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How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center. No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center. No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a stopgap measure, quickly becomes a descent into humiliation, and Geissler soon begins to internalize the dynamics and nature of the post-capitalist labor market and precarious work. Driven to work at Amazon by financial necessity rather than journalistic ambition, Heike Geissler has nonetheless written the first and only literary account of corporate flex-time employment that offers "freedom" to workers who have become an expendable resource. Shifting between the first and the second person, Seasonal Associate is a nuanced expose of the psychic damage that is an essential working condition with mega-corporations. Geissler has written a twenty-first-century account of how the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt.


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How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center. No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center. No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a stopgap measure, quickly becomes a descent into humiliation, and Geissler soon begins to internalize the dynamics and nature of the post-capitalist labor market and precarious work. Driven to work at Amazon by financial necessity rather than journalistic ambition, Heike Geissler has nonetheless written the first and only literary account of corporate flex-time employment that offers "freedom" to workers who have become an expendable resource. Shifting between the first and the second person, Seasonal Associate is a nuanced expose of the psychic damage that is an essential working condition with mega-corporations. Geissler has written a twenty-first-century account of how the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt.

30 review for Seasonal Associate

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    I find it super interesting that as of this date (3/10/2019) there are only two reviews listed for this book on Amazon and both are negative. Maybe it's not surprising as this memoir makes working at an Amazon fulfillment center feel like being in a dystopian nightmare. A place where everyone would rather be somewhere else and all the little human interactions that lend grace and make life bearable are stamped out in the demand to ship more things, more quickly, to more people. Heike Geissler is I find it super interesting that as of this date (3/10/2019) there are only two reviews listed for this book on Amazon and both are negative. Maybe it's not surprising as this memoir makes working at an Amazon fulfillment center feel like being in a dystopian nightmare. A place where everyone would rather be somewhere else and all the little human interactions that lend grace and make life bearable are stamped out in the demand to ship more things, more quickly, to more people. Heike Geissler is a novelist and translator who fell upon lean times and in an effort to be responsible and pay her bills takes a job during the Christmas rush at an Amazon fulfillment center in Leipzig, Germany. Perhaps the experience was too deadening to tell as a straightforward memoir. She chooses to use both first and second person, making the reader (you/but also her earlier self) be the person having the experience. She lends encouragement and advice to this person and it takes a little time to get used to being told a story in this way. I sorted of faded out mid-book as a reader. This is really depressing stuff to read and think about. (Next time I order last minute Christmas gifts off Amazon the poor person stuck in a chilly, cavernous warehouse sorting through pallets and scanning items in/out for minimum wage is going to weigh heavily on my mind.) I was pulled back in towards the end as she begins to put up some resistance to the mindlessness of her work. Small actions at first, then bigger ones. I love that she was able to find a bit of human warmth when she was handling books and that she occasionally stopped to read the backs of them. One in particular reached her at the perfect moment after being bullied by a forklift driver: In between the workbooks, a proper book shines through. You shove the workbooks aside and unearth more proper books. At last. Your attention is caught by a book with a bald man on the cover: Naughty by Marc Chester, a hooligan telling his story. "The shocking inside story of one of the most organized and violent soccer hooligan gangs currently active in Britain, the Naughty Forty. Written by one of the gang's central figures, it reveals the network of alliances and friendships between leading hooligans across Britain, and the explicit reasons they are so feared." You don't receive the book; instead you prop it up on the desk like a family portrait. It feels like you now have a thug with a provocative glare on your side ... You stand in front of the book and say, Marc, those people over there, they're bothering me. You know I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important to me. But those people over there are really bothering me right now and I don't think they'll stop bothering me. Marc Chester's answer: "And the first thing I would like to say is: We're Stoke City, we're the Naughty Forty, and we're game as fuck. So let's have it." Of course the book you need at any moment always exists, and sometimes you're lucky enough to find it. Heike then, in her role as storyteller, makes you pull a book out of the box, which doesn’t really exist there on that Amazon sorting desk, but is on her bookshelf at home, called Loose Associations by Ryan Gander and shares a bit that’s important to her. (She occasionally tweaks this memoir in a meta-fictional way when it suits her.) There’s a university in Buffalo, in New York State. The campus there was relocated twenty years ago, so the architect could completely redesign it. He built the entire site but didn’t put any paths in … he just left it as gravel. There’s very heavy snowfall in New York State in winter, and as the campus began to be used students began to navigate around the campus, leaving paths in the snow, so if there were a lot of people walking the path, it would end up very wide, and the ones that weren’t used so much were narrower. The architect then sent a helicopter up to make an aerial photograph of the campus, then plotted all these desire lines on a map and built the paths is the same positions with the same widths as the desire lines. It’s an example of perfect planning of public space. “Desire line, you think, a trodden path, a path most wished-for. A path that comes about when people want to get from one place to another and there isn’t yet a path.” Heike's time at the Amazon fulfillment center may have been a time of wandering an intellectual wasteland, but her efforts to capture the experience feel like the makings of a path, a navigating of lifeless territory that reveals the cost of corporate flextime employment and points towards changes that need to be made.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Megan O'Hara

