Sunday, November 25, 2007

You Just Can't Find Good Help These Days: A Review of Bad Attitude by Leopold McGinnis

by Wred Fright

Friday was no ordinary Friday in the United States. It was "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving and the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Hordes of shoppers descended upon the shopping malls, strip malls, and malls disguised as the small town squares filled with shops that the malls killed off. Take it from one who once worked retail that day (at a K-Mart that no longer exists--damn you Wal-Mart!), though they'll tell you it's named Black Friday because of the traditional colors of accounting ink (red for debt, black for profit), don't you believe them; it's Black Friday because it's a horrible day to work retail. Instead, it's a much better day to stay home, buy nothing, and read the novel Bad Attitude by Leopold McGinnis. Ha! Ha! Of course unless your local public library stocks it or you can borrow a friend's copy, then you have to buy a copy of Bad Attitude. In the end consumerism gets us all, eh? Of course, we all have to consume to survive. It's only when consuming becomes something akin to a religion, done mindlessly of the economic and environmental consequences that it becomes a problem. And the problems of consumerism are what Bad Attitude deals with, using the perspective of those on the "front lines" of the consumer war: the workers of retail.

Bad Attitude tells the story of Jesse Durnell, a sales associate at Electronics Pit, a store that sells stereos, televisions, and any other electronic device guaranteed to make your life complete. However, unlike most of the other workers at the Pit, who either tolerate their jobs or even actively try to succeed in them, Jesse has a bad attitude about the whole enterprise and spends most of his time avoiding work, sabotaging the coercive tactics of management, and waiting for the consumer apocalypse, which he believes is forthcoming. As a former sales associate, I can testify that McGinnis has the experience encapsulated in the novel in all its absurdity, humiliation, and economic necessity (for the individual and society), and he's added an explosive ending which will warm the hearts of disgruntled sales associates everywhere.

Having enjoyed McGinnis's previous novels, I've been looking forward to reading Bad Attitude ever since he told me about it, and, unlike most of the products Electronics Pit sells, the novel doesn't disappoint. It tells a good yarn and critiques consumerism from an interesting angle. For a short book (only about a hundred pages), it has a large significance, particularly in this shopping season where peace on earth and goodwill to men (and women presumably as well) too often get trampled in the rush to find a good parking space. And, in the spirit of all the widgets that the characters in the novel sell, I must point out that the novel is very nicely designed. I particularly like the cover illustration in stark green and black of a grumpy sales associate. So the book makes a great stocking stuffer. Act now! Limited quantities! Batteries not included! Warranty sold separately! One day only! What a sales event! The more you buy, the more you save! Consume!

Though Wred Fright has never met Leopold McGinnis personally, he has corresponded with him often, and they've even engaged in joint-promotion for their novels, being both indie-lit types with no marketing budgets--in fact an ad for Fright's novel The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus appears in the back of Bad Attitude. However, Fright has no financial interest in the publication of Bad Attitude. He wrote the review for the simple reason that he thinks McGinnis is a great writer and more readers should be aware of his work. He also wishes you a cool yule!