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You Look Nice Today

You Look Nice Today

by Stanley Bing

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Robert Harbert, better known as Harb, is Executive Vice President in Charge of Total Quality. CaroleAnne Winter is the assistant who runs his life. But even Harb can't ignore that CaroleAnne's behavior is increasingly peculiar. At the same time, the vagaries of corporate power shift, and suddenly, both Harb and his Total Quality mandate are vulnerable. It's at this


Robert Harbert, better known as Harb, is Executive Vice President in Charge of Total Quality. CaroleAnne Winter is the assistant who runs his life. But even Harb can't ignore that CaroleAnne's behavior is increasingly peculiar. At the same time, the vagaries of corporate power shift, and suddenly, both Harb and his Total Quality mandate are vulnerable. It's at this moment that CaroleAnne levels a stunning charge: that she has been the target of an organized campaign of sexual harassment from her first days at the company. The investigation she demands will reach to the highest levels of the corporation-and at its center, she insists, must be the greatest offender of all: Harb.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Bing's satires of the business world have the allure of inside dope, given that their pseudonymous author is also a corporate executive. His latest novel concerns one Robert (Harb) Harbert, who seems too human to last at the Global Fiduciary Trust Company: "More than one fellow officer had told him that his need to trivialize and ridicule corporate life would get the better of him one of these days." In fact, Harb's undoing is his compassion for his secretary, an apparently vulnerable creature named CarolAnne. She repays his cloying kindnesses (generous raises, a car, an apartment) with a harassment suit. The second half of the novel is a series of transcripts from the trial. Unfortunately, the courtroom animates Bing's comic gift less effectively than the daily grind of the office and the soul-smothering masquerade of being a company man.
The New York Times
… Bing is in control, a savvy decoder of the sleights and feints of co-worker interaction. — Hugo Lindgren
Publishers Weekly
With this sardonic, entertaining legal thriller about a discrimination suit brought against a high-level corporate executive by his administrative assistant, Fortune columnist Bing tells a story of sexual harassment that's not about sex. Robert Harbert, or Harb, executive vice-president of Global Corporation's Total Quality department, falls for gorgeous uber-temp of indeterminate race CaroleAnne Winters, who saves the day on an important project. Recognizing her talent, Harb hires CaroleAnne full-time, but their cordial business relationship quickly grows too cozy: Harb gets CaroleAnne a corporate apartment to help her escape an abusive husband, gives her his aging car and brings her on business trips, which include boozy late nights that stop short of physical intimacy. CaroleAnne's behavior becomes erratic, though, when her spiritual side surfaces and she begins holding prayer meetings with a companion in the company's empty offices. Her tightly wound demeanor in the office is a harbinger of trouble to come, and when Harb tries to diffuse the tension between them by offering CaroleAnne a promotion to a different department, she refuses it, quits her job and sues Harb and the firm for sexual harassment and cultural insensitivity, to the tune of $150 million. The density of detail makes for slow going early in the novel, but the account of the civil trial that follows is a riveting and often hilarious account of CaroleAnne's fabrications and the corporate legal response, with Bing exposing the ways in which seemingly ordinary problems and human foibles take on new dimensions when they hit the legal system. Though the conclusion is a bit of a letdown, this is a great read and Bing's best take to date on how people cope with the political idiosyncrasies of the buttoned-down business world. Author tour; major ad/promo. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The pseudonymous Bing, who is a CBS vice president and a columnist for Fortune magazine, returns to the themes of his first novel, Lloyd, that is, tough times in the corporate machine. Robert Harbert, head of Total Quality management for a multinational conglomerate, is a regular good guy brought low by the delusional machinations of his capable and beautiful assistant, CaroleAnne Winter. From the perspective of Fred Tell, head of human resources, the reader learns that "Harb" took CaroleAnne under his wing, protected her from domestic abuse, and rewarded her with promotions and bonuses. After a time, however, CaroleAnne begins to unravel mentally, suffering unsettling visions and seeking out empty offices in which to chant. She also discerns a hostile environment and brings suit against the corporation and Harb for sexual harassment. During the course of the ensuing trial, the reader is assured by both Tell and the facts that the relationship between CaroleAnne and Harb was never unprofessional. A more interesting story would have employed an unreliable narrator, but that would have been a more difficult novel to write. As it stands, though, the story will ring true with anyone who has had to deal with unbalanced employees. Satirical, well written, and recommended for large fiction collections.-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wry account of a sexual harassment lawsuit that's really a captivating, suspenseful love letter to American middle management, from Fortune columnist Bing, who (as CBS executive Gil Schwartz) has lived it. Beautiful, pleasant, a bit sexy, and amazingly competent CaroleAnne Winter isn't all she seems. An office temp hired at Global Fiduciary Trust, an international investment firm based in Chicago, CaroleAnne performs so well that she's immediately hired as personal assistant to Robert Harbert, the blandly inspiring, comfortably married Executive Vice President in charge of Total Quality. As Human Resources Vice President Fred Tell looks on, Harb comes to adore his new secretary. He pulls every string he can to give her raises, help her escape her abusive marriage, find a better apartment. He even gives her his old sedan so he can buy himself a new BMW. In return, CaroleAnne becomes his trusted lieutenant, setting up meetings, taking notes, even walking barefoot on his spine when his back goes out-though the relationship is perfectly chaste. Still, there's something odd about CaroleAnne: she has "prayer sessions" with another employee, and she keeps a secret notebook. Then, when a change in the economic climate causes cutbacks in Harb's department, leaving her (and her boss) with little to do, CaroleAnne suddenly hands in her resignation. Unfortunately, she's been such a good employee, no one wants to fire her. After refusing reassignment, she complains that she's been subject to relentless sexual harassment and sues Global for $150 million. Second-novelist Bing (Lloyd: What Happened, 1998) never lets us doubt that CaroleAnne is a nut case, and, as the trial proceeds, the real focus shiftsto Harb, whose life is at first destroyed and then, miraculously, reborn. CaroleAnne becomes a pathetic stand-in for all who hate big business, while Harb's astonishing transformation shows that there's more to life than unlimited expense accounts, stock options, and the cozy certainties of corporate culture. While its ending is foreordained (and a bit pat), the story succeeds marvelously in its seasoned appreciation of the many pleasures-and perils-of executive life. (See the July 15 issue of Kirkus for The Big Bing.) First printing of 50,000
"Roundly entertaining and surprisingly touching… You Look Nice Today is a comic novel with a tragic heart...A cockeyed love letter to the executive suite."
Christian Science Monitor
"What a wonderful novel to argue about and chuckle over. If there are any truly integrated book clubs in America-not just by race, but by gender and class-here's a title for discussion that will delay dessert."

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
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Barnes & Noble
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Meet the Author

Stanley Bing's books include Throwing the Elephant, What Would Machiavelli Do?, and The Big Bing, as well as the novel Lloyd: What Happened, which is currently being developed for HBO. A columnist for Fortune, he also works for a huge multinational corporation whose identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in business.

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