Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: "Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch" by Richard Hine

Office politics and the incompetence of the business world always makes for amusing storylines, which is why television shows like The Office and books like Joshua Ferris' And Then We Came to the End are so popular. Into this arena comes Richard Hine's Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch, an enjoyable and fun story of a newspaper executive struggling with dysfunction both at home and at work.

Russell Wiley works for the Daily Business Chronicle, the fourth most popular newspaper in New York, which has undergone a great deal of corporate restructuring in the wake of print news' declining popularity. All around him Wiley sees his colleagues are anxious, angry and ambitiously trying to stay above water, and while his position is fairly secure, he isn't quite sure what to make of the new fresh-out-of-business-school consultant his boss hired to do the same project Russell did when he started at the paper, but the consultant is looking for others to do his work for him. And to top it off, Russell's relationship with his wife, Sam, is becoming increasingly chaotic—and sexless. (Russell refers to this period as "reclaiming his virginity.")

While I've never worked in as large a corporate environment as the one Hine describes, there were certainly aspects of dysfunction I've recognized through my career. I found all of the characters enjoyable (although Russell's wife isn't fleshed out nearly enough, so you never get the chance to understand why she's so angry with him) and definitely was compelled to keep reading. My one issue is that the book has been reviewed in many circles as being "as hilarious as The Office," and I don't see that. True, I rarely find things to be as hysterically funny as I'm told they will be, if the book was written to be uproariously funny I believe it fell short, but I did find it amusing and fun, and a very quick read.

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