    feels bad to review this on an Amazon platform 🙃 really amazing though! In the beginning I was kind of skeptical of the narrative format being her real life account of her time as an Amazon worker but telling it as if you are the one going through her motions in second person. But Giessler's writing and it's translation were really effective in communicating the feeling of distance between human and lesser than. If you ever feel like you're losing perspective on what it's like to be a low wage w feels bad to review this on an Amazon platform 🙃 really amazing though! In the beginning I was kind of skeptical of the narrative format being her real life account of her time as an Amazon worker but telling it as if you are the one going through her motions in second person. But Giessler's writing and it's translation were really effective in communicating the feeling of distance between human and lesser than. If you ever feel like you're losing perspective on what it's like to be a low wage worker(peon)(I can say this because I am one) please read this! One day I will have Jeff's head.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    This is a nonfiction account of Geissler's time as a seasonal associate at an Amazon warehouse in Germany for extra money during a lull in her work as a writer/translator. I thought the holiday season would be the perfect time to read it and I really enjoyed the stylistic approach. Written in both the first and second person, it feels as though Geissler is having a conversation with the reader in their (my/your) first days as a seasonal associate, giving them tips from 'behind the scenes.' The n This is a nonfiction account of Geissler's time as a seasonal associate at an Amazon warehouse in Germany for extra money during a lull in her work as a writer/translator. I thought the holiday season would be the perfect time to read it and I really enjoyed the stylistic approach. Written in both the first and second person, it feels as though Geissler is having a conversation with the reader in their (my/your) first days as a seasonal associate, giving them tips from 'behind the scenes.' The narrative has a dreamy, drifting quality, as though her mind is wandering to other, more interesting thoughts, as she encounters the utter glut of 'things' -- distressed hats, children's toys, cheese graters, sex toys, badly written books. It made me a little nauseous, all the blatant consumerism. She also touches on the subtle disrespect and misogyny omnipresent in any worker hierarchy. What struck me especially was toward the end, when a new employee asks about a padlock and the manager simply states she needs to 'get one' without elaborating or telling her where -- Geissler wonders to herself, why not just give a straight answer? It's as though everything is made to be more difficult than it needs to be. I found it insightful and rather beautifully written.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    "You'll try over and over to view it differently, but even from the start, the experience forces you to your knees and down a social stratum, and that's the way it will stay. Yes, you'll start to see strata in society. If you don't already. You'll see the strata before your eyes as clearly as geologists see the structure of the ground where they've dug a deep pit." Heike Geissler's translated novel/essay/treatise on her experience working on short-term contact at a German Amazon fulfillment cente "You'll try over and over to view it differently, but even from the start, the experience forces you to your knees and down a social stratum, and that's the way it will stay. Yes, you'll start to see strata in society. If you don't already. You'll see the strata before your eyes as clearly as geologists see the structure of the ground where they've dug a deep pit." Heike Geissler's translated novel/essay/treatise on her experience working on short-term contact at a German Amazon fulfillment center over the holiday rush was another gem found digging around for syllabi material. I've been thinking a lot about labor and identity lately, particularly in terms of attempts to program human workers as intelligent machines without a thought for the psychological consequences of doing so (for example, the many recent pieces about the PTSD and other mental effects on Facebook's minimum-wage moderators). This book, even with its lower stakes in terms of conditions and long-term effects, had an especially striking impact. Its formal structures force the reader to re-perform the experience of alienated labor, creating split personalities of "I" and "you" and placing you in the dehumanizing experiences of the latter at Amazon. Beyond this, however, it's threaded through with interesting reflections on the impact of work conditions more broadly, describing the small resistances of not grabbing the handrail on the staircase when instructed to, or opening up a book to briefly read it instead of mindlessly log it as a product. These are small seconds stolen from the company's regime of measuring productivity by the second, and Geissler shows how the energy to perform them fades and fluctuates throughout her time living under those panoptic structures. Particularly unforgettable was a moment only tangentially related to her time at Amazon: her mother's experience in a workplace without sick days. When taken with a cold and forced to trek out to a healthcare facility to get a doctor's note, Geissler flashes back to her desire to perform sickness for her mother, as the days she was sick as a child were the only days her mother was ever allowed to take off from work. She wonders if she's performing her illness even as she experiences the symptoms. She notices how the structures of sick days figure her recovery as a loss for her company, as something that she's stolen from them, while at the same time figuring her own illness as a gain for her mother. This struck me as the greatest alienation of all, the ways we've allowed corporations to place their own rights above those of the people who make them possible, the ways we've come to measure everything, even involuntary bodily conditions, in terms of capitalistic exchange, loss, and gain. While I was expecting an expose of horrible working conditions, Geissler shows the reader how these small, ordinary moments--present in nearly every workplace, although made more visible by the dehumanizing nature of the job itself--have the most impact on the ways you might lose yourself in work.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Frederico

