So few clues. My clothes were generic, I had an ancient wind-up watch, and most of my books were about contract law. I looked around and thought, Where the hell am I in all of this?

When my wife went to work I became a drowsy detective in search of myself. Under the bed I found a box. As I opened it my heart beat hard like I was about to uncover my memory, as if one simple object in this box would unblock my amnesia dam, cause a flood, and I'd drown in me. I was sorely disappointed: inside were contracts, just random ones about employment or insurance. I skimmed through them.

I did, however, know I was doing well when I, New Franklyn, spotted something Old Frank must have missed. Within the fine print of one contract was a mistake: Term results in detriment — non omnis moriar — to the promisee. Now I know that Non omnis moriar sounds like a legal term, and it slips past the eye easily. But I knew the phrase was wrong. It has no legal basis.

I threw the contracts back, pushed the box under the bed, then worked my way through the bookshelf where I found a book called Executive X. I was a bit surprised to see my wife had written it. There was a picture of her on the back looking a touch younger. The front cover image was a giant X wearing a black tie. It was a book that described a man, an executive, and for all its corporate gibberish, I could only deduce that this guy, Executive X, was a complete tosser. It was a book about how to evaluate personalities, full of asinine questions like: Meeting someone new — a pleasure or a pain? After reading a few pages, my hand began to shake and, before I knew what was happening, I was throwing the book against the wall and then — as if in a dream, watching myself — I was stomping on it, again and again and again, until dizziness overpowered me.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Terms & CONDITIONS by ROBERT GLANCY. Copyright © 2014 Robert Glancy. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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