The Office: A Hardworking History
by Gideon Haigh
Miegunyah Press, $45 pb, 622 pp, 9780522855562
What two things do the following people have in common: Samuel Pepys, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Émile Zola, Franz Kafka, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy L. Sayers, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gabriel García Márquez? Answer: they all did office work, and they all wrote about it. Regardless of Kafka’s conviction that ‘writing and the office cannot be reconciled’, the evidence is that the office breeds writing like nowhere else. From the Restoration period to the present, all the great themes of modernity seem to coalesce around it.