    A short novel that ponders in a provocative and ironic way about the precariousness of contemporary work. The title pretty much shows what this book is about and how it goes about its story: how a worker is called at Amazon quarters, a seasonal "associate," adds insult to injury. Nobody is an associate at Amazon, nobody associates with one another at Amazon, where there's no association between the worker and his or her work. The narrative device used by Geissler, second person narration, is her A short novel that ponders in a provocative and ironic way about the precariousness of contemporary work. The title pretty much shows what this book is about and how it goes about its story: how a worker is called at Amazon quarters, a seasonal "associate," adds insult to injury. Nobody is an associate at Amazon, nobody associates with one another at Amazon, where there's no association between the worker and his or her work. The narrative device used by Geissler, second person narration, is here employed to both make the reader take the place of the protagonist ("You would be sitting there, just like I sat there and just like you're sitting there as me") as well as split the narrator between herself and herself as worker. So, anyway, it's really smart and thought-provoking and one of the best books I read about present-day capitalism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anton Relin

    While I highly recommend reading this book, I found myself having difficulty finishing it. Perhaps it is because Geissler really does make you feel like you are working away at Amazon. The point of view and voice are unique and refreshing, a good read

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    this is the only good book i've ever read this is the only good book i've ever read

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt Raymond

    Experimental look at the current state of work, Seasonal Associate is a fascinating account of what 21st century employment is, and it’s not pretty. Part memoir/part second person narrative, the book documents Geissler’s time working as a temp at an Amazon Warehouse during Christmas. She does everything she can to put us in her position, saying “You” and adding bits of essential personality (“you prefer dealing with people who are what they do”) that make us live through the problems, as opposed Experimental look at the current state of work, Seasonal Associate is a fascinating account of what 21st century employment is, and it’s not pretty. Part memoir/part second person narrative, the book documents Geissler’s time working as a temp at an Amazon Warehouse during Christmas. She does everything she can to put us in her position, saying “You” and adding bits of essential personality (“you prefer dealing with people who are what they do”) that make us live through the problems, as opposed to just telling us about them. A lot of those techniques annoyed me at first. Continuous explanations of motivation, second person narratives in general, the loose structure of what is happening to who. But gradually it became clear (and was confirmed in the book’s afterward) that what Geissler wants to show us is that work destroys everything that makes us human. In short, it destroys the soul. What Amazon puts Geissler through is small when looked at individually, but collected together, you can see the effects. Her story and the one she places us in, eventually crash into each other getting more hectic and confusing. Suddenly you aren’t sure who you are, and her point is made. Work, yes, can be soul crushing. But it also creates another you. It takes away everything that makes you a person and leaves in its place a worker who exists only to work. When you go home, you are another person there. If, like me, you have two jobs, you’re 3 people total. A job is like making a Horcrux: it splits your soul apart, and leaves a piece behind. You’re never fully human until you quit or are lucky to find something that you enjoy enough to not call work. Geissler finds solace in books, eventually getting crates to check for quality. But eventually even that gets taken away because she takes too long looking at product rather than just pretending she did. It’s a quality check in name only. A lot of moments like this demonstrate the loss of language. Like in 1984, they take language and make it pointless, only adding to the soul crushing aspect. For a company that was built on selling books, it’s almost ironic if it wasn’t so depressing. By the end, Giessler leaves early without notice, but is given a positive review. And is even asked to come back in a letter that finally uses her name again. She has regained her humanity. But she mentions (this was back in 2010) that soon those jobs will be automated. And in 2019, a lot of them already have. The book goes beyond just Amazon, and explains (despite some lost in translation bits) that we are in the middle of an existential dilemma involving work. If our jobs are so easy a robot can do it, and eventually we are replaced by a robot, then what do we do? If work is inherently pointless and unnecessary, then why are we doing it to begin with? We’ve become the “Seasonal Associate,” just waiting for our jobs to end or be replaced by a machine. And we are not prepared to deal with the consequences.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cate

    Wow, this was something. This is an account of Geissler's time working as a seasonal worker at Amazon, but it's an account like no other I've read before. What does it feel like to work in an Amazon warehouse? "You're a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear." I loved her use of second person, how the narrator is separate from that second person, how she treats time and the grind of menial meaningless labor. Dang. Amazon is some crap, no surprise, but still. Amazon is bullshit. Wow, this was something. This is an account of Geissler's time working as a seasonal worker at Amazon, but it's an account like no other I've read before. What does it feel like to work in an Amazon warehouse? "You're a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear." I loved her use of second person, how the narrator is separate from that second person, how she treats time and the grind of menial meaningless labor. Dang. Amazon is some crap, no surprise, but still. Amazon is bullshit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kendall

    I liked this book and read it quickly. I found a few typos and missing punctuation marks which always drives me batty.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    A second person perspective of a global corporations dehumanizing labour discourses! Gleisser upholds her (and in turn the readers) academic integrity in order to prevent the docile outcome of her Amazon peers. Overall it was insightful to learn the lingo and inter-workings of the corporation, as Gleisser had pointed out several sectors that need “re-vamping”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    What an unexpectedly delightful little book! The experimental perspective shifting, the reflections on the banality - and necessity - of working and getting paid, and the evocative locale of winter in a German city: it all worked for me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bart Van Overmeire

    I don't like Amazon, but unfortunately, I didn't particularly like this book either. I don't like Amazon, but unfortunately, I didn't particularly like this book either.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    The narrative style was as interesting as the story. I kept stopping to admire the skill of the author and how she chose to deliver her message. There's a beautiful image of "desire lines" towards the end. Very impressive. The narrative style was as interesting as the story. I kept stopping to admire the skill of the author and how she chose to deliver her message. There's a beautiful image of "desire lines" towards the end. Very impressive.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cassie (book__gal)

    A first-person look inside working at an Amazon fulfillment center in Germany. Interesting, not groundbreaking. I felt it looked inward too much and I would have rather had class politics centered more in the narrative.⁣

