The Temp Pest
on May 25, 2015
Batchelor's novella length debut is a hugely entertaining and enlightening read. Strutting his stuff largely in Liverpool, England, but also in less salubrious surroundings such as Runcorn and Warrington, the protagonist lurches from one dubious temp job to another, each one neatly described from the outsider's perspective. You do have the impression that the author would be an outsider in most jobs going, whatever colour the collar. Also that he's perhaps not quite wordly-wise enough (as well as being quite a large bumbler) and can only cope with these harsh doses of real life with his episodes of escapism and are what save him and make the book. It's less the jobs themselves than the asides and diversions that really entertain as the author's surroundings send him to other places, such as Greek legends, how to deal with awful music in the workplace and the dilemma of how to feel about someone who is clearly a bigot but is nice to you. I didn't find there was a job that was over or under dealt with. At least I can't think of one.
The structure is interesting in that it isn't chronological and is peppered with interludes such as a dream sequence involving two psychopathic co-workers, a night meeting which somehow comes together despite some double buffoonery of the highest order, and a poem in which the author is blissfully lost in reverie, the highest state of mind possible in a dull job, according to him. Batchelor has clearly put the order of the chapters together with the kind of care needed to make the difference between a good and a very good album; it's a similar process.
I have a distinct feeling that most of what takes place is true testimony - I would guess about 75/80%. It's quite fun guessing what is and isn't fiction or half-truth.
There are plenty of rich characters with delicious monikers; the lovable Pink and Silver Vampire, the basically decent but irascible jobsworth Baldwoof and the misleadingly named, sympathetic de Burghalan spring to mind. Highlights are plentiful, but if I must name three they would be a football match (involving the writer's beloved Aston Villa) concocted from ladies' tights order forms, the disturbing shenanigans of the aforementioned pair of psychotics, in which they transform the author's working day from one of peace, friendship and tranquility (albeit the job being as dull as ditchwater) into one of fear, and last but not least his brief sojourn in a meat factory, the horrors of which would make anyone with an iota of sensitivity consider a vegetarian lifestyle.
This book's a snip at three dollars. If you have a sense of humour that encompasses the absurd and a view from the wrong side of the road, you'd be foolish not to buy it.