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
Noah Cicero wrote a new book in 2013.
It’s called GO TO WORK AND DO YOUR JOB. CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN. PAY YOUR BILLS. OBEY THE LAW. BUY PRODUCTS.
But I’m going to call it GO TO WORK.
GO TO WORK is a political thriller about a man who gets a job at a prison-treatment-center called NEOTAP (you never find out what this means btw) and, pretty much, wow—after that, things start to get crazy.
It’s like: WAITING FOR GODOT meets the second season of the television series LOST meets DAVID LYNCH meets BLAIR WITCH PROJECT meets the book 1984 meets IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA meets the movie CUBE meets BRAVE NEW WORLD meets SVU meets ARCHER meets the book ANTHEM meets FIREFLY meets the play NO EXIT by Jean-Paul Sartre meets THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka meets the movie WHITE LIGHTNING meets the book THE POSSESSED meets LOCK UP.
There are two main characters: Michael Scipio and Monica Whitten.
The book is told in the first-person and third-person past tense in two parts: Part One and Part Two.
Part One is Michael. First person.
“I was nervous. I was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a button-down, long-sleeved dress shirt with a tie. The tie looked great. I looked great. Everything seemed wonderful. I was a man interviewing to get a job working for the government, but I was nervous.”
“I called my parents and told them I got the job. They were excited for me. They told me to come over and they could get pizza and cake. My parents were very big into positive reinforcement. When I scored my first goal in soccer when I was seven, they bought me pizza and cake. When I was in the eighth grade talent show, playing guitar very badly, they bought me pizza and cake. When I got straight A’s on my report card, I was for sure going to get pizza and cake. Pizza and cake are the ways Americans celebrate triumphs.”
Then Part Two. Monica. Third person.
“Monica walked into NEOTAP. She went into the office and said hi to Lawrence and Imad. She didn’t know Imad and Lawrence like Mike did. She didn’t have to interact with them on a power basis. She would say hi to everyone, have small talk about sports, computers, or random life things. Everyone knew that Monica loved Arby’s and would eat Arby’s at least three times a week. Sometimes people called her Arby’s girl.”
“Monica considered herself a troubleshooter. Her life was about fixing problems. Her dad had taught her the joy of solving problems. When something broke, they fixed it together. When the care broke, they fixed it together. When the roof leaked, they fixed it together. When the water heater needed to be replaced, they took it out and replaced it together.”
Semi-spoiler alert: After Part One, Michael goes missing—disappears—and Monica becomes the main character because she decides she needs to find out what happened to Michael.
Kind of interesting.
The book is set in 2011 and it’s about what it means—what it’s like—to live in the real world. In America. The United States. Right now. It’s about being young. About needing to find a job. About finding that job. About needing that job so you can have access to healthcare. About falling in love. About betrayal. About deception. Needing healthcare. About following orders. About forgetting what you’re supposed to be doing sometimes. About feeling like you need healthcare real bad. About wondering if what you are doing is the right thing. About meeting people’s parents for the first time. Healthcare. About doing something crazy because maybe you think you are in love. About taking prescription drugs because they make you feel good. H-E-A-L-T-H-C-A-R-E. And about disappearing too.
It’s a lot about disappearing.
In the chapter ‘Under a Bed,’ a NEOTAP resident, who is Mexican, disappears, and no one seems to care.
“I went to Imad’s office and closed the door. I said to Imad, ‘Armando disappeared.’
Imad looked at me. He didn’t have a facial expression. He listened like I was explaining something that didn’t matter to him.
Finally, he said, ‘Okay, I’ll fix it.’
I left the office. Armando disappeared and no one cared. I saw Imad leave his office and walk to Heidelberg’s office. No one rushed around. Everyone moved without purpose, without a sense of urgency. A human had disappeared and no one cared. What kind of job did I have?”
GO TO WORK is a departure, basically, from everything [else] Noah Cicero out there. It’s got, like, a plot. And two main characters.
Remember: this is a political thriller by a guy who is known for writing alt lit!
