The Worker pt. 3: Wednesday Morning 3am

Holy fuck! He awoke with a start. He had been deep in sleep, in the middle of some long and winding epic dream. There had been some crazy alarms and sirens, fires everywhere and bombs dropping…. but in a jolting instant he realised that the alarm of his dream had been the alarm clock by the bed. How long ha it been going? He checks the time: 8:02. Fuck, shit, bollocks, bugger fuck cunt, he’s going to have to get a move on. He hauled his arse out of bed and threw on yesterday’s clothes that were strewn at the foot of the bed. No time for breakfast – he’d used up the last of the milk yesterday and hadn’t made it to the supermarket since – he brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:27 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late. He’s in luck: the bus is running a couple of minutes late, and he arrives, panting and thoroughly fagged out just as it pulls up.

9:00 on the dot and he’s made it to the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch. When she did arrive, he noted with disdain just how badly she was starting to smell, a side-effect of her fucked-up interpretation of the Atkins diet. As she ploughed her way through a large bag of pork scratchings, he paused when she realised he was clocking her, his face conveying a disgust and disbelief it was hard to disguise. She explained – not for the first time, and with a cloud of deep-fried and seasoned pork rind gusting from her chops as she spoke – that she could eat all the fats she wanted, but absolutely no carbs. Sure. His boss was circling like a shark. He couldn’t fathom why the power-hungry corporate tosser had taken such a dislike to him, but it seemed as though he was on a mission. He has to watch his back: one step out of line and the boss would be on him, and could bring him down. He’d seen it done before.

 

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An office, 7am today and funnier than Ricky Gervais will ever be

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. He could feel himself getting down. He was in a rut and he knew it. Same shit, different day and no mistake: every day drains into the next, and every day is exactly the same. Could be worse, he reminded himself. It was only work, after all, not his life. His evenings and weekends were his own, at least. Please give me evenings and weekends…

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid ham salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The ham was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Tango. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:30, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

The cleaner came round on her weekly circuit, with a bucket containing a couple of inches of fetid brown water and a Jaycloth, which she proceeded to smear over each desk in turn, before lifting the receiver of any phone not in use – or even phones in use if headsets were plugged in – and wiping the mouth and earpieces with the same crutty cloth. No rinse, only repeat: six, eight, ten desks and telephones would get this once-over before the encrusted cloth was returned to the bucket for a brief swill.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He’d hoped to get a couple of pints in after work, but Steve was taking his girlfriend out for a meal and Simon had his mum coming round. At the bus stop, his bowels started growling. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home, but it got stuck in traffic. Discomfort began to nudge at his lower abdomen. The jam seemed to last forever, and he was practically touching cloth by the time he got home. He threw his jacket over the back of the sofa and went to curl one out. The relief!

Movements complete, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic. He wanted more, so nipped round to the offy a couple of streets away and stuck a couple of four-packs on special on his credit card. He’d worry about paying it off later.

Cracking open the first of the eight fresh cans, he flicked on the TV but there was fuck all on so he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. He whipped up a serving of cream, then idled away the remainder of the evening on Facebook and another half dozen tins. Midnight rolled around and rather worse for wear, he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt. 2: Ruby Tuesday, or, Tuesday’s gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you

Shit! How long has the alarm been going? He must’ve been sound asleep. The harsh buzz of the alarm slices through the darkness and sears his sleeping brain. He sits upright with a start and checks the clock: 7:52. He hit the snooze button and buried his head in the pillow, but it was no good. Under the duvet, it was warm and comfortable and life was good. But the alarm persisted and he forced himself to vacate his haven. He dressed, ate breakfast, brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:25 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late, he’s been late too many times recently and his timekeeping has become an issue. He’s already on a first warning.

8:59 and he’s in the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch. His boss was circling like a shark. He couldn’t fathom why the power-hungry corporate tosser had taken such a dislike to him, but it seemed as though he was on a mission. He has to watch his back: one step out of line and the boss would be on him, and could bring him down. He’d seen it done before.

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. Another cup of rancid instant coffee as stagnant as his life, another plastic spoon, another whinging tosser, the hours passed into days passed into weeks passed into months passed into years, a wasted life, an accidental career. All the other jobs advertised locally were much of a muchness. No, the only way out was redundancy or retirement. Or death. He found it hard to rouse any sense of optimism. Too long in the rut, his spirit had been ground down and eventually crushed, all sense of hope extinguished. They owned him and he knew it.

