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Office Girl by Joe Meno
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Office Girl (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Joe Meno (Author), Cody Hudson (Illustrator), Todd Baxter (Photographer)

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1432083,804 (3.49)8
Member:jasbro
Title:Office Girl
Authors:Joe Meno (Author)
Other authors:Cody Hudson (Illustrator), Todd Baxter (Photographer)
Info:Akashic Books (2012), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, JFB read
Rating:***1/2
Tags:art, art school, artists, Chicago, Generation X, grafitti, hipsters, Illinois, LT Early Reviewer, performance art, ~EDT~, ~EDN~

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Office Girl by Joe Meno (Author) (2012)

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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
I really, really liked this one. Meno does a fantastic job capturing the transition between youth and adulthood, that period of life filled with uncertainty and angst while at the same time spiced with that wonderful freedom to experiment and push the boundaries of some of societies confining “norms”. Jack and Odile are the epitome of awkward young adulthood, when socially one feels spiritually devoid or at odds with familial and societies expectations, kind of like in adolescence when one is an uncoordinated mass of arms and legs during a growth spurt. Both have strong introvert tendencies which makes their stilted dialogue and emotionally restrained relationship a logical extension of their personalities. Both are drifting through a series of uninspiring jobs working the night shift taking phone orders for a company that sells instrumental music to doctor’s offices (that “Muzak” that is so annoying to listen to) that are at odds with their aspirations. Some may argue that Jack and Odile are rather flat, two-dimensional characters but I believe that Meno’s story is more an idiosyncratic artistic expression with poetic inflection than your typical character/plot driven story.

Meno brings an artsy edge to this wonderful whimsical quirky story with his two protagonists engaging in random public Situationist-like acts, like when they impersonate ghosts on a city bus or take random Polaroids of their body parts while cycling through the wintery streets of Chicago to turn into a “picture book” that is circulated throughout the neighbourhood. Weird, yes, but weird in a way that works for me as Meno is sympathetic to the frustrations his characters feel against the status quo, summed up nicely by the following quote "We're celebrating the right to be stupid, which is probably the most important right we have in this country. We're staging an impromptu performance piece." "It's jusst something, like a puzzle, for people to think about. It doesn't have some grand meaning or anything. It's just like a moment to be surprised by something. Kind of like a daydream. But something... real." Even though Odile seems to be veering towards anarchy as art, and dragging Jack along with her, she is aware of her insecurities and realizes that she needs to make a break now or she will never leave the doldrums of dead-end telemarketing jobs and by extension, “give up” and not living a life their young adventuring minds want to live. Taking that leap of faith off the precipice and into the unknown is what makes this such a great story for me. Definitely a book that will not appeal to all readers, but a wonderful read for me and closing off with my favorite quote from the book: "... there are all these moments, moments just like this one, there are all these moments, and how everyone lives their lives in these short, all-too-short moments. There are all these moments and what's so interesting, what makes them beautiful, is the fact that none of them last." ( )
  lkernagh | Mar 5, 2017 |
I loved this book, it was definitely an homage to a certain type of French cinema that really appeals to me, but I also responded to the Chicago setting. The author did a fabulous job of weaving the city into the narrative and made the everyday character of Chicago, as I see it, show through.

It's a very cinematic book; I imagined a breathy voice over set to a black and white film, much like Bande à part, and despite the tongue in cheek reference to "the film version of this book" by the author I can totally see it being made. I just hope they choose the right director. Actually I had two ex co-workers in mind as I read this and the fact that the characters in the novel moved through the same areas of the city and by the same methods as they did (when they lived here, sniff) really resonated with me. In fact my female friend ended up moving to NY so woo woo Scooby Doo etc etc.

In all honesty it probably won’t be a five star book for everyone, but it had so many appealing elements to me that I have to give it a five. Plus I didn't want it to end and, as that happens so infrequently, it is a sign.
( )
  MartynChuzz | Feb 22, 2016 |
Didn't finish it.
  Icepacklady | Jun 3, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I did not finish this book. I read about 100 pages, and then I kind of skimmed through the rest. I found it unbearably pretentious. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I thought that a book about 20-something art students would be anything else. The protagonists, Jack and Odile, meet while working at a crappy third-shift office job, and then try to start their own art movement together, one that is supposed to be a sort of anti-movement. I didn't find any of their ideas to be particularly earth-shattering, or really all that different from the other art that they sneered and scoffed at. I do wonder if perhaps that was the point? Even so, it didn't make the characters any less insufferable. Also, I don't know how I'm supposed to sympathize with a character who kicks his wife's cat as they are breaking up, and then tells her she's made him into this kind of person by leaving him. Ugh.
  BookNrrrd | Jul 1, 2014 |
I have the most difficulty writing reviews for books that fall between "just okay" and "ho hum".

Office Girl is a short novel about a romance that came and went. Most of the stuff in the middle is about Jack and Odile falling for each other while Odile subsequently tries “sticking it to the man” with her art projects. Maybe this is amusing if you’re a fan of guerrilla art, but it left me feeling indifferent. For me, most of the book falls into the realm of mediocrity, though I did find the ending to be redeeming. I don’t mean that in a snarky sense either. I really do mean the ending was perfect. It doesn’t suffer from a case of the rom-coms, where everything is pieced together and wrapped up in a pleasant little bow. It seemed realistic, and despite its bittersweet-ness, it left me feeling positive and fulfilled.

I figured Office Girl was one of those books that has to be read by a certain age so it can resonate with the reader. Kind of like Catcher in the Rye, maybe. And considering I am around the same age as the characters in the book, I figured Office Girl would be the same kind of mind-blowing amazing that was Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned back when I was in high school. Office Girl wasn’t though. Mostly I just found the characters to be kind of annoying and whiny and too angsty to be 24 years old. Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh on Jack. He was actually a pretty interesting character, but Odile was too much of a hipster for me to appreciate. She caused me to suffer eye strain as a result of massive eye rolls.

Overall,
I’m not saying I hated Office Girl. I’m not even saying I disliked the book. I just didn’t think it was as good as some of Meno’s works that I was introduced to prior. Had I not approached Office Girl with expectations, I may have enjoyed it more. Maybe not. ( )
  books_n_tea | Apr 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Meno, JoeAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baxter, ToddPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, CodyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Art does not tolerate Reason
Albert Camus

No human heart changes half as fast as a city's face.
Charles Beaudelaire

Our central idea is the construction of situations, that is to say, the concrete construction of momentary ambiences of life and their transformation into superior passional quality.
Guy Debord
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Anyway it's snowing.
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Odile is a lovely twenty-three-year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a twenty-five-year-old shirker who's most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious. Set in February 1999, just before the end of one world and the beginning of another, Office girl is the story of two people caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life.… (more)

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Akashic Books

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