on October 2, 2008
The introductory author's note concludes with Sergeant Hulka's memorable line from Stripes "Lighten up, Francis" and it sets the tone for what's to come. Occasionally, pre-release examination copies will cross my desk, but this was the first book to inspire me to jump on Amazon and write a review.
Happy Hour is for Amateurs is not for everyone. If you're easily offended, you might do better to avoid the book. More importantly, if you rely on cognitive dissonance to get through 9-5 life, then the book might shake your fragile mental farce a little too violently.
Philadelphia Lawyer tells the story of a young man fresh out of college who is beaten down over the course of a decade in the legal profession. The lines between work and play, misery and happiness are often blurred, and each chapter is a slightly different take following an overarching theme of discontent leading to self-actualization. Perhaps the author's greatest strength is his ability to maintain a fast-paced, page-turning plot while interspersing insightful anecdotes that put into words all the random thoughts I've had about corporate culture, leaving me wondering "why the hell didn't I write this?" Yet, at the same time, I realize that it takes great craft to make life's mundanity compelling.
Philadelphia Lawyer writes like a man who isn't afraid to write. So often writers are concerned with what others might think; what literary conventions or technicalities to abide by in order to appeal to a certain crowd, but in this book the language comes relentless and unrestrained. Pop culture references from the last half century blend seamlessly with serious deliberations on legal culture and its implications on sanity. Finally, somebody is writing in an honest way about the world the forty and under population grew up in.
Immersed in a mass of workaholic drones all too eager to bill their way to the top, the narrator turns to mind-altering substances to cope with his sad reality. His sexual exploits left me laughing and cringing all at once, but the trick is Philadelphia Lawyer tells the story like you're in on the joke. One doesn't have to identify exactly with his debauchery, but instead with the potential of that act's occurrence. That maybe, if the stars had aligned differently, it might have been me running from the cops in a blizzard - merely entertaining the thought reminds us that the world isn't as serious as everyone seems to make it out to be.
Our egos are padded from childhood to make us believe there is a greater purpose behind all our actions. Despite what we're led to believe sometimes life really is a ridiculous charade - the only purpose being that there is none. Everybody has to earn a paycheck, and the need for food and shelter is a real one. Somehow in our drive to provide, we start taking everything serious. We forget how to take a joke and laugh at ourselves. Philadelphia Lawyer reminds us that enjoying the ride is more important than the end goal.
The sad truth is that without the humor, the subject would be an unbearable read. Hardly a page goes by without negative adjectives such as "rotten" "awful" "terrible" or "atrocious." As someone unaccustomed to the legal climate, the daily drudgery experienced within the plot really begin to wear. Just when I think "this can't possible get any worse" it does. I imagine lawyers may find themselves offended, but if so, they are missing the point. Philadelphia Lawyer does not blame the players, he blames a corrupt and immoral game. Nonetheless the players ' whether a thirty year old gunner looking for the next promotion or a twenty-something drug dealer looking to latch on to something are held responsible for their own existence.
Among all the vulgarity and belligerence there is a very real message communicated. That message will resonate differently with everyone, but "do what you love and love what you do" sums it up nicely for me. Unfortunately it takes the legal profession, a concentrated embodiment of every occupational evil, to demonstrate what we're all failing to see. The end goal of life isn't to die.
For a first effort, it's no wonder Philadelphia Lawyer is already making waves in the legal and publishing community. A fresh voice that has emerged from a thankless, empty lifestyle with something to offer all of us. Happy Hour is for Amateurs is a book I recommend to anyone that's ever sat in a pub and complained about their day.
And Francis, before you get all worked up and self-righteous, remember: if you can't laugh at yourself, then everyone else will do it for you.
on October 29, 2009
Happy Hour is for Amateurs is a sharply written, hilarious, insightful, and sometimes depressing insight into the corporate world.
Its not just a book for lawyers. Actually, it probably isn't at all a book for lawyers, save for the few that may relate to it. I'm a current accounting major at a top business school, and this book spoke to me deeply. I didn't think life in an office would appeal to me, and this book confirms it. There is so much more to life than billable hours and climbing the corporate ladder, and HHIFA makes you think about it.
That being said, the book is at times is one of the funniest books I've read. From descriptions of vaginal grooming to the crippling effects of a hangover, the Philadelphia Lawyer writes with such relateable clarity. I had a room of 5 guys cracking up when reading snippets. I was cringing for minutes at his examples of "mental rape," and laughing out loud at some of the sex scenes. The author's descriptive ability is incredible, and he manages to put into words what so many of us are thinking.
I'm writing from a younger perspective, but I think that any college student, especially those thinking about going into the traditional business world, should read this book. At the very least, you'll laugh. And hopefully you'll stop and think long and hard about your career path, and if you want to start climbing that corporate ladder during the best years of your life.
on April 28, 2009
Insightful as ever, humorous, and well-written... but I prefer the website. The stories as published there are less polished and simply evoke more raw feeling. The book is excellent, and I definitely enjoyed it, but for me it lacked the urgency and desperation of the stories as originally written. At times, it seemed almost over-edited. I also miss the shorter arc structure of his website entries, where each piece ties off neatly at the end, completing the treatment of a given aspect of his central complaint.
He's at his best, though, describing the strictures of social interaction and the ridiculous quality of our daily process in the course of regaling hilarious tales of vice and escapism. What the hell, the guy finally went for it, and I'm one to support the cause. It's a bonus the stories are funny and the writing is great.