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    *Before I write this review let me just say that I realize that Goodreads is owned by Amazon. This book is about poor working conditions inside an Amazon fulfillment center in Germany. I also realize that while I say I hate Amazon as a company, it owns to many subsidiaries that I liked before they were purchased (or I didn't know they were subsidiaries in the first place). As a voracious reader, I don't want to give up Goodreads, so my review may seem hypocritical. Still, my negative opinion and *Before I write this review let me just say that I realize that Goodreads is owned by Amazon. This book is about poor working conditions inside an Amazon fulfillment center in Germany. I also realize that while I say I hate Amazon as a company, it owns to many subsidiaries that I liked before they were purchased (or I didn't know they were subsidiaries in the first place). As a voracious reader, I don't want to give up Goodreads, so my review may seem hypocritical. Still, my negative opinion and grudging acceptance of Amazon in my life remains.* When I saw this book on our shelves at work I was super excited; I think at this point I may be known for my dislike of Amazon by most people I talk with. So I was ready to hear all the dirt, just like I've read about in other books (Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century for instance) and news articles/segments that I've come across over the years. But something wasn't there for me. Maybe there is a big difference between how Amazon functions in the USA vs Germany. The author wrote a few times about going to the bathroom, something that people have repeatedly said isn't allowed here. The author came off as a bit stuck up sometimes because you could tell she thought she was better than this type of work. (FYI you're never "too good" for honest work) Normally I'd say that it really stinks to not be able to make sufficient money from your "true" career, but at the same time, if you need to make more money, you have to earn it! There's no shame to me in warehouse work. It's all about fair labor practices or the lack thereof. This author's experience was negative mostly because the people leading her teams were super demeaning. It led to stress and fatigue and self-doubt for the author. I still enjoyed this book because of her way of writing and describing how this job wore her down (I was reminded of my time working the drive thru at Starbucks, and the feelings that went through my mind during that time). Still, I felt that the author came off as entitled (just like I probably do complaining about working at Starbucks). This book was good, but it wasn't the bombshell exposé I had been hoping to read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judy G

