Subject: What They're Saying
Sender: Pru


Finalist, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award

Finalist, Asian American Literary Award

Finalist, John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice



  • One of the "Top 20 Beach Reads" —Time Out New York  

  • A “Great Beach Read” —People StyleWatch

  • Paperback Page-Turners: What every chick should have in her beach bag: “If you think Pam and Jim have it bad, try spending a day with Lizzie, Jonah, and Pru at their Office-like company. You'll laugh, cringe, and thank God you don't work there.” —Cosmopolitan

  • “Looking for a guaranteed summer read? Look no further. Personal Days is Friends meets The Office...” —National Post


2008: The debut novel from the editor of The Believer captured the precise moment in U.S. office culture before everybody got fired. Cleverer than Office Space, shorter than Then We Came To The End, this excellent little book sits gloating atop the ash-heap of corporate history. —James Parker, The Atlantic



It's a quirk of modern fiction that a lot of the people who read it work in offices, but very few of the people in it do....Personal Days takes a step toward correcting the imbalance. Set within the confines of a nameless, failing white-collar business, it chronicles the company's increasingly intense, intricate office culture, which gets more and more ingrown and self-referential and radioactive with each layoff. "It's possible we can't stand each other," says the novel's first-person-plural narrator, "but at this point we're helpless in the company of outsiders." This is a book that gets frighteningly truer month after month. Somehow it also remains just as funny. —Lev Grossman, Time

Witty and appealing....Anyone who has ever groaned to hear ‘impact’ used as a verb will cheer as Park skewers the avatars of corporate speak, hellbent on debasing the language....Park has written what one of his characters calls ‘a layoff narrative’ for our times. As the economy continues its free fall, Park’s book may serve as a handy guide for navigating unemployment and uncertainty. Does anyone who isn’t a journalist think there can’t be two books on the same subject at the same time? We need as many as we can get right now.”

—Mark Sarvas, The New York Times Book Review

“Hilarity...satire...a little bit of mystery.” —Richard Russo, Morning Edition, NPR

“I laughed until they put me in a mental hospital. But Personal Days is so much more than satire. Underneath Park's masterly portrait of wasted workaday lives is a pulsating heart, and an odd buoyant hope.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan


This comic and creepy début novel takes place in a Manhattan office depopulated by “the Firings,” where one can “wander vast tracts of lunar workscape before seeing a window.” The downsized staff huddle like the crew of a doomed spaceship, picked off one by one by an invisible predator. Crippled by computer crashes (one worker suggests that the machines are “trying to tell us about the limits of the human”), the survivors eddy in a spiritual inertia; when one of them is banished to “Siberia”—a lone desk on another floor—no one can muster the energy even to reply to her increasingly anguished e-mails, until, one day, she is simply no longer there. Park transforms the banal into the eerie, rendering ominous the familiar request “Does anyone want anything from the outside world?” —The New Yorker

“Quite simply, brilliant....Personal Days follows life amid the desks of a corporation where office ways are laid bare in all their tedious and frequently hilarious detail...As much a novel as a series of pitch-perfect comic vignettes of working life, Personal Days is the ideal book to read under the table during the next staff training seminar. Park has strayed into Ricky Gervais's territory and may soon be its king.” —Francesca Segal, Observer (U.K.)

“The modern corporate office is to Ed Park's debut novel Personal Days what World War II was to Joseph Heller's Catch-22—a theater of absurdity and injustice so profound as to defy all reason....Park may be in line to fill the shoes left by Kurt Vonnegut and other satirists par excellence.”

—Samantha Dunn, Los Angeles Times



“Shalimar” created by Richard Polt


A: "Personal Days by Ed Park is The Office in book form: laugh-out-loud funny and perfect for so many people: your college-age nephew, your twenty-something friend in advertising, your thirty-something friend who's a full-time mom, your friend in his forties who just got laid off, and so on. In fact, I can't think of anyone it wouldn't be great for, except your friends without a sense of humor. Don't give it to them." —Janice Lee, author of The Piano Teacher (on the Penguin Group's "What to Give & What to Get" site)



“[A] novel for anyone who feels alienated at work (i.e. most of us)....Park's eye for the minutiae of office life is sharp: self-Googling, computers that won't correctly format CVs that shouldn't be being written; sexual tensions; smokers who stub out their fags when the boss comes to join them....This is as funny as Seinfeld.” —The Independent (U.K.)

“Perfect commuter reading for Ricky Gervais fans.” —Guardian

“The fragmented narrative and shaggy-dog tangents of Personal Days operate in the service of a seeping, slow-build paranoia, of the sort that has sustained whole seasons of ABC’s Lost....By the book’s final section, which takes a dramatic, Cheever-esque detour into a first-person voice, we are beginning to be acquainted with a deep and lasting level of derangement....Personal Days is...neither anxiously nor prodigiously brilliant, but quite maturely and pitilessly so.” —James Parker, Barnes & Noble Review



“[P]ark's love of language elevates the novel to that rarest of levels: the vocabulary becomes almost another character in the story. Every word belongs exactly where it is.” —Paul Constant, The Stranger (I)

“Office drones of the world, your day has come. Your Germinal has arrived....The funniest book I've read in ages....An absolutely hilarious and scary spot-on spoof of life at the keyboard.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune



“A post-Dilbert, post-Microserfs look at office culture....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. —Douglas Rushkoff, BoingBoing

“Never have the minutiae of office life been so lovingly cataloged and collated.”

