The Beautiful Bureaucrat (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Part Twilight Zone, part Kafka: this is a spare, imaginative novel that you will read in one sitting. Josephine is newly employed inputting numbers into a system only known as The Database. Toiling in a mysterious, windowless building, her office walls are marked with strange scratches and handprints and the files on her desk seem to remain the same size no matter how long she works.  Her boss is faceless and the other rarely seen, nameless workers seem to know too much about her.  When her attempts to find out the nature of her work are parried, when her new husband intermittently disappears and when she begins to notice haunting figures following her and peering in her windows, Josephine’s anxiety peaks and she is compelled to investigate the true business of the institution. This sinister, sad novel raises allegorical questions about life, death, and how much control we have over each.

- Cindy

— From Cindy's Recs



NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by Time Out, Bustle, The Atlantic, Electric Literature, Kobo, Kirkus and more...

"Riveting... thrillerlike...drolly surreal...Ultimately, The Beautiful Bureaucrat succeeds because it isn't afraid to ask the deepest questions." The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

"A joyride..." -Karen Russell

NAMED A MUST READ OF THE SUMMER by the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Bustle, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, HelloGiggles and more...

A young wife's new job pits her against the unfeeling machinations of the universe in a first novel Ursula K. Le Guin hails as "funny, sad, scary, beautiful. I love it."

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.

As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.

About the Author

Helen Phillips is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award and the Italo Calvino Prize, among others. Her collection, And Yet They Were Happy, was also a finalist for the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize, and her work has been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts and appeared in Tin House, Electric Literature, Slice, BOMB, Mississippi Review, and PEN America. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781627793766
ISBN-10: 1627793763
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: August 11th, 2015
Pages: 192
Language: English

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