Go to Work and Do Your Job. Care for Your Children. Pay Your Bills. Obey the Law. Buy Products.
by Noah Cicero
Lazy Fascist Press, 2013
188 pages / $12.95 buy from Amazon
1. Still one of the best titles of any novel, ever.
2. This book is in two parts. Part 1 is narrated by a reasonably bland, vaguely liberal character named Michael who starts a job at a ‘treatment centre’ (for treatment centre read prison) complex called NEOTAP. Part 2 is narrated by NEOTAP IT employee, work colleague and soon to be girlfriend Monica.
3. The whole thing is a mish-mash of different genres, different registers, narrative structures, etc., and is largely concerned with the kind of Orwellian power of the NEOTAP system.
4. The NEOTAP system is, roughly speaking, an analogy for American (Global?) Capitalism and its ‘5 pillars’ (the five pillars of the book’s title). I was pleased that it was only a lightly fictionalised dystopia as there is little need to overly fictionalise something that very much seems to me to be the dystopia of contemporary western capitalist reality.
5. I’m pleased young Alt-Lit people/novelists are engaging with these kinds of things. It gives the lie to any notion that Alt-Lit is merely just a narcissistic pose (it is sometimes) but clearly there are more possibilities for it and this should be embraced.
6. With this in mind, I’m going to suggest this book is a great starting point towards reading more about how the advanced capitalist system works. You know how they like to say marijuana is a kind of gateway drug to other ‘terrible’ drugs, well this book is a gateway drug to the following (see points 7-11).
7. Read this book then read Orwell’s 1984 (which is a bit out of date actually and can sometimes become a kind of carnivalesque pressure valve type situation that posits a clichéd ‘Orwellian’ dystopia that can be re-co-opted by a strand of the entertainment industry who make it so cartoonish that it somehow becomes part of the horror genre and risks missing out on the original points that Orwell was trying to make. The general principles remain sound though).
8. Kafka’s The Trial (similar situation to point 7).
9. Some basic Marxism (you might think this is ‘old’ but a lot of it is more important than ever).
10. Current articles about how ‘The Internet of Things’ will benefit insurance companies and socially engineer us more than we ever imagined.
11. How lots of everyday things these days are underpinned by the practice of ‘Gameification’ which helps explain why you can’t seem to stop checking Facebook.
12. Not paying ‘child support’ is a big crime amongst the residents of NEOTAP and recurs throughout and of course is emblematic of the kind of taboo put about by governments who don’t want to have to pay for the social welfare of children or of the welfare of the people at all. The way that is recurs represents some skilful writing from Noah Cicero, here. The kind of skilful writing that you might not even notice (see Bret Easton Ellis – partic. ‘American Psycho’).
13. Protaganist of Part 1 ‘Mike’ and his quest for ‘health insurance’ is another great example of this.
14. People ‘disappear’ in this book. Both prisoners (‘residents’) and employees are wont to disappear. If you don’t know this has something to do with ‘Extraordinary Rendition’, particularly its controversial practice in the last ten years, then get off Netflix and er…get onto Google (?!).
15. The irony of what I just said in point 14 is one of the central ironies that this book attempts to confront, and necessarily so.
16. Part Two, narrated by Monica, in a kind of amphetamine-deranged Nancy Drew kind of style is often really very funny and absurd. This is something that I don’t feel undermines the serious points thrown up by the book generally.
17. Netflix appears as a bonding tool for the burgeoning relationship between Mike and Monica. I had a subscription to Netflix for two months but could never find anything I wanted to watch. Maybe I’m not as romantic as Mike and Monica.
18. It really amused me, in Part 1, which is mostly about life working as a low-level employee of NEOTAP, how in between the strict top-down Fascistic hierarchy that takes place between sadistic higher-level employees and the lower-level employees, who are in some ways not much more powerful than the prisoners (‘residents’) that they are guarding. This is done through the shared blandness of picking a football team to support and making small talk about football, a kind of premeditated need to foster some kind of enforced employee-employee social time.
19. This book excels at that kind of absurd detail. Many examples of this abound in the reasonably silly, shoot-em-up, Hollywood specials effects style finale to the book, as Mike and Monica kiss and discuss the prettiness of the moon in between insane desert battles.
20. In fact, Cicero frequently has Monica exclaim ‘This is insane’ on the reader’s behalf towards the end.
21. It was refreshing to see this kind of silly apocalyptic Hollywood special-effects style ending satirised.
22. It is revealed at one point that the Five Pillars of the NEOTAP philosophy/the title of this book/thinly veiled reference to the horrors of contemporary corporate capitalism had been dreamt up to defeat the Soviets in the Eisenhower era and was mostly based on confronting a crisis of faith in the American people using a method derived from Islam. I found this both hilariously, sweetly ironic, plus a v interesting viewpoint. This book does that a lot, it throws up blackly hilarious, sweetly ironic bits that are also simultaneously v interesting.
23. I’d love standard everyday people who are heavily invested in charity foundations, Starbucks and western capitalism to read this book. I’d like to see it ruin their day.
24. Or perhaps even make their day into a new kind of day.
25. I think Edward Snowden appears in a cowboy hat at some point towards the end but I can’t be sure whether it is Edward Snowden or a kind of pre-imagined Cicero-derived Edward Snowden because I haven’t got my head around Googling to check the dates between when this book was first published and the emergence of Snowden as a global hero. This is because I am so busy checking Facebook notifications (my copy of Word still marks ‘Facebook’ as a spelling mistake – excellent!) and maintaining a Netflix account which contains nothing that I actually want to watch but which I have to watch because I bought a subscription and maybe I want to be romantic or something but do I have to do that by watching a TED TALK on something because I already called bullshit on all TED TALKS earlier today? The answer to that question and to many more questions is contained somewhere within this encyclopaedic maniac of a book that I just read and that I have just finished reviewing. It’s called ‘Go to work and do your job.Care for your children.Pay your bills. Obey the law. Buy products.’ So go out there. Buy it. Read it. It won’t be the most pointless thing you have bought this last month, in fact in some ways it might be the most important thing you’ve bought for some time (it’s funny as well, y’know – for those of us who are addicted to fun. It’s fun too. Honest!).
Richard Brammer is the author of three books ‘MDMA and Menthol Cigarettes,’ ‘Public Dick Punk 83’ and ‘Cult Boyfriend’ that are all available from Amazon here but isn’t the author of the German version of the book about Adobe Publishing Suite and nor is he the author of ‘Cuckoos of the World.’