| Tara Lennart |
So, right when we’re smack-dab in the middle of an economic crisis, good old Mark comes out with “Odd Jobs”, a book about shitty stuff we could be doing to make ends meet. Forewarned is forearmed: this book will bring you sleepless nights and make you late for work. But whatever. It’s all for a good cause, dear reader.
What we have here is Max Zajack, the barely disguised avatar of Mark Safranko, and what he does is regale us anew with his adventures—in particular the appalling jobs he’s saddled himself with on the way to realizing his dream of becoming the next Dostoevsky. If you’ve read the entire saga (Hating Olivia, Lounge Lizard, and God Bless America), Odd Jobs takes place before Hating Olivia and after God Bless America. We of course recommend that you read the whole shebang and thereby come full circle with the story of Max, whose tale oscillates between cynicism, self-mockery, and extra-lucidity. Like the real champ he is, Mark Safranko remains true blue—never wavering in his singular descriptions of a dark character under even darker skies.
So, what does Mark stand for? Because, behind the fun, the sordid failures and the unbelievable adventures of Max, we find a bottomless criticism of the American dream and the American way of life. In the book, it’s all a huge mess, a chaotic failure full of hissing cracks. If the previous installments dealt with social problems of the 70s and 80s, this book (although taking place in the Vietnam War) rings a loud-and-clear bell in the present day.
Never would we dare, of course, to describe Mark as some kind of New Icon for the mainstream socio-criticism that’s lately waved its rotten flag amongst the low-cost left-wing intellectuals. No, sir. It’s all about reading between the lines with Mark, and thus getting at something deeper in our current economic reality.
Max is one of those lost idealistic guys, the offspring of a totally endangered romantic and lyrical imagination. What kills these poor souls? Capitalism. Paying bills. Successful living through employment. Society doesn’t want artists or, even worse, independently-minded folks that tell their uncultivated and abusive boss where to stick it. Society wants you to learn to behave. How to be a useful man. Without even a whisper of mercy, the system is gonna kill at birth all these unbearable beatniks, kill them with a mountain of alarm clocks and 9-to-5s.
Why? (Why, why, why!) Because these poorly lubricated little cogs don’t want to hear about the American Dream. Or its cheap rewards. All Max, a sub-hippie and sub-dropout, wants is this: to be free. According to the system, guys like Max fuck the whole thing up, and fuck it up bad. From the gardener to the banker to the chief editor, Max’s bosses try to squash him into the mold. In turn, Max makes everything go tits-up.
And what the hell about us? You and me? Outside the fictional, inside the supposedly real. Let’s have a look:
Business schools are full of suits with calculators in their pants, dreaming of varnished briefcases and Lehman Brothers and short blondes and tennis on Sunday—the kindred spirits of a hungry centipede called capitalism. All around us are the future kamikazes of liberalism. So what if, instead of allowing ourselves to be imprisoned, we daydream about becoming the next Dostoevsky? What would happen then? Read the book to find out…