marginalia || Totally Killer, by Greg Olear

Kari of The Five Borough Book Review sent me this book, Totally Killer by Greg Olear, a few months ago, and it’s been on my bedside table since then. An hour after I’d read Name All the Animals, I picked this up–one of those days when I just had to keep reading, I guess. I began this oh-so-idly, taking a peek at the first pages. And then, before I knew it, BAM–Sasha was Reading a Book:

Taylor Schmidt—twenty-three, single, and jobless—arrives in the Big Apple desperate for work and hungry for love. Through the Quid Pro Quo Employment Agency she finds the perfect job and the perfect boyfriend . . . but perfection has its price.

Aaand that’s basically what happens. It’s 1991, and our narrator Todd looks back from the future on those fateful months that his path crossed with one Taylor Schmidt, the blonde in possession of an odd sex appeal, and countless of other 90s affectations. The economy sucks, Taylor’s a victim of the job search. Until things turn for the better. Or worse, depending how you look at it.

Other pertinent information: Taylor dies. Quid Pro Quo Employment Agency is A Bad Idea. We know this from the first pages of the book, c/o our narrator Todd who was Taylor’s roommate eighteen years ago. It’s not a spoiler. In fact, throughout the narrative, Todd frequently steps in to remind the reader of himself, and that he knows how this will all turn out. Like, Taylor goes out to get cigarettes, but damn, she shouldn’t have done that because, well, as we know now, she’ll come to regret it. That got annoying fast, haha.

Also, you can see that plot twist–why the Agency is A Bad Idea, and Why Taylor Dies–from a mile away. [Does this make it a “plot hump”?]

But it was fun. The nineties nostalgia, the references that flew over my head [a disclaimer: I, for one, know next to nothing about 1991. I was born late ’89, and was probably gurgling on Gerber around the time this happens]. Yeah, it was fun, how madcap Taylor’s job search went, the uncovering of the deep and dark secrets of Quid Pro Quo. It was fun.

The fun got tedious after a while (that makes little sense, I know), though.

Seven-eights into the novel (look, Ma, I can do Math!) I decided to let it go and just skim it to the end. Because it was getting too deep into its kitsch-ness for me to stomach it much longer (ah, Sasha Getting Snooteh). Yeah, it was kitsch. It was campy, and it was soaked in Man Those Were the Good Ol’ Days nostalgia for 1991–but it was fun. It was verra verra fun.

And that’s kind of it. All the mentioned, and this:

  1. It’s fast-paced, a good book to spend the afternoon with. In my case, I tried to finish it before my boyfriend came to pick me up. It’s FUN, okay, and witty–there’s a big dose of satire in it, a tongue-in-cheek view of want and obsession.
  2. This is so going to be a movie. With Scarlett Johansson blank-gazedly gaping at people gaping at her cleavage. Huh. This really feels like one of those black comedy B-movies that has its respectable cast trying to look cool and unrespectable and oh-so-nineties.

Yeah. That was it. Heh.


I am kind of sick of March. I mean, reading has been slow lately. And what books I do get to read, they’re less than phenomenal. Most are good. Nice. But I need me some Great.

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