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About the Author
Hilary Leichter is author of the novel Temporary. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, Harper's, n+1, Bookforum, Conjunctions, the Cut, and American Short Fiction. She teaches at Columbia University.
Longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel
NPR, "Favorite Books of 2020" Publishers Weekly, "Best Books of 2020" Chicago Tribune, "Books to Read in Winter 2020" Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2020" Bustle, "Must-Read Books of 2020"
Publishers Weekly, "Best Books of 2020"
Chicago Tribune, "Books to Read in Winter 2020"
Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2020"
Bustle, "Must-Read Books of 2020"
I-D, "Best Books of 2020"
Refinery29, "Best Indie Books of 2020"
Bustle, "Must-Read Books 2020"
Thrillist, "Best Books of 2020"
Tor.com, "Best Books of 2020"
"In [Temporary], you can hear an old note, a note I've missed in American fiction, and am surprised to have noticed myself missing--for so long it seemed dominant to the point of imperishability. The violent, surreal, often cartoonish scenarios delivered deadpan that draw attention to the freakishness of ordinary life--from writers like Donald Barthelme, Gordon Lish, Ben Marcus. . . . This novel could have easily sagged into dogma, but Leichter keeps the narrative crisp, swift and sardonic. Temporary reads like a comic and mournful Alice in Wonderland set in the gig economy, an eerily precise portrait of ourselves in a cracked mirror." --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"[A] delirious and deeply humane satire. . . . Temporary has the manic, goofing energy of a lounge act." --Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"A batty, playful satire, Temporary twists the jargon and anxieties of a millennial gig economy into a dreamscape of spires and scaffolding through which we swing as our narrator seeks out her steadiness. . . . In the trippy, shape-shifting architecture of Temporary, we come to discover that the landscape around us is constructed on shaky foundations, but also that there's comfort in uncanny in-betweenness." --Los Angeles Times
"A brisk, wildly imaginative first novel. . . . Leichter's deeper interest is in mining how transient, insecure work inflects our private life--if it even permits a private life. Can we afford to stop working? Do we remember how?" --The New York Times, "Editors' Choice"
"[A] refreshingly whimsical debut that explores the agonies of millennial life under late capitalism with the kind of surrealist humor that will offer anxious minds a reprieve from our calamitous news cycle. . . . As a book about the brutality of the work world, Temporary is a great success. Leichter has managed to blend the oddball and the existential into a tale of millennial woe that's both dreadful and hilarious at once. This book should be recommended reading for workers--and essential reading for nonessential workers--everywhere." --The Washington Post
"A temp worker's bailiwick expands from office admin duties to sailing on a pirate ship and performing absurd tasks such as subbing for a barnacle on a rock. The flights from one assignment to another transition seamlessly through captivating dream logic and magical, inventive imagery, leading to staggering insights about the nature of existence." --Publishers Weekly, "Best Fiction of 2020"
"Temporary sits in a constellation of works by writers like Jen George, Eugene Lim, and even Kurt Vonnegut, who play with puns and archetypes in order to parse capitalism's marriage with identity. Quippy prose and surreal narratives shift the focus away from individual actors, distancing these works from the traditional requirements of character and plot development. These fictions portray the exploitation, manipulation, and outright abuse of late capitalism in ways that a memoir--or even a 'realistic' novel--could not." --Bookforum
"[A] deeply hilarious, surreal manifesto against late-stage capitalism, all wrapped up in a mushroom trip. So, you know, exactly what we need in 2020. . . . I felt as if Leichter knew just what this year had in store for us." --Tim Herrera, The New York Times
"Leichter's funny, absurdist debut cleverly explores a capitalist society taken to a dreamlike extreme . . . her cutting, hilarious critique of the American dream will appeal to fans of Italo Calvino." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A young temp searches for permanence in Leichter's whimsically surreal fable of late-stage capitalism. . . . clever and strange and, in the end, unexpectedly hopeful, less a biting gig-economy satire than a wistful 21st-century myth. A dreamy meditation on how we construct who we are." --Kirkus
"Refreshingly original." --Chicago Tribune
