Best Book for the Disillusioned Artist in All of Us

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Critics' Picks

Joe Meno has a way of capturing, in Polaroid moments, the unexplainable allure of the Second City. Hometown pride pulsed throughout 2004's Hairstyles of the Damned, and again last year through Office Girl (Akashic Books), a novel that ping-pongs around the various landmarks, topics, and minutiae of the urban mosaic that Meno is so skilled at representing. The story revolves around two purposeless artists hell-bent on fumbling into some kind of purpose. Odile, a phantom girl who weaves through Chicago on her green bike while ruminating over Velvet Underground lyrics, eventually collides with Jack, a fellow eccentric decaying beneath his own somewhat endearing neuroses. Meno shows the characters revving in complacency, attempting to pump their lives out of neutral. All the while Odile and Jack riff endlessly about the true meaning of art, not realizing that you don't need to be in a gallery to matter.