The Yesteryear Issue – While You Were Truly Out
New York magazine|April 26 - May 9, 2021
What I want out of office gossip is what Herman Melville delivers in “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Ur-text of Manhattan office life. Imagine hearing it over happyhour beers some Thursday night.

1957: A secretary polishing her nails.

A new clerk arrives at a Wall Street law firm, and at first everything seems normal—quiet guy, efficient, neat. Bartleby eats literally nothing except the ginger-nut cookies that the intern (everyone calls the intern Ginger Nut) always buys. But, you know, basically, he’s fine. Then Bartleby starts refusing to do things. He says he “prefers not to.” He prefers not to go to the post office. He prefers not to double-check his work. The boss has no idea what he’s supposed to say to that. Meanwhile, Bartleby has apparently started sleeping at the office, so now he’s just there all the time, eating ginger nuts and semi-doing his job. Finally, the boss tries to fire him, but no; Bartleby prefers not to leave.

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