    When I read about this book I wanted to read it about and by a young woman in Leipzig Germany who is broke and in 2010 december she seeks and is hired by Amazon GmbH. She is working there I think for a month as "seasonal associate". this book was published in Germany and only recently translated for us and available from MIT Press. She covers everything and she is a writer. Its a dark disturbing book and she and the translator really succeeding in conveying the people and the situations for othe When I read about this book I wanted to read it about and by a young woman in Leipzig Germany who is broke and in 2010 december she seeks and is hired by Amazon GmbH. She is working there I think for a month as "seasonal associate". this book was published in Germany and only recently translated for us and available from MIT Press. She covers everything and she is a writer. Its a dark disturbing book and she and the translator really succeeding in conveying the people and the situations for other workers in the warehouse and of course herself. the amazon system as it existed in 2010 is beautifully (not the right word) explained from her perspective in her various roles with packaging counting various tasks in their Fullfillment Center. throughout her telling of her working there she is mostly working day shift and in various groups. Considered a good worker she eventually joins the best group. It is also so that in this group the workers have an easier situation based on the products. I think that Heike was kind to Amazon and careful and the situation was worse than she told. and what she told was humiliating and demeaning and insulting and cruel and very hierarchical like a power pyramid. How she left there that was quite unique and the aftermath of a letter from HR applauding her and asking her to contact them for employment. the nature of the work is here in her writing and also the unnecessary treatment of the workers by various managers and those above her in their hierarchy. I did enjoy reading about the "problem solvers" who come when the worker has done something wrong like miscounting the products.... Good book and I thank the author and the translator Katy Derbishyer. It is important in reading this that sometimes sentences are very puzzling and that is in the translation.... Judy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This is an experimental novel/memoir about seasonal work at an Amazon distribution center in Germany. One winter morning on the tram to work, she points out that “You, in the midst of your coworkers, in the midst of strangers with coats and bellies, frozen and in some cases chapped hands on handholds, are nothing but a placeholder for machines that have already been invented but aren’t yet profitable enough to permanently replace you and your workmates, who are all very low cost. The fact that y This is an experimental novel/memoir about seasonal work at an Amazon distribution center in Germany. One winter morning on the tram to work, she points out that “You, in the midst of your coworkers, in the midst of strangers with coats and bellies, frozen and in some cases chapped hands on handholds, are nothing but a placeholder for machines that have already been invented but aren’t yet profitable enough to permanently replace you and your workmates, who are all very low cost. The fact that your presence is necessary troubles your employer, who dislikes dealing with troublemakers.” She reminds “you” of Hannah Arendt’s observation that “Life, which for all other animal species is the very essence of their being, becomes a burden to man because of his innate ‘repugnance to futility.’” It’s a well-written mostly downer of a book. She seems to have worked at Amazon full time, but merely two or three months, and she seems far more wounded by the experience than I would expect. Yes, the repetitive, rule-bound, efficiency-focused Amazon culture is horrible, but she doesn’t seem to have much sense of proportion. She feels hopelessly oppressed by things that, to my mind, are merely the garden variety assholery that one can find anywhere there are humans. And she ruminates quite a bit about why people must work at all. She wants to know: can’t we all just get a basic income and live without work? I, however, think we all need work to stay sane; doesn’t have to be paid work, but we have to have goals or tasks or purposes. It’s how we endure in the face of that “innate repugnance to futility.