In This Book About Office Life, Your Misery Is Your Choice

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Misery abound! Diversion Publishing

If you want to learn about what may be the funniest book released this year, one that in the process may make you feel slightly terrible about your life, keep reading. If not, close this window immediately and search for a feel-good list of some cats that look like Angela Merkel, or something.

Great! You're still here. Let's talk about work. You know, that thing dubbed "making a living," but that in reality seems to bring you closer to death? How hard was it to get up the other day and drag yourself out of bed, trudge through the wintery tundra of doom and disintegrate into your office chair for at least eight hours?

This is where the collaborative work of humor writers Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon begins (full disclosure: Gagnon has contributed to Newsweek in the past). In their rip-roaringly funny book, Choose Your Own Misery: The Office Adventure, the two Onion alums make a dark and decidedly adult play on beloved childhood "choose your own adventure" novels, laying out a series of miserable—and increasingly absurd—hypothetical situations. The book starts out with a bad hangover and the prospect of another soul-draining day at work, and devolves into some hilariously terrible scenes, including time at a crystal healer, self-inflicted surgery and even a bout of crime.

"The most immediate feeling of misery in our lives when we set out to write this was dealing like your day to day life is a waste of your time," Gagnon tells Newsweek. "Like, the biggest thing you spend a portion of your life doing is making you less happy, not more happy."

In the spirit of the book, we've laid out a bit of a "choose your own adventure" format as talk through the book with Gagnon. Happy reading!

If you want to find out how Mike and Jilly conceptualized the book, keep reading. If not, scroll down to the next paragraph for a sonic surprise!

Mike was trying to do a Canadian Onion site, and he found me through McSweeney's. And we started working together there at his website. And it quickly became clear that some of the writers were more committed to doing side projects, and I started doing scripts and all kinds of random ideas with Mike and other people. But over time it just evolved into he and I wanting to pursue anything that we thought was a good idea.

So we came to each other with a few ideas, and an early version of this was one of Mike's ideas that day. And he had no idea it was a good thing at the time, he had three things we threw against the wall: "Ah I don't know, you'll probably not get a kick out of it, but what if it was a 'choose your own adventure' format book you cannot win? You're a miserable person at the beginning and there's no way it gets better." And I'm like, "That's awesome!" I like that.

"Work sucks / I know!"

Go back up to the top, or keep reading below.

If you want to find out where the inspiration came for this miserable adventure is, continue on.

Mike and I were both in office jobs and extremely ill-fitted to those jobs. It was very much like putting on a suit of clothes that was too small and being like, "Oh god, this chafes." When you're in an office job that isn't fulfilling that passion there's nothing more soul-sucking in the world. So I think for us it was more like we know exactly how much this hurts and where it hurts, and we felt like we could easily do a whole book of these pains.

So that's probably where the office setting came from. We were miserable and could not figure out a way out. It was a trap. Every day you die a little bit and part of your soul dies too.

If you want spoilers on one of the darker outcomes in the book, keep reading. If not, skip down to the topical feature film trailer below.

Mike and I have super dark senses of humor, which is probably apparent. There's one where you kill someone and you have to tell their daughter they're dead. You're so lonely you call this woman on the phone and there's one where it ends with you sitting outside on the street across from her house, watching the lighted windows of her house as this total creeper. And I think it's the funniest fucking thing on Earth. I would hope that is not a day that ends typically…

If you want to find out how eerily the book carries over to real life, keep reading. If not, might we recommend going back up to the Blink 182 jam?

[In one of the scenarios] we have a cab driver that's filthy-mouthed. And that was really difficult to write! Creative swearing is an art we have lost. But months later, we look up—the book is sold—there's a case in Canada, this cab driver in the news, and the passenger tried to sue him because his language was too foul. And there's video of this guy. We created his person in reality in our book. I felt like a wizard.

In This Book About Office Life, Your Misery Is Your Choice | Culture