Author, Beautiful Books, Book review, England, Ian Carpenter, Non-fiction, Publisher

‘Guardian Work’ by Ian Carpenter


Humour – paperback; Beautiful Books; 222 pages; 2008. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

It’s always nice to try something a little left-of-field when you’re between novels and not sure what to read next, a “palette cleanser” if you will.

Guardian Work by Ian Carpenter popped through the post yesterday courtesy of the publisher and while it’s not something I would normally rush out and buy, I was intrigued by the premise — an Essex-based property manager decides to apply for every job listed in one issue of the Guardian newspaper to see what might arise. Earlier today I thought I’d read a chapter or two before getting on with other bits and pieces, and before I knew it a couple of hours had flown by and I’d finished the entire book! Yes, it’s a quick and easy read, but it’s also a very funny one.

Apparently Ian’s “project”  was recounted via his blog over the six-month period that it took him to apply for all the jobs listed in the September 29, 2007 issue of the Guardian. Along the way he visited a Swiss banker who wanted to employ his parent’s cat; got mired in an endless cycle of “telephone tennis” with a firm looking to recruit an operations manager; was invited to take part in a money laundering scheme fronted by a chap supposedly running an art gallery; and had a run in with a firm operating a covert operation which warned him not to pass on any information to anyone outside the enforcement community. (His reply, to the latter, was hilarious: “I withdraw my application for your job. It all sounds a bit cloak and dagger to me.”)

He also applied for various high-profile positions that were not advertised in the newspaper, such as the manager of the English football team and head of the Liberal Democrats.

To be perfectly frank, the book doesn’t break any new ground, because we’ve seen this “trick” done before. In fact, I think it’s probably Robin Cooper’s fault, because it was his The Time Waster Letters, published in 2004, which ushered in a whole new genre of books based on the kooky correspondence between bored men and officialdom.

But Guardian Work is still a rather enjoyable romp that had me tittering in quite a few places, especially as I have been on the receiving end of some questionable job applications in the past. I’m now beginning to wonder if the would-be reporter whose cover letter informed me she had the “ability to wake up beautiful every morning” wasn’t winding me up for the purposes of writing a book like this one!

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