2 book reviews: “Office Girl” and “I’m Trying to Reach You”

Posted on July 3, 2012



This examiner.com article includes links to my New York Journal of Books reviews of the two novels.


Most people will have multiple jobs and two or three distinct careers in the course of a lifetime. While those careers can be rewarding and fulfilling the transitional periods at the outset or in between careers can be emotionally difficult. Two novels published this month describe such transitional periods at different stages of life.

Office Girl hardcover book cover

New York Journal of Books

In Joe Meno‘s Office Girl the characters are fine-arts majors in their early to mid-twenties transitioning from college to establishing themselves as working artists. In this interim period they find themselves taking dull, dead-end jobs to make ends meet.

In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I compare it to Lena Dunham’s HBO seriesGirls in that the characters are legally adults but are still growing up, and how their poor choices exacerbate their already modest and insecure circumstances. One of the characters has a role model in his Jewish step-father.

The story is illustrated with line drawings by Cody Hudson and photographs (including one of a topless woman wearing a gas mask) by Todd Baxter. There is an excerpt from Office Girl in The Nervous Breakdown.

Gray Adams, Barbara Browning‘s male protagonist inI’m Trying to Reach You is a middle-aged dancer turned academic (mirroring the author’s career path) who is a post-doctoral fellow at the same university and the same department where in real life Ms. Browning is a professor.

Post-doctoral fellowships are by definition transitional periods between graduate school and a college teaching career. Mr. Adams has few responsibilities, little money, is in a long distance relationship with an overseas partner, is applying to tenure track teaching positions for the following year, and is obsessed by the consecutive deaths in a period of months of great performing artists and by a series of home made YouTube videos featuring dance performances by Ms. Browning.

In my New York Journal of Books review I recommend the novel “to anyone . . . who wants to experience a multimedia novel blurring genres and means of communication as well as the boundary between the author and her fictional narrative.” Ms. Browning discusses I’m Trying to Reach You in an interview on her publisher’s blog.