There are so many beautiful characters and so many different layers to everything and so many cool things that happen; and so much super-philosophical stuff about life—it’s everything you love and know about Noah Cicero and the way he writes.
But GO TO WORK is also a very scary book. Or, I guess, if you want to look at it as something that can be scary—it’s scary. Noah Cicero discusses several important real-world issues. He looks at how things right now have changed from how they were in the recent past (and the ancient past). How things right now are probably going to become very bad very soon. How things are probably not going in the right direction for the world and the environment and the people in the world. How there are some people, right now, out there in the world, who are willing to do whatever it takes, basically, to change the world. And others, who want to keep the world the way it is, no matter what, at any cost. Noah Cicero also looks at how sometimes, where you work, you may not like where you work. How sometimes, you really don’t know what’s going to happen in the end. And how really, the world is just a scary place to be.
All these themes are pretty much classic Noah Cicero.
On Facebook, Noah Cicero said it might take 6 hours to read GO TO WORK. I agree. GO TO WORK—you could read all in one sitting. And everything is written in that very-easy-to-follow Noah Cicero prose.
“Criminal Thought #1. I want to get a woman pregnant. I will find the fattest stupidest woman I can find. I don’t care what race she is, probably white. If you have been to prison, fat white girls are easy. All you gotta do is show them some prison tats and a fat white trash girl will fuck you. I will get the nastiest woman I can find. A woman I know for sure will not be responsible for the child. She won’t even talk to the child, she won’t even take the child to the park… she will scam the government out of every dollar she can… I won’t pay child support. I will do lots of drugs and never see my kid. It will be really funny.”
Tao Lin said:
“I like your voice because you do not explain things that are obvious.”
GO TO WORK, I feel, exhibits a writing style that is still very Noah Cicero, but a style, nonetheless, that has evolved into this sort of simplistic-maximalist monster.
A lot of phrases and words are repeated over and over again, creating this great numbing effect.
“’These are career criminals. They live to manipulate. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about me. If they cared about people, they wouldn’t have stolen from other people. They wouldn’t have done drugs or neglected their child support. They will try to manipulate you in every way possible. They will try to get things from you. They will try to win you over so they can manipulate you. They have spent their lives complaining and crying like little babies. They are crybabies. They are not men or women. They are children. This is what they have chosen. They choose to be children. We have to make them into adults.’”
In Part Two, toward the end of the book—like during the last fourteen pages—Noah Cicero does this amazing thing with the character of Monica Whitten, and I cannot reveal what he does, for fear of ruining what it is, but Noah Cicero plays with the readers’ expectations and sort of pulls the rug from under our feet, so to speak. It’s not really a twist or anything. Just something very unique and clever that’s not done very often. It made me go “Whoah,” out loud when I read it.
NB: If you follow Noah Cicero on Facebook or if you are his friend or if you read AltLitGossip or if somebody else already told you—you probably already know what I am talking about. Noah Cicero has already mentioned it online a couple of times. But still, it is not something that is advertised on the back cover of the book so I think it is important to mention this.
Also. GO TO WORK is basically no more sentegraphs (ie: one sentence = one paragraph).This time, there are paragraphs and commas everywhere. Tons and tons of commas!
But it’s a very good book, GO TO WORK. It’s also, probably, Noah Cicero’s best work to date.
GO TO WORK, I think—in terms of growth as a writer—is a very important book. It’s worth spending your money on.
If you read GO TO WORK, you will find out about: Rachel Heidelberg and Robert Jones and Dr. Charles Nevitsky and Dave Morgan and Sherwood Burke and Rex Tugford and Bob Packwood and Jay Riddick and Joe Newsome and Charlie Palmer and Armando Vasquez and Edward Choffin and Clinton Walker and Lester Wallace and Allen Dulles and Mrs. Techak and Imad and Bruce and Lawrence and Ashley and Milton and Larry and Tim and Alex and Gin and the CIA Agent.
You will also learn to fall in <3 with Michael Scipio and Monica Whitten.
I know I did.
Mike Kleine is an American author of literary fiction. He currently lives somewhere in the Midwest. Mastodon Farm (2012, Atlatl Press) is his first book.