—“Three First Novels that Just Might Last,” Time

“Probably the funniest novel of office life since Joseph Heller's Something Happened....A must-read for anyone who works the nine-to-five.” —John Harding, Daily Mail


EP in the NYT, 6/28/2008:

“This is how I always sit.”



“Unnatural as it is, the office is where we spend most of our time these days. It's become our social theater, which is why Ed Park sometimes sounds like Jane Austen when he describes it....[He] scrutinizes the rules and rituals of office culture with precision and wit, choosing the most incriminating details and coolly observing the weirdness that festers under the fluorescents.” —Becky Ohlsen, The Oregonian

“This absence of novelized work makes a book that restricts itself to the 9-to-5, like Ed Park's cubicle opera Personal Days, shine all the more. Park points out that those dead, stressed hours make up a separate reality....The final section, a bravura paranoid single-sentence stream-of-consciousness outpouring, shows more skill and contagious joy than any document that also uses "impact" as a verb should.” —Justin Bauer, Philadelphia City Paper

“Ed Park captures the camaraderie and confusion of a gang of coworkers trying desperately to maintain their sanity in a randomly cruel, always-downsizing corporate world. Personal Days grabs you with its humor then dazzles you with its intricate loops of deceptions and misperceptions.  By the end, you ask yourself: How did he think of that? It's the ideal read for anyone who has ever felt possessive about a stapler, confused by their boss's behavior, or suspicious of the stranger who works two cubicles down.”

—Amanda Filipacchi, author of Love Creeps



“In Personal Days Ed Park has crafted a sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always adroit novel about office life....Park has a sound sense both of his characters' kindness and banality, and as the novel progresses he succeeds in nailing the note of false ennui the young group at first gives off, exposing not just their dull, sad anxieties but the sweet affection they do develop for each other, with sharp and lovely language.”

—Kathryn Joyce, Newsweek

“A battle cry rings between the lines of Personal Days: an angry defense of language against its murder at corporate hands. Park performs riotous burlesques with e-mail misspellings and corporate clichés; his characters hear double-entendres in computer error messages (‘You are almost out of memory’) and invent new words like ‘deprotion,’ for ‘a promotion that shares most of the hallmarks of a demotion.’ The novel may even remind you of Orwell's ‘Politics and the English Language.’ ”—LA Weekly

“When future historians record the decline and fall of American productivity, perhaps they will point to the invention of the office cubicle and to the fatal combination it bred of paranoia and computer-induced catatonia. If so, they may dedicate a footnote to this disquieting satire by Ed Park.” —Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe



“Screamingly funny.” —San Francisco Examiner

In the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse, Personal Days is a hilarious take on the modern-day office environment. Ed Park accomplishes what only the best novelists can: he provides a mirror of the world we live—and work—in, prompting us first to laugh at the reflection before making us increasingly uncomfortable about what we're seeing. I flew through this book, laughing all the way to the Bernhardian ending.” —Vendela Vida, author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

EP reads at Newtonville Books, 6/12/08



“Ed Park’s whodunit-cum-office-horror-show romp shimmers with menace from page one…While Park’s process-of-elimination conceit harks back to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, [he] steers Personal Days’ story into zones of corporate excess no 20th-century author could have imagine. He’s funnier than Christie, and just postmodern enough to know when to switch structural gambits for maximum impact: The book opens with short chapters perfect for reading in fits and starts (say, at your desk), and closes with a long, deliriously claustrophobic, epistolary section that insists on being read in a single sitting. Park makes his story one any office drone with a hint of resentment can relate to. This is easily cubicle comedy’s darkest artifact to date, and its most subversive.”

—Rod Smith, Time Out New York (5 out of 6 stars)

“I want to point out all my favorite funny parts and learn which ones are yours.” —Callie Miller, Counterbalance



“Park's voice is controlled and giddy, measured and wild, thoughtful and exuberant, but most of all he gets that sinister, slow-moving paranoia that infects an office in the midst of cruel change and inexplicable layoffs.” —Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind

“Packed with hilarious, razor-sharp observations about layoffs, mustaches, and interoffice romance.” —The Stranger (II)


“Unfolding in Post-it–size passages and sections structured like software manuals, the novel takes aim at procrastination, paranoia, office supply pilfering, and computer-crashing e-mails of kittens, along with the etiquette of shared elevator rides, cigarette breaks, and after-work drinks....Personal Days doesn’t stop at satire. Park navigates hilariously between gentle irony and genuine anguish, much like that mocking question your computer asks each night before you log off. Are you sure you want to quit?” —Daily Candy

“A chilling, compulsive, and hilarious debut novel”...the “ Read of the Month” —Elle (U.K.)



