Thursday, February 08, 2007

Forward This Book!

This evening, in one sitting, I read, in full, Lucy Kellaway's book Who Moved My Blackberry?. The novel, which draws on Kellaway's columns in the the Financial Times, is hilarious. The columns, which comprise fictional emails, memos, and blog entries authored by a cartoony business exec, run every Thursday -- and are required reading.

I bought my copy used via Amazon, and the book already had a history of having been forwarded. Turns out that a copy shelved by the Free Library of Philadelphia in March 2006 had already been withdrawn -- and somehow obtained by a used book dealer in Georgia. In this case, being booted from a library is no indicator that a book isn't worth reading!

Martin Lukes, the anti-hero of the tome, is a stuffed-shirt blunderer who absorbs all of the latest workplace buzzwords and career development pap as gospel. While Scott Adams's Dilbert comic strip takes a more explicit critical approach to the foibles and failings of the office environment, Kellaway takes a more light-hearted approach, in some ways similar to the BBC series, the Office.

Kellaway doesn't need to hold Lukes up for ridicule; he hoists himself on petards of his own "creovation." The book lampoons falsely innovative business culture, executive coaching, lapdances in the popular business press, and other themes taken more seriously by most business media. Motivational speakers such as Tom Peters and Tony Robbins are satirized. The Jack and Suzy Welch affair is mimicked -- even to its storybook ending. And the point that work, while personal, isn't the end all, be all is driven home as Luke's family life crumbles around him, just as his work life comes close to doing.

But the most charming aspect of Kellaway's satire is Luke's very cluelessness. In the end, he comes out practically unscathed, almost where he began at the start of the read, and blissfully unaware that anything untoward had gone on -- much less that he was responsible and in the wrong. Who Moved My Blackberry? is an example of the Peter Principle in action, nay, hyperaction.

It's an extremely clever book, and I cannot wait until next Thursday. While reading, I was struck by the idea that the saga would be a kick to read message by message, sent over time. The FT offers the next best thing: You can sign up for email alerts when new columns are posted online.

Bestest, Heath

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