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is a memoir of sorts about a German woman's experiences working for Amazon as a Seasonal Associate, which is a temporary contractual form of employment. She begins her book by justifying her decision to work for Amazon being that he didn't have enough money to go around at the end of each payday, and the book ends when her employment contract is over. The book is written with two different points of view, one from the first-person point of view of the author and also the second person point This is a memoir of sorts about a German woman's experiences working for Amazon as a Seasonal Associate, which is a temporary contractual form of employment. She begins her book by justifying her decision to work for Amazon being that he didn't have enough money to go around at the end of each payday, and the book ends when her employment contract is over. The book is written with two different points of view, one from the first-person point of view of the author and also the second person point of view of the reader she imagines as being along for the ride. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that uses two differing points of view simultaneously, but this author manages it adeptly. She works for Amazon during the late autumn to midwinter season, leaving around Christmas. As someone who is perenially curious to know what goes on behind the scenes, I thought this book was interesting, and a tad tedious. That is, I'm glad to know what it's like and even more glad to be able to know by reading about it in the comfort of my own home, instead of standing in some dim warehouse for hours on end as Ms. Geissler did. I enjoyed this book, and it's not overly long nor preachy. It is set in Germany so there are some occasional references to German places or culture. I did see a couple of titles that I wished had been translated that maybe had been missed, or didn't translate well for some reason or another. It's a memoir about work, so there is no violence, no alcohol or substance abuse, no sex or nudity. Maybe a bit of adult language here or there, but that's mild. An interesting read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Heike Geissler has written a “nonfiction novel” about working in an Amazon warehouse. I’ve read very few novels that have work as their sole subject matter. _Then We Came to the End_ by Joshu Ferris comes to mind. I loved Ferris’s book because it realistically (and hilariously) portrayed what it’s like to work in an office, all the joys, annoyances, and dramas. Geissler’s book is similar in that it’s only about work: any other traditional areas of human experience are subsumed to the experience Heike Geissler has written a “nonfiction novel” about working in an Amazon warehouse. I’ve read very few novels that have work as their sole subject matter. _Then We Came to the End_ by Joshu Ferris comes to mind. I loved Ferris’s book because it realistically (and hilariously) portrayed what it’s like to work in an office, all the joys, annoyances, and dramas. Geissler’s book is similar in that it’s only about work: any other traditional areas of human experience are subsumed to the experience of working, the way things are (or at least the way things feel) to just about everyone who depends on a full-time job to stay alive. The narrator keeps thinking about taking some kind of action, but how can one resist when one is exhausted and depressed, as almost all workers are? The style is experimental, but not especially difficult. It’s also funny. I recommend this book. “This system here is not yours, and you don’t understand anything any more because you’ve understood enough, and nothing here is still worth experiencing.” Isn’t that the best description ever of the feeling of hell work?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Plakias

    This was presented as a non-fictional narrative, but its dream-like quality, and its use of a second-person narrative perspective made it read like fiction for me. Likewise, while there is a fair amount of physical description, the real heart of the book is the focus on aggressive interpersonal dysfunction and collective despair that emerges at the heart of the Amazonian machinery -- there is nothing disruptive or innovative about the processes involving cardboard boxes and pallets. This book's This was presented as a non-fictional narrative, but its dream-like quality, and its use of a second-person narrative perspective made it read like fiction for me. Likewise, while there is a fair amount of physical description, the real heart of the book is the focus on aggressive interpersonal dysfunction and collective despair that emerges at the heart of the Amazonian machinery -- there is nothing disruptive or innovative about the processes involving cardboard boxes and pallets. This book's emotional color is grey. I did find it fascinating to evaluate the dual motivations for the journey -- (1) I need the money, vs (2) My first novel was a hit, and several years later I am desperate for material for a new book. Remember too, this is Germany, the perfect welfare state. While on the face of it this is a reasonably comprehensive view of a marginalized citizenry, we indeed meet nobody that has fallen through the safety net. Finally, hat-tip to Chris Krause et al at Semiotexte for making this happen.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Link