“Calls to mind Beckett and Bernhard....Despite all the comparisons it invites, Personal Days proves by its end to be wholly and strikingly its own.”

—Christopher R. Beha, Bookforum

“What at first appears to be a Dilbert-esque story soon twists into a dizzying, surreal tale in which even the card-key readers conceal sinister purposes.” —Details

“Ed Park blends unflinching truth with a Carson McCullers-worthy instinct for finding the cosmically absurd in the ordinary. Personal Days is the funniest book I've read about the way we work now.”
—William Poundstone, author of Fortune's Formula and Gaming the Vote




“The deposed co-worker’s notebook full of brutal homilies from imaginary win-the-rat-race books is a satirical tour de force....For 190 pages Mr. Park’s narrative is deliberately choppy; he goes so far as to present his second section in outline form. This choppiness evokes with some poetry the disconnected lives of the half-dozen singles who spend most of their waking hours together suspecting deep down they’ll never see each other if—no, when—their jobs end. But this former literary editor is nothing if not writerly, and the ending of his novel is another tour de force—a one-sentence, 50-page plot denouement cum love letter....” —Robert Christgau, The New York Observer

“Darker than The Office and funnier than And Then We Came To The End, it’s this year’s office read.” —Read This With Ernest Hemingway, George Lamb Show, BBC 6



A “funny, frightening & frighteningly spot-on novel about modern-day office life in this time of mergers, acquisitions, and business books full of empty platitudes that encourage workers to ‘do whatever it takes’ and ‘put the customer first.’...Think Office Space + shades of The Good Shepherd with a dash of Invasion of the Body Snatchers tossed in.


Hysterical...Park's story is set in an absurd yet believable workplace where personnel, shutting down their computers for the weeekend, earnestly consider the pop-up question, ‘Are you sure you want to quit?’ ” —Wired

Personal Days is an archaeological dig into the psyche of a workplace. Ed Park pries open a tomb and reveals a familiar world that becomes more Sartrean with each sounding of the Mexican Distress Frog. Identities are exhumed, examined, and classified, yet something, refreshingly, remains forever out of reach. Park's original mix of hilarity, spookiness, intelligence and romance makes this novel absolutely brilliant and lovable.”

—Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment



“Cunning...a hilarious, Kafkaesque work of detective fiction.” —Dazed & Confused

“Park's warm and winning fiction debut is narrated by a collective 'we' of youngish Manhattan office grunts who watch in helpless horror as their company keeps shrinking, taking their private world of in-jokes and nicknames along with it....[M]ysterious clues point to a conspiracy that may involve one or more of the survivors. By the time answers arrive, Park...has built the tension masterfully....Park may have written the first cubicle cozy.” —Publishers' Weekly

“[P]ithy observations about office life, set within an absurdly oblique corporate world.” One of “Three to Read” this month —Esquire (U.K.)



“The perfectly titled Personal Days renders a world in which the workplace shapes the texture of each employee’s daily life (or lack thereof), meticulously capturing the degree to which the corporate has subsumed the intimate....[The workers] invent the language they need to cope with the incomprehensible logic of the takeover: Promotions that come with more drawbacks than benefits are labeled deprotions; a creaky cosmology akin to the epicycles of Ptolemy’s astronomy is invented to explain the shadowy workings of the invisible overlord.”

—Jonathan Taylor, Stop Smiling

“This intricate, often witty tale of corporate America centers on the employees of an unnamed New York company that's undergoing a half-brained downsizing...[Park's] sardonic humor will ring true to cube monkeys everywhere, and he succeeds in creating an oddly haunting, ultimately entertaining portrait of office life and the tenuous yet powerful relationships we build with colleagues.”

Fast Company

Personal Days is an existential ghost story for the 21st century, and the most enchanting contribution to 'Office Lit' since Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine.”

—Jenny Davidson, author of Heredity



“I've heard some truly great readings from novels which at the time hadn't been published—at Bread Loaf thirty years ago John Irving's The World According to Garp and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon—and I can't say if Personal Days will be a classic like those books but I haven't heard one I liked as much as I did Ed's book.”

Syntax of Things

“Funny and wicked and rending.” —Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

“[I]f laughter is the best medicine, then even the overworked, underpaid, and never appreciated will chuckle over the humor of this office horror story.” —Knoxville News Sentinel

Rejected U.K. cover, early 2008


“The book has been compared to both Nicholson Baker's 1990 novel The Mezzanine and television's The Office, but neither does the book justice. Personal Days is the cubicle bible for our times, a wickedly funny (and often too true) satire of office life.” —Largehearted Boy

Personal Days succeeds on Park’s sharp prose and his sensitivity to the insanities of entirely average people.” —L Magazine

“A brooding farce that glistens with a sinister frivolity.” —Vick Mickunas, Dayton Daily News

Your next favorite read.” —Velocity Weekly

“Comparisons with The Office are inevitable...the narrative, a DeLillo-like, pellet-sized series of vignettes, rings true in its evocation of the paranoid weirdness of office life.” —Arena

“It’s pretty amazing.” —Paul Constant, The Stranger (III)