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LLoyd -- What Happened
by Stanley Bing

reviewed by J.M. Frank

Writers, as a general rule, don't live the same kinds of lives that most of the rest of us do. This causes an excess in novels of protagonists who are either writers or artists and a noticeable lack of stories involving the types of jobs and lives many of us have (assuming the reader is not a private detective). Lloyd What Happened is one of the rare novels that actually focuses on the real life trials and tribulations of many people: life in the modern corporate workplace.

Stanley Bing's main goal here is social satire. You will not be moved to tears by this book, nor discover deep insights into the nature of our modern world. But you will be entertained, and you will laugh. Probably one of the best features woven throughout most of this book is realism. The author, a seasoned corporate executive, has a keen eye for the small hypocrisies in human behavior. The sense of realism and believable characters makes this satire work. Since the events and dialogue in the book are absurd enough to be funny yet still plausible, the reader can imagine the absurdity as really happening. Bing's use of business style charts and graphics to analyze such issues as Lloyd's eating habits is often amusing and a nice break for those with short attention spans.

One reason business is often not written about is that it can be quite boring when taken in its entirety, but Bing does keep the story entertaining, both in Lloyd's work and personal life. The plot takes enough unusual turns to keep the outcome unpredictable. For example, Bing ultimately resolves an adulterous affair in a manner that is realistic yet rarely seen because it lacks the symmetry and justice that authors and readers often like to force into the world. However, readers need to be warned that the ending is disappointing in that it betrays the tone of the rest of the book. The last quarter of the book steadily moves away from a social satire that works only because it hits so close to home in the corporate world, into something of an absurd farce. The last portion takes increasingly outrageous twists to arrive at a "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"-like improbable happy ending. Despite this final approach, however, this is an entertaining book, though it would have been greatly enhanced had it explored the deeper social implications and moral issues that naturally spring from the examination of modern corporate business.

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