    Made more dreamlike by being written mostly in the second person, this is the story of an (over?)educated writer and translator -- someone who is used to being among people who 'are what they do' -- who is forced by financial need to take a seasonal job at an Amazon warehouse. There, the work is completely alienating and depersonalized, and workers' behavior and productivity are managed according to an infantilizing and punitive regime that will be familiar to anyone who's worked an hourly job f Made more dreamlike by being written mostly in the second person, this is the story of an (over?)educated writer and translator -- someone who is used to being among people who 'are what they do' -- who is forced by financial need to take a seasonal job at an Amazon warehouse. There, the work is completely alienating and depersonalized, and workers' behavior and productivity are managed according to an infantilizing and punitive regime that will be familiar to anyone who's worked an hourly job for a corporate employer. The book consists of extended musing on the topics of work, identity, and consumption, but in a relatable, non-didactic way. Don't we all wonder, even from the luxury of 'I am what I do' jobs, why we are doing our work, who benefits, and what are the benefits of the benefits?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Glen Helfand

    We've come to expect that working for a behemoth as insidious and seductive as Amazon would be problematic to say the least. And Geissler's book was written a decade ago! Things have grown worse in pandemic times. But this isn't exactly an act of muckraking. It is something far more nuanced and dreamlike (and how fitting that Kevin Vennemann's afterword would invoke Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon" along with Marx). It is an act of merging the I with the you, the personal and the societal, We've come to expect that working for a behemoth as insidious and seductive as Amazon would be problematic to say the least. And Geissler's book was written a decade ago! Things have grown worse in pandemic times. But this isn't exactly an act of muckraking. It is something far more nuanced and dreamlike (and how fitting that Kevin Vennemann's afterword would invoke Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon" along with Marx). It is an act of merging the I with the you, the personal and the societal, the subjective and objective. The humiliations are mostly small cuts that take their toll, you don't gasp at the inequities so much as breathe them in and allow them to blossom like a slow, feverish nightmare. It's set in the same season as when this book was read, by me, in the midst of an uncertain, virus-addled future. Geissler's text seemed particularly of the moment, but also enduring.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    The author's way of sharing her experience working at Amazon in Leipzig is one I've never seen, and it made the book an intriguing read, although it wasn't always easy. I just read Nomadland a while ago, and it was interesting to compare the old folks' experience at Amazon in the US with hers. She, mind you, is working 8 hour days (occasionally 7 days/wk, but not often), and she finds it completely overwhelming, whereas the retirees in Nomadland were working 10 and 12 hour days. This book is rea The author's way of sharing her experience working at Amazon in Leipzig is one I've never seen, and it made the book an intriguing read, although it wasn't always easy. I just read Nomadland a while ago, and it was interesting to compare the old folks' experience at Amazon in the US with hers. She, mind you, is working 8 hour days (occasionally 7 days/wk, but not often), and she finds it completely overwhelming, whereas the retirees in Nomadland were working 10 and 12 hour days. This book is really a discussion about work in general, when that work is not something that is a part of who you are, but something that you do to make money. I found the afterword incomprehensible, unfortunately.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    An edgy book about mundane, exhausting work, that delves into what it is like to work at an Amazon warehouse in Leipzig, Germany. This is not a journalistic expose but an exploration of work at its most deadening. Written from an interesting narrative perspective, "me" talking to what "you" are experiencing at Amazon as a seasonal worker, as "I" had experienced it. Heike Geissler, and translator, Katy Derbyshire, are pretty miraculous to the degree they succeed in helping the reader to feel and An edgy book about mundane, exhausting work, that delves into what it is like to work at an Amazon warehouse in Leipzig, Germany. This is not a journalistic expose but an exploration of work at its most deadening. Written from an interesting narrative perspective, "me" talking to what "you" are experiencing at Amazon as a seasonal worker, as "I" had experienced it. Heike Geissler, and translator, Katy Derbyshire, are pretty miraculous to the degree they succeed in helping the reader to feel and understand the effects of mindless work and the exhaustion that hurrying brings. She questions the very value of work, and suggests it will kill your humanity. Better robots than humans. Expect a philosophical approach.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elsof

