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A story of the horrors of office lifePerfect Tense by Michael Bracewell VintageEarly on in this novel of that oxymoron office life Bracewells nameless narrator recalls walking along with the commuter tide over London Bridge How can you not think of Eliot A crowd flowed over London Bridge so many I had not thought death had undone so many Sighs short and infrequent were exhaled And each man fixed his eyes before his feetBracewells office drone puts it this way The glare of the sunshine was so bright that I had to stare down at the pavement as I walked along Just in case we didnt get the allusion theres another nod to the gloomy banker-poet later on The air in the office dries out my eyes and I measure out my life with OptrexLet me make it clear that I am not accusing Bracewell of lack of imagination Lets blame the nature of white-collar employment as devised by 20th-century capitalism For Eliot and I hope Bracewell too are going to stand because they have caught precisely the horror of this kind of existenceOn that day on London Bridge our hero actually tries to buck the anomie by throwing a sickie He discovers that the exhilaration of the decision to do so far outweighs the reality of the rest of his day So now we find him a decade and a half later just the wrong side of forty working as one of those general wastes of space you find in offices Having done my stint in a place very much like that I can warmly testify to the feelings of inadequacy panic and emptiness he so accurately evokesAnd anyone with anything approaching a soul who has worked in a bureaucracy for more than five minutes who has let their mind wander in reverie the instant they have sat down in a meeting who has wondered what the hell they are doing
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