Two Fast Reads

...with surprisingly enduring flavor.

I'm a slow reader so I particularly like books that read fast. Prose that "leans forward" in a way that makes it easy to keep going. Both of these books had that quality for me, yet manage to pull off some nice social commentary and human pathos at the same time.

Personal Days, by Ed Park, is a post-Dilbert, post-Microserfs look at office culture. It's like the show The Office, except populated by people who, for the most part, understand what is happening to them. What I like best about the book is Ed Park's use of cliché phrases. You know how that first song on Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom album (Beyond Belief) strings together known phrases into something entirely bigger? Or the way Delmore Schwartz would italicize a phrase as if to show it was a saying instead of just words? Know what I'm saying? Park does this throughout his text, creating a gentle, phantom hypertext that required no further explanation. And this black comedy about downsizing brings an almost Beckett-like sense of reduction to the dwindling office.

The Rules for Hearts, a family drama, by Flytrap comics writer Sara Ryan, reads a bit like one of those young adult novels I'm so very fond of, even though its characters experience some of the kinds of sex reversals and confusion usually postponed until one's late twenties or early thirties. I hate memoirs (just because) so I depend on short novels with characters I can relate to for that necessary shot of personal narrative. Sara Ryan isn't a totally new voice, but this, her third book, still reads with that freshness of someone's first novel.