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid ham salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The ham was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Tango. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:00, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

 

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An office, 8:15 this morning

 

An hour later and his bladder was growing taught. He desperately needed to piss, but there was simply no respite. He was also tired, so tired. More cups of gut-rotting instant coffee was the only means available of fending off this terminal fatigue.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home. On arrival, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic.

He flicked on the TV but there was fuck all on so he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. A quick one off the wrist and then idled away the remainder of the evening on Facebook and a couple more tins. Midnight rolled around and he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker Part 1: I Don’t Like Mondays

A few years ago I blogged a story in 7 parts entitled ‘The Worker’, and each day’s post was written and posted on that day. The story subsequently appeared in the collection Postmodern Fragments: Writings on Work, Technology and Contemporary Living. To mark the publication of Postmodern Fragments on Kindle, I’m reposting ‘The Worker’ as originally conceived – only the first time around it began on Sunday, but the effect should be pretty much the same. Original typos have been maintained to preserve the integrity of the project.

 

The Worker pt. 1: I Don’t Like Mondays

The harsh buzz of the alarm sliced through the darkness and penetrated his dark place, his sleeping brain. He woke and was momentarily groggy before the realisation hits: Monday morning. 7:30. He hit the snooze button and buried his head in the pillow once more. Under the duvet, it was warm and comfortable and life was good. But the alarm persisted and he forced himself to vacate his haven.

He dressed, ate breakfast, brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:25 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late, he’s been late too many times recently and his timekeeping has become an issue. He’s already on a first warning.

8:59 and he’s in the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5. Why did he put up with it? Because there was nothing else. He needed to eat, to keep a roof over his head, pay the bills. It’s the white man’s burden alright.

Necessity is the mother of surrendering one’s dreams to grim reality. He was looking for a job and then he found a job, with prospects and benefits, so his interviewer, smug in his navy pinstripe suit and tan shoes had informed him. But it soon became apparent that the corporate ladder was all a con, and worse, a trap. A stop-gap job becomes a career.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch.

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. Another cup of rancid instant coffee as stagnant as his life, another plastic spoon, another whinging tosser, the hours passed into days passed into weeks passed into months passed into years, a wasted life, an accidental career. All the other jobs advertised locally were much of a muchness. No, the only way out was redundancy or retirement. Or death. He found it hard to rouse any sense of optimism. Too long in the rut, his spirit had been ground down and eventually crushed, all sense of hope extinguished. They owned him and he knew it.

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid chicken salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The chicken was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Coke. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:00, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

An hour later and his bladder was growing taught. He desperately needed to piss, but there was simply no respite. He was also tired, so tired. More cups of gut-rotting instant coffee was the only means available of fending off this terminal fatigue.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home. On arrival, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic.

He flicked on the TV and vegetated in front of a series of mundane lifestyle and ‘talent’ shows with a couple more tins. Midnight rolled around and he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

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An office, today.

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Who Are You Calling Stupid?

It’s probably fair to say I’m better known as a music reviewer than anything else. That isn’t to say I’m at all ‘well known’, but everything’s relative. The fact is that my ‘bread and butter’ writing emerges in the form of music reviews. This is primarily on account of the fact that I always wanted to be a music journalist and my first published pieces were reviews which appeared in local and regional inkies in the early 90s when I was in my late teens and early twenties and now I’m living the dream of getting more free music than I can listen to. I might not actually be getting paid, but that’s rather beside the point. I’m doing something I enjoy, which is something very few people can say with absolute sincerity, and consequently it seems daft to stop. Nevertheless, I’m also a writer of fiction, and have had stories published here, there and, well, perhaps not everywhere, but I’ve also written a handful of books, to varying degrees of success. Again, success is a most subjective word, and again, everything’s relative.

My current project, which should emerge into the public sphere in the Summer, is entitled This Book is Fucking Stupid. It’s a surefire hit: of that I’m convinced. Of course, I’ve been equally convinced with previous works, but am at the same time aware that none of my work has even the remotest mainstream appeal.

