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Book Review: The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick 37

First time accepted submitter NewtonBoxers writes "Considering the amount of time most of us spend at work, it's surprising how few novels are set in the workplace and base their plot on the goings-on there. Perhaps, having spent a long day slaving in the corporate salt mines, many of us would rather forget about such humdrum matters and take refuge in books that offer us more excitement. Others, though, seem to enjoy the humor that can derive from the very things that drive us mad – management incompetence, byzantine procedures, pointless meetings... in short the stuff of everyday office life. We read Dilbert, we watch The Office, and we could do a lot worse than read Augustus Gump's very funny second novel, The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick. " Read on for the rest of NewtonBoxers's review.
The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick
author Augustus Gump
pages 282
publisher Mainland Press
rating 9
reviewer NewtonBoxers
ISBN 978-0970874689
summary An enjoyable piece of workplace humor
This book is a sequel to The Management Secrets of T. John Dick, which was published a few years ago. Like the first book, The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick is written in the voice of a bumbling, self-important marketing executive at SuperPumps, a manufacturing company in North Carolina. The company makes pumps of some kind, but this is not really important, least of all to TJ, who doesn't like to let too much knowledge of what his company actually makes interfere with his ability to focus on the big picture.

Also like the first book, much of the humor comes from the contrast between TJ's view of himself and the truth apparent to his colleagues and to the reader. In this, he might be compared to Charles Pooter in George Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody. TJ sees himself as a man of vision, able to "think outside the box" and "see the big picture." None of the sticky situations in which his actions land the company are ever his fault, and if his greatness fails to shine, that is surely due to the incompetence of those who surround him. He also sees himself as the natural successor to Rich, the company President, who, he is convinced, sees him not just as an employee, but as a personal friend and the one man in the company he can rely on.

The story starts at a trade show in Las Vegas, where someone plays a prank on TJ as he takes a nap at his company's booth after a long night involving powerful cocktails and strange women with even stranger predictions for his future – the first of several references to Macbeth. I don't want to spoil the fun, so suffice it to say that the prank turns out to work in TJ's favor and also to benefit the company to the tune of a large order from a Japanese customer. On the back of this, TJ is propelled to the position of acting president of SuperPumps, while Rich is in a coma, thanks to an accident for which TJ is, of course, in no way to blame.

TJ's efforts to display his leadership qualities run up against colleagues who refuse to take him seriously. This is especially true of Ronnie, VP of Finance, nicknamed the Ostrich, who takes particular pleasure in entangling him in his own complicated procedures. This leads to some very funny scenes, as he tries to maintain order in chaotic meetings and stamp his authority on his new subordinates. He pours money into a ridiculous promotional campaign for a revolutionary single-nozzle pump, which turns out to have two nozzles. On being informed by the Ostrich that he himself has gained an unwelcome nickname, he responds by drawing up an official company nickname policy. Meanwhile his home life is complicated by his wife's refusal to go along with his marriage mission statement and the unexpected discovery of an exotic dancer in his hot tub. Back at the plant, TJ stumbles upon a piece of skullduggery which threatens the future of the company. He is rapidly discovering that being the boss is not quite what he expected.

The focus of the story may be the humor derived from TJ's character, but the plot includes several twists and turns, with the pace really picking up in the last third of the book. In the end, TJ finds he has to rely on the very people he has dismissed as obstacles to his greatness in order to save the day. It briefly seems that he has learned a lesson from this, but the book's closing conversation with the Ostrich, to whom he owes more than anyone, suggests otherwise. This actually comes as a relief to the Ostrich, who is fond of TJ the way he is, a fondness shared by the other characters, Grace, his outrageously unfaithful but affectionate wife and Greg, the male burlesque dancer who follows Grace from Las Vegas and is welcomed into the house by TJ, who is convinced he is gay.

As an IT manager, I frequently run up against people who display at least some of the characteristics of T. John Dick. They are infuriating, of course, but, since shooting them would be against company policy, I find it a lot better for my blood pressure to follow the example of the Ostrich and focus on their funny side. "The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick" will draw laughter and groans of recognition in equal measure, but the strange thing is that, like the Ostrich, you will end up sympathizing with the main character. At the end of the book, the Ostrich, amused by the apparent parallels between TJ and Macbeth, brings up the "fatal flaw" of Shakespearian tragic heroes and asks TJ what he thinks his flaw might be. TJ's response is typical:

I thought for a long moment, but it was no good. "I can't think of one," I replied at last.

T. John Dick is no tragic hero. He is however, a great comic creation. I recommend this book for anyone with experience of working in a corporate environment or who enjoys workplace humor.

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Book Review: The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick

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  • Why, that is something I might actually read.

    Have there been any other books of fiction reviewed on slashdot? I can't remember any.

  • I'll post an article describing how interesting it is, but first I have to figure out a plot!
    • Millions of years ago a fairly advanced society found out their planet would be doomed within a short 1000 years because their sun was dying.

      Without any knowledge of FTL they looked at their options and decided to move their entire planet out of orbit of that sun and move it to a close young sun, our sun.

      They drifted though space with no sun for millions of years, their society advancing and evolving along with their technology. They turned inward immersing themselves in artificial reality to the point tha

      • by ozduo ( 2043408 )
        I was thinking more on the lines of "boy meets girl, boy loose girl, boy becomes geek and spends rest of his life on slashdot"
        • by Jeng ( 926980 )

          And gets bludgeoned by trolls over your use of loose vs lose.

          In your defense you can tell them that you let her loose to see if she would come back.

  • >> It's surprising how few novels are set in the workplace

    Not really. We like Dilbert because it's one quick chuckle about work a day and that's it. I don't have time for The Office because it's 30 minutes long (zzz). A whole novel about work? Fugetaboutit!

    • by rnturn ( 11092 )

      "I don't have time for The Office because it's 30 minutes long (zzz)."

      I don't have time for The Office because a.) it's not really funny and b.) after working in an office for nine hours a day, why in the hell would I find it entertaining to watch stupid office workers work for the worst boss on the planet?

      A Dilbert cartoon is just the right dosage of office stupidity. An entire novel about office work? Pass.

      • Actually, for the most part of this season they've had no boss in the office. As far as I can tell they seem more productive now.
    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      >> It's surprising how few novels are set in the workplace

      LOTS of novels are written about the workplace. The critical point is that they don't get published.

      Here's how it works: Some guy (they're almost always guys) goes to university, gets a BA in English, then goes off and gets a dull office job because he needs money to pay off his student loans, just like everybody else. Time goes by, and about ten years in he starts to grow unsatisfied with his situation and he thinks to himself, "Whatever happened to that novel I always said I was going to write?" And he v

      • The interest I have in office stories is in why so many workplaces are so dysfunctional, and how to change that. I've suffered through my share of office horror. I'd rather it was solved than mined for what little comedy is to be had from situations that are more mean, ugly, petty, and stupid than funny.

        The medieval nobility and monarchy was sidelined for good reason. The "noble" noble was the exception, not the rule. What was more common was to see his lordship totally out of control. No one could t

  • This title is just asking for V1agra jokes.

  • If anyone wants another good book set in an office, Joshua Ferris' Then We Came To The End is brilliant. It's about a group of advertising workers during the bursting of the dot-com bubble and is very funny.

  • []

    The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is a series of novels which developed into a British sitcom starring Leonard Rossiter in the title role. Both the books and television series were written by David Nobbs, and the screenplay for the first series was adapted by Nobbs from the novel, though subplots in the novel were considered too dark or risqué for television and toned down or omitted, an example being the relationship between Perrin'

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner