Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Steven B. Smith On Edna's Employment Agency


I shared prepublication drafts of Edna's Employment Agency with a few fellow writers.  One of them was the great Cleveland, Ohio USA poet Steven B. Smith (if you need proof of his legendary status, just walk into Mac's Backs Books where his portrait is next to that of Harvey Pekar's).  I liked his book Stations Of The Lost & Found, so he was kind enough to take a look at Edna's.  Here is what he had to say:

"I stopped by Edna's Employment Agency.

Meeting their misfit employees and questionable clientele, I wondered how they all survived, what with the staff spending more time getting through their damaged lives than finding jobs for others, while the job seekers drag out the process as long as possible to collect unemployment - all this drenched in TV sit-comish humor (a lot of it rude and crude).

Wasn't sure I wanted to spend time with these folk, but kept reading, and I'm glad because beneath this chaos lies a sweetness... by the time I was done, they were my misfits, whom I actually cared about.

At first the employees seem inept, shallow, selfish (and they are), but page by page their humanity surfaces, revealing an office family sort of looking after each other and their clients. Their often surreal and slapstick office adventures are interspersed with outside slices of the customers' lives, so the job seekers slowly become someone to care about as well, rather than something to gawk at like cultural roadkill.

This comedic novel captures the acerbic humor that dominates most places I've been employed, as well as the tenuous friendships developed with co-workers you may not even like.

One blurb likens Edna's Employment Agency to "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" (which I've not seen, but feels right from what I've read).

The book is short, humane, gentle, absurd, and should put a smile on your face. By the end you might even like Edna."

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