My most successful book to date – by which I mean the one that’s sold the most copies – is THE PLAGIARIST, a book inspired by William S. Burroughs and Kenji Siratori. Sitting somewhere between Nova Express and Blood Electric, the book was billed as ‘a riot of experimentation’ and reflected my preoccupations with time, space, the limitations of conventional linear narrative and issues of ownership, copyright and ‘originality’. These same preoccupations provided the foundations for From Destinations Set, which explored the possibilities of presenting simultaneously occurring events and pushed the formal style of some of John Giorno’s poems to an extreme within a more overtly narrative context.

This left me with the question ‘what next?’ It isn’t that I won’t or don’t ‘do’ linear narrative, because I do, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that I need to be pushing in new directions and to challenge myself and the conventions of ‘the novel’.

Inspiration hit around Christmas. Stewart Home had just posted a blog on the reader reviews of his books on the Goodreads website. One of the reviews of his novel 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess proclaimed ‘this book is fucking stupid’. Now, sidestepping the samples of the atrocious fiction this ‘reviewer’ had available, I found myself further considering the difficult space that exists between author and reviewer that not only this review, penned by an ‘author’ highlighted, but which provides a core element of the novel in question. However, before these thoughts had begun to evolve in any tangible sense, I posted a comment that ‘this book is fucking stupid’ would make a great title for a book. Stewart posted a reply in agreement, saying ‘let’s see who can write it first!’

It doesn’t take much to get me going when the planets are correctly aligned, and while this may not have been a genuine challenge, I elected to set the writing of this very book as a challenge to myself, and the idea very soon fell together. I’d already written a novella that was languishing on my hard-drive. Destroying the Balance had been kicked out during an intensive spell immediately after I’d completed THE PLAGIARIST. Having completed it, I had felt it lacked something, being all too conventional, and so shortly after began chopping it up and rewriting the text to produce From Destinations Set, which rendered the positions of the two characters more explicitly separate and distinct. Although I was pleased with the result, if not the reception, which was the review equivalent of tumbleweeds blowing through the last one-horse town before the eternal Nowheresville desert, I felt that there was still something to be done with Destroying the Balance.

Like a number of works written around 2008-2009 – including ‘Corrupted from Memory’ which began life as a novella before being trimmed down to 17,000 words for publication in the Paraphilia Books Dream of Stone anthology late on in 2011 – Destroying the Balance took its title from a Joy Division song, namely ‘Passover’ from the second album Closer. It seemed fitting for a story that was centred around the uptight and carefully managed life of a suburban thirty something on the brink of a premature midlife crisis, given that the full lyric is ‘This is the crisis I knew had to come /Destroying the balance I’d kept’.

So, despite having used the text as the basis of From Destinations Set, I could still see scope for another radical overhaul within the context of what I had in mind, namely a book that was the absolute extreme of postmodern information overload and experimental, but in a different way from the books I had produced previously. After all, it’s very easy to write oneself into a cul-de-sac, and also to become stuck in a rut – not to mention becoming typecast as an author of inaccessible or difficult works of limited appeal. I was therefore conscious of a strong need to reign in the wild experimentalism of THE PLAGIARIST in order to repackage the dilemmas of the Postmodern Condition in a more broadly accessible format.

As with all of my works to date, the result is, in many respects, an abject failure. Yet this failure is equally a measure of success. While segments continue to circulate amongst reviewers and to be touted to periodicals to largely negative responses, the final version of the book continues to expand, and the project’s incorporation of all of the pre-release responses – the more negative the better – means that the book is creating its own anti-cult. This is precisely the inversion of all things – from literary tropes to the commodification of literature – that I had aspired to. Put simply, the whole purpose of This Book was (and I intentionally speak of it in the past tense despite the fact it remains to be completed) one of self-negation.

The premise of the avant-garde was to destroy all that preceded in order to create anew, and subsequently, postmodernism has devoted considerable time and energy proclaiming the death of practically everything. My objective was to create a work that killed postmodernism by beating it at its own game and producing a text that was entirely self-collapsing, and, more importantly, self-contained. Postmodern criticism has (arguably, contentiously) written itself into a self-negating web of endlessly cyclical (self-)analysis, while postmodern novels have taken self-reflexivity to a point that seemingly cannot be exceeded. And that was precisely my plan: This Book needed to not only contain everything that had and could be said about it, but to preemptively comment on it.

This book will eat itself. There really is no success like failure.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk