Read People in Glass Houses by Shirley Hazzard Online

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People in Glass Houses: A Novel...

Title : People in Glass Houses
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312424220
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

People in Glass Houses Reviews

  • Teresa
    2018-09-26 08:48

    I liked this collection of interrelated short-stories. My understanding is that each was first published in The New Yorker. And while the soul-crushing, labyrinthine absurdities of the bureaucracies of the huge international Organization (read the U.N.) are not earth-shattering now, I wouldn't be surprised if these stories ruffled more than a few feathers when they were first published.The narratorial voice can be sly, even snide, and there are more than a few knowing chuckles for the reader. One story is very much a precursor to The Bay of Noon, which I found interesting to see as a part of Hazzard's development as a novelist. In some ways this collection can be seen as a novel: it's certainly the most connected set of stories I've come across in a long time.Now that I've read all of Hazzard's fiction, I'll need to reread her great novels one day. She deserves that.

  • Steve
    2018-10-02 12:58

    I agree with the book blurb that said this is worthy of Waugh. It's wonderful satire on bureaucratic minds working in a relentlessly bureaucratic agency. It's funny and also dismaying that there are people, lots of them, who can actually talk and think in such numbing bureaucratic language that uses words, lots of them, to convey absolutely nothing and not be aware of it. It's a form of insanity. In this novel it can be funny, exasperating, etc, but, in darker contexts, also alarming and frightening, making cruelty possible by cloaking ambition, office politics, the desire to protect one's position, and a lot of other motives, in layers of abstraction. We've all seen examples of this in our own lives. Too many of them for comfort. This is my first book by Shirley Hazzard. I like her a lot.

  • Kimberly Sullivan
    2018-10-15 06:05

    I enjoyed this brilliant send-up on the United Nations in a series of connected short stories.Hazzard, who worked in the UN in its early years – in the 1950s – and later became a vociferous critic, creates a brilliant satire of what she calls ‘The Organization’, replete with official-sounding UN acronyms such as "‘DALTO – the Department of Aid to the Less Technically Oriented’, working to induce backwards nations to come forwards.”This biting satire is subtle, depicting enthusiastic, idealistic young people entering a system they believe can truly make a difference, only to be slowly grounded down by mind-boggling bureaucracy and incompetent management. Speaking about the career rise of one character, it’s noted with pride that “he worked at Interim Reports, before being upgrade to Annual Reports.” One of the characters in the story is described as such: “Svoboda was not a brilliant man. He was a man of what used to be knows as average and is now known as above-average intelligence.”Here’s a telling passage about bureaucratic management within ‘The Organization’:“Although exalted in Organizational rank, they were not remarkable men. First-class minds, being interested in the truth, tend to select other first-class minds as companions. Second-class minds, on the other hand, being interested in themselves, will select third-class comrades in order to maintain the illusion of superiority.”But it isn’t only political-appointee management Hazzard pokes fun at. One of her best pieces in the collection is about a bitter, insecure and increasingly unstable secretary, Sadie Graine, who viciously wields her power over those around her. She takes twisted pride in controlling access to her boss and thwarting the careers of those who don’t provide her with the respect she believes she deserves. It’s a brilliant story with a satisfying end. I was pleased to read an interview with Hazzard in which she recalls this little gem as probably her most perfect short story.I really enjoyed these short stories and greatly appreciate Hazzard’s fine eye for satire.

  • Susan Schefflein
    2018-09-23 10:49

    Shirley Hazzard has obviously worked for an "Organization". She describes the bureaucratic mind perfectly. I laughed out loud at some of the characters - the interaction between Miss Kingslake and Grilli, Chapter 7. A Sense of Mission, is not to be missed.

  • Jim
    2018-09-23 13:01

    In an interview in The Paris Review Hazzard talks about what prompted her to write this book:When, having become a writer, I resigned from the United Nations Secretariat in 1960, it never occurred to me that I would write directly about that experience—my years in a bureaucracy that, given its pretensions, funds, and opportunities, was the most disillusioning and stultifying experience imaginable. People in Glass Houses gradually developed in my mind, as time passed and I realized more acutely the waste of years spent there. The waste of people and possibilities.In the book the U.N. becomes “The Organisation”. The interviewer described the books as “Orwell crossed with Waugh” and that’s not a bad description although it is heavy on the Waugh and Hazzard admits that he did cross her mind as she was working on the book. The Paris Review lists the book among her novels but since all the chapters began life as separate pieces in The New Yorker it is, strictly-speaking, a collection of short stories although if you want to beat about the bush you could describe it as that odd beast, the novel in short stories since there is some overlapping of characters.I worked in the civil service for many years and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there so I expected to be able to relate to Hazzard’s world although I have to say I was hoping for something more Kafkaesque than what I got but it was fine; if I was reminded of anything it probably was the Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit. I’ve thought to write about my experiences of bureaucracy but resisted the urge and, after reading this, I think I was wise to do so because I don’t think I have it in me to produce something like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and that’s what you need to do to make office life funny. To be fair to Hazzard there’s hardly a page without something to make you smile—Hazzard clearly has an eye for detail—but she’s also gone for accuracy and what’s she’s describing accurately is boring and a little boredom can go a long way. I suspect that if I’d encountered these stories as they originally appeared, periodically, I probably would’ve enjoyed them more because reading them one after the other underlined the negative which is a shame because there’s a lot positive here and I’d draw your attention to Greg Lowe’s review for Spike Magazine much of which I agree with.For me the best piece was ‘Swoboda's Tragedy’ which is about how hard it can be to get anywhere if your face doesn’t fit. ‘The Story of Miss Sadie Graine’ was also good and actually provides a solution as to how to get around the fact your face doesn’t fit.In some respects the stories are dated but only a little; people—certainly office people—really haven’t changed that much in the last hundred years.

  • Seingalt
    2018-09-20 12:54

    I read this brief collection of stories this afternoon, first with immense delight and then with slight disappointment. The opening story, "Nothing in Excess," captivated me immediately with its on-target skewering of the pompous language of the Organization that the characters in these stories work for. Other stories I liked quite a lot, too, in particular "The Meeting" and "Swoboda's Tragedy." Throughout the collection, there were lines that made me laugh out loud every few pages. The story "A Sense of Mission," for instance, about an Organization staffer sent on mission to assist with what one presumes is a humanitarian emergency, opens thus:"Carry your bags, Miss?"It was the first remark addressed to her by those she had come to serve.But at some point the stories started striking me as needlessly cruel, or even as caricature. I'm not sure how otherwise to explain my slight disappointment.I work for the Organization that is the target of Hazzard's barbs in these stories, and the most surprising thing to me about the collection is how evidently little the Organizational language that Hazzard mocks to tremendous effect here--for me, it's far and away the most gratifying aspect of this collection--has changed since the 1950s, when she herself was an Organization employee.

  • Janean
    2018-10-12 08:07

    I work in an office, too! My office also has a cafeteria and thousands of employees, many from different countries! And I'm not getting a raise or a promotion! Oh.Maybe just a bit too true-to-office-life, this "novel" is more a collection of loosely connected scenes than one coherent story. The people who work for the "Organization" are either tools or victims of the soul-sucking environment. At least one who is booted from the office manages to win in the end. That gives the reader hope, I guess.

  • Letitia
    2018-09-24 07:11

    A somewhat dated satire, this nonetheless proved quite amusing once I got into it. The novel is highly episodic, and it took me the first couple episodes to understand the author's sense of humor and satirical language, but once I did I found it highly amusing. Not a must-read, but an interesting enough perspective on corporate structure and the mental transition of post-war America to read on a plane.

  • Megan
    2018-10-07 08:43

    It was for class and I didn't really enjoy it, but I read it so you can bet I'm gonna count it toward my book goal for the year.While I wouldn't recommend this to anyone to read for pleasure, Shirley Hazzard actually did do a good job writing a satire of the UN/work life in general. She had a few clever barbs so let's go with 2 stars.Update: I changed my mind, I didn't like this stupid book, one star.

  • Jeff
    2018-10-06 10:07

    Kind of funny--its about her time at the UN. So as a government peon I'm already relating. As opposed to her other book I've read--the fire or something, this one is an anthology (maybe from a new yorker article or something) so it took me a while to realize it jumped around in characters and times. Great detail, little character development because its short stories, reminds me of mamet's the village.

  • Dannuel Saùl Delizo
    2018-09-21 09:09

    Funny names, horrible plot and boring transitions. Whatta deplorable book. I was hoping for a turning point but it just didn't happen. I cri. But I still considered the fact that it was written decades and decades ago. I bought it a year ago and it felt like I had to read it. Now I did it. I'm finally over this.

  • Rod
    2018-10-03 13:03

    Brilliant workplace satire (from decades ago), found in The Strand, by the author of one of my favorite novels of the last ten or fifteen years, The Great Fire. I want to give this book to everyone I've ever worked with and say, "Huh? Huh? Right?"

  • Marina Sofia
    2018-09-25 05:54

    So, so recognisable - both for international organisations and the corporate world more generally... Hazzard has a flat, neutral style which is very funny and satirical, with just occasional reminders that these are real people with real suffering.

  • Diane
    2018-09-17 12:49

    This may be closer to the truth than a comedy.

  • Ida
    2018-10-15 11:46

    Enlightening about the UN system

  • Sam Schulman
    2018-09-24 08:51

    The perfect book to re-read during the Copenhagen Conference - another of the great anti-World Organization novels of our time by one of the greatest living novelists.

  • Claire Haeg
    2018-09-17 06:41

    Fabulously beautiful descriptions of life at the United Nations mid-50s. Depressing tales of bureaucratic ineptitude wrought in beautiful prose.

  • Joan Winnek
    2018-09-20 12:53

    This book didn't thrill me, although it had its moments.

  • Horace Mann Family Reading Challenge
    2018-10-02 12:52

    This is a satire about a global organization (a thinly veiled description of the UN I would guess). Funny if it weren't so convincing! S.A.