Joe Meno's Sixth Book Explores Bikes, Art And Cubicles

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 19, 2012 4:00PM

Joe Meno is one of Chicago's young prolific writers. Amidst his bulk of plays and novels, Nelson Algren Literary Award, Pushcart Prize, and other honorable mentions, his latest book will be released this month. Office Girl will be Meno's sixth book; it looks to be small, quirky, and an all-around charming read. We know Meno as a man who likes to switch up style, topic, and genre out of impatience and innovative drive rather than lack of focus. Meno tends to focus acutely on whatever his current project might be--a challenge to himself to do his best work and then move on to the next obsession.

His latest enterprise includes the characters Jack and Odile, twenty-somethings trapped in cubicles by day, riding around on mischievous art missions by night; caught in the dead space between dreaming and pursuing life. Publisher's Weekly, and Anobium have tagged Office Girl as a hipster novel, but a poignant one nonetheless. Odile and Jack form a relationship over riding bikes, gabbing about indie pop music, and sharing an air of innocent pretension about their lifestyle. The book takes place in 1999, and so we find our main characters without smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to enhance their street cred. Publisher's Weekly's review likens Meno's novel to the aire of Douglas Coupland's Generation X, although notes that Meno preceives his characters with more compassion, making for a "more than merely endearing" story.

Meno seems to have chosen what could be a cliche background for novel, but it sounds like he has managed to pull it off with finesse and a delicate tone. The aforementioned sources concur that he has accurately captured the anxiety that accompanies the mid-late twenties: a small age group that teeters on a tightrope swaying toward either epic failure or sweeping success.

The book release party for Office Girl will be held at the Book Cellar on June 28. It's a good opportunity to hear some of the book and grab a copy for yourself. Also reading will be Adam Levin, Lindsay Hunter, Stephanie Plenner, with the music of Nick Butcher and Jordan Martins. Hipster-like or not, we're certainly looking forward to hearing from a book about inexperience from a very seasoned author.

June 28, Book Cellar: 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., 7 p.m., FREE.