canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


Jessica Westhead will see you nowÖ

by Nathaniel G. Moore

Whether itís the British original or the new American adaptation, the ongoing popularity of televisionís The Office has brought chuckles and fits of cringing intolerability to our real life hate-on for office work of any kind. Now to give us another reflection into the grim ritual depicted in the parameters of office politicking and gossip, comes Pulpy and Midge (Coach House, 2007) the debut novel from Torontoís Jessica Westhead.

It seems that Girl Friday and Coach House author Westhead has a very important memo for every single one of us who has ever been viciously fettered to a stinky office cubicle. But youíll just have to wait until Pulpy and Midge is released to find out all the ingredients to this savoury water cooler gossip.

For the office working stiff, Westheadís book might be too close to home, or work, as the case may be. "Donít get me wrong," muses Westhead, far from a cubicle, but instead speaks from the comfort of her home office just north of Danforth Avenue, "I donít think all office work is bad news. It just isn't for everybody."

Westhead claims the main character doesnít hate his job. "Pulpy does it because heís used to it, it's comforting, in a way. Itís only when he gets a new boss that things start to fall apart."

Westhead, who has been involved in Torontoís readings and book fair scene around the city for the past nine years, says she first got the idea for the novel while sitting at a desk job numerous office jobs ago. "I was the company secretary, and it wasnít very much fun because the working environment was so toxic."

Westhead found some of upper management to be quite mean, and to pass the time between answering the phone and typing, she began writing Pulpy and Midge. "It was a short story at first, but I kept coming back to it because I enjoyed the characters so much. After countless office jobs through various temporary employment agencies in the city, Westhead found a similar theme after each gig. "So many people go to work every day and treat each other horribly, and most of the time they get away with it because their cruelties are small ones. But those little cruelties can add up pretty quickly."

A huge fan of dialogue, Westhead can be found, at work or not, listening in on the world of voices around her. "Listening to people talk, and trying to figure out the stuff they leave unsaid, is one of my favourite things to do. If you run into me and Iíve got glazed eyes and a slack jaw, Iím probably eavesdropping." 

Drop in on Westhead and Coach House (through THIS IS NOT A READING SERIES) for the launch of Pulpy and Midge complete with office party theme on September 25, 2007 at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. West.) at 730pm. Please wear uncomfortable office clothing and anecdotes on fax machines and malicious accidents with staplers. The event is free.

Further sources:

Pulpy & Midge by Jessica Westhead

Those Girls by Jessica Westhead







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