Things is a semi-autobiographical two-part novella, centered on the lives of Jérôme and Sylvie. Disillusioned students, they dropped out and took positions in the new, fast-expanding field of market research. They don't really imagine these jobs leading to careers, but see them as a stepping-stone, allowing them some independence, and better than the other limited alternatives they have. Once employed they begin to enjoy consumer-life. Not only do they research it, they also avidly partake in it. They become quite swept up in the vicious circle of consumerism, which in turn ties them to their jobs (they aren't qualified to do much else), desperate to live the lifestyles being promoted and offered around them. Eventually they find: \"Money, sometimes, consumed them entirely.\" They don't entirely give in: they do try the alternative. The first, stand-alone sentence of Part II of the novel acknowledges: \"They tried to run away\" (their eventual failure already implicit in these words). They apply for teaching positions, in Tunisia -- a touch of the exotic, away from what has become their oppressive Parisian lives, politically seemingly engaged (with the Algerian hotbed -- it is 1962 -- so close). They go, and live a different life there.But it can not hold them, and though not yet a fait accompli the narrator can write with certainty of what will come: they will return to France, settle down, accept positions in advertising. Perec presents the story with almost clinical directness. The focus is almost entirely on the one unit the couple form: everything is seen in relationship to them, almost every sentence talks about \"them\" and what \"they\" do. They are part of the world -- tiny cogs, as they all too well recognize -- but the world at large only touches them to the extent they allow it to. Algeria and France's involvement there looms like a shadow over all of France: it does not go unmentioned here, but is almost entirely peripheral. In the Epilogue Perec switches tenses, offering not what has happened or is happening but looking ahead. \"Things could have carried on in the same way\", is the first sentence of this section. Of course, they will not. Instead, Perec states that Jérôme and Sylvie will clearly not remain in this stasis, but rather will choose the life they had briefly tried to escape, settling down into the yuppiedom of the 1960s. He closes by sketching out their inevitable future, vague regrets and all. The book ends with a quote from Marx, suggesting the means are as significant as the ends and that \"the quest for truth must itself be true\". Jérôme and Sylvie's quest itself, Perec suggests throughout, lacks that necessary purity. Things is the story of a generation -- not the 68ers (another popular French preoccupation), but those a few years older. It is a novel of the sixties -- a world unsettled by Algeria and De Gaulle, but soon to be thrown into even greater turmoil.The rise of consumerism, and both the attraction and emptiness of this lifestyle are fully explored, as are the other dramatic changes society at that time was going through. Perec presents his story well and very effectively.He writes in part from experience: he did dabble in market research, and he did spend some time in Tunisian Sfax (as do his characters). Perec, of course, chose a different way -- working as a research archivist and always writing -- but he shows an understanding of the motivations and longings of his characters (and the many they are stand-ins for) and conveys these very well. A small, odd (but very approachable) modern French classic, allowing for a variety of interpretations -- and good literary fun. Recommended.
I shuffle the black Sharpie into my pocket. The vapors of the ink drying on the bedframe make me lightheaded. The cold of the tile floor cuts through my track suit, sinks into my bones. I grope for a cover story. I dropped something. Or maybe, something seemed off with the bed. I was checking the bed, trying to fix it. No. Better just say I dropped something or I thought I dropped something. I thought I dropped my book last night when I fell asleep reading. I thought maybe it was under the bed.
Farrell begins his chapter on the Catholic Workers with the line, \"The Sixties arguably began...on the 15th of June, 1955.\" It was the day of Operation Alert, an official national civil defense drill. Dorothy Day and 27 others from the Catholic Workers, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resisters League stayed above ground and were arrested in protest against nuclear weapons and the official sham that such weapons were survivable. Farrell provides a detailed history of the Catholic Workers and their founders Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. He explains that their pacifism, anarchism, and commitment to the downtrodden were one of the important models and inspirations for the 60s. As Farrell puts it, \"Catholic Workers identified the issues of the sixties before the Sixties began, and they offered models of protest long before the protest decade.\" 59ce067264