    Told in a detached, dreamy style, the author tells of her experience in an Amazon fulfillment center in Germany. Predictably, the image of the company belies the unrelenting demands to be faster, though not necessarily more accurate. No surprises here, and less gripping than Nickel and Dimed or other titles about the disposable workforce. This is what happens when corporations become monoliths and no one cares or puts a stop to it. Honestly, I'm relieved to be at this end of my career and not at Told in a detached, dreamy style, the author tells of her experience in an Amazon fulfillment center in Germany. Predictably, the image of the company belies the unrelenting demands to be faster, though not necessarily more accurate. No surprises here, and less gripping than Nickel and Dimed or other titles about the disposable workforce. This is what happens when corporations become monoliths and no one cares or puts a stop to it. Honestly, I'm relieved to be at this end of my career and not at the start of it. Babysitting, working at flea markets, and all the other early jobs I had look positively winning compared to the slog of the soulless fulfillment center.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I really don't know what was the purpose of this book... I love Wyd. Czarne pl and as such just blindly bought that book. It's neither a novel nor a non-fiction which I thought it is. I really thought there is going to be discuss some serious and evident labor law breaches in de but nothing like that. Only time consuming thinking process of the author. I decided to write this comment when I red a story about the character throwing broken shoes to a paper bin. Really, that's a manifesto of German I really don't know what was the purpose of this book... I love Wyd. Czarne pl and as such just blindly bought that book. It's neither a novel nor a non-fiction which I thought it is. I really thought there is going to be discuss some serious and evident labor law breaches in de but nothing like that. Only time consuming thinking process of the author. I decided to write this comment when I red a story about the character throwing broken shoes to a paper bin. Really, that's a manifesto of German solidarity with workers and planet? Any other way to show this.. Really disappointed by this story

  28. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Teng

    “The products look like retired former workers for this global corporation. You don’t quite understand how a fortune could be made out of these things on either side of you and out of books and data carriers and a program and a website, a fortune that’s still growing. Nor do you understand why that fortune is not allowed to have a reverse effect on the hall, to add a little comfort or shine. It’s not as if you don’t realize the fact that the fortune is deliberately prevented from flowing back to “The products look like retired former workers for this global corporation. You don’t quite understand how a fortune could be made out of these things on either side of you and out of books and data carriers and a program and a website, a fortune that’s still growing. Nor do you understand why that fortune is not allowed to have a reverse effect on the hall, to add a little comfort or shine. It’s not as if you don’t realize the fact that the fortune is deliberately prevented from flowing back toward the employees; you simply don’t understand it, and of course it can’t be understood.”

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paige Newman

    Holy shit. I assumed this would be a much-deserved screed against the abysmal conditions of working at an Amazon warehouse, but it's so much more than that. It's more of a meditation on the nature of the modern job. The book is a mix of second and third person so that she can both narrate it and put you into her experience. At one point she writes, “You’re a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear.” If that doesn't say it all about the modern work place, I don't know what does. Holy shit. I assumed this would be a much-deserved screed against the abysmal conditions of working at an Amazon warehouse, but it's so much more than that. It's more of a meditation on the nature of the modern job. The book is a mix of second and third person so that she can both narrate it and put you into her experience. At one point she writes, “You’re a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear.” If that doesn't say it all about the modern work place, I don't know what does.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    A bit of a case of 'tell me something I don't know' for me. It doesn't really do much in the way of stylistic intrigue or innovation, and so Seasonal Associate plays out as a droll narrative recitation of why working for global cybersuperstore Amazon is bad, and I feel like this type of narrative is not the most effective or interesting way to convey this information, and as a novel it doesn't do enough to interrogate the self as it works in this system. A bit of a case of 'tell me something I don't know' for me. It doesn't really do much in the way of stylistic intrigue or innovation, and so Seasonal Associate plays out as a droll narrative recitation of why working for global cybersuperstore Amazon is bad, and I feel like this type of narrative is not the most effective or interesting way to convey this information, and as a novel it doesn't do enough to interrogate the self as it works in this system.

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