"Serious in intent if brashly funny in tone, this tale of an unnamed young woman who temps as a pirate ship's deckhand, an assassin's assistant, and a fill-in board chair takes aim at capitalist society." --Library Journal, "Best Debut Novels 2020"
"In this fever dream of a novel, a young woman navigates the impermanence and forced intimacy of life as a professional temp . . . A potent and ethereal look at late capitalism for the young professional. Perfect for fans of Severance by Ling Ma." --Booklist
"At a time when pop culture abounds with incisive takes on people's relationships to their jobs--from Rob Hart's dystopian The Warehouse to Bong Joon-ho's acclaimed film Parasite--Leichter's novel finds space for both intimacy and expansiveness. It's like little else you'll read, but its emotional resonance is all too familiar." --Star Tribune
"The near-farcical chaos of the gig economy is explored in this story of a young woman's journey through a series of increasingly wild job placements, from shining shoes to swabbing the deck of a pirate ship. (Not to judge a book by its cover, but this one gets extra points for the coolest jacket we've seen in a while.)"--Vogue
"Temporary has garnered critical acclaim in all the right places--and it's well-deserved. . . . Leichter succeeds in creating a space for wonder and tenderness in an anxiety-inducing job market. Her unorthodox narrative and whimsical writing push you across the page. Reading Temporary is like discovering the origin myth of the gig economy."--Interview
"Chances are you've never read a workplace novel like Hilary Leichter's. The author takes numbing routines to dreamy (or perhaps nightmarish) extremes, delivering subversive entertainment in the process." --Entertainment Weekly
"If a Salvador Dali painting were reimagined as a contemporary novel, it would be Leichter's Temporary, a trippy commentary on workplace culture and the gig economy. . . . With beautiful prose and colorful imagery, it's a poetic tour de force." --Parade
"Leichter's voice is lively, practically sprightly, and offers a smart balance to the big question she asks--When everything is considered work, how do we live outside of it?" --Vulture
"In this fast-paced, imaginative debut novel, no scenario is too absurd for our narrator to try and make the best of, which feels especially relatable in 2020." --Britnee Meiser, I-D
"Ultimately the novel is not about the quest for steady employment, or even a job. . . . Temporary surfaces the emotional toll that constant precarity takes on us and shows us the deep devastation in that forever-long grind that swaps our personal lives for a job, that turns us into marketers of ourselves, that rips away our humanity and makes us into r´esum´es, automatons, not people but job-seekers." --Marianela D'Aprile, Jacobin
"[Leichter] is interested in the absurdity of corporate language, the kinds of phrases that are used to justify loose employment bonds and precarious conditions, which she applies to increasingly bizarre and fantastical scenarios. . . . . Each stranger than the last, these events unfold with the clarity of a dream. . . . Temporary ends with a flourish: its final chapter takes the form of an 'exit interview.' It's a lovely touch, typical of the way Leichter commits to her conceit of filtering the narrator's entire experience through the rituals of employment." --Laura Marsh, Dissent
"[A] surreal picaresque. . . . By embracing absurdity, Leichter evades realism while borrowing from reality." --The Baffler
"Leichter's narrator, like so many of us, finds herself clinging to the American Dream, despite all modern evidence that we may be out of its reach. Whether it's the immutability of this quest or our enduring national history that makes this story feel timeless, it's Leichter's nimble, singular prose that makes Temporary come alive in our own." --The Believer
"[A] surreal extreme of gig economy slacker fiction. . . . Leichter's novel is emotionally convincing not just because of its narrative, but because of the linguistic dislocation that proves its premise. Language flips like it's about to fall off the edge of the world." --Guernica
"An absurd, laugh-out-loud funny critique of (and antidote to) the dystopia that is late-stage capitalism." --Buzzfeed
"[R]uns on the sort of funhouse logic that Lewis Carroll would have admired, where 'putting a pin in it' is literal, and each new narrative leap offers Leichter a chance to expand and shrink her creation to fit the contours of her next assignment. . . . constructed with a distinct moral clarity that makes more sense than most traditional career trajectories." --Sarah Batkie, Chicago Review of Books/p>
"[A]n invigorating, life-affirming, bizarre, bittersweet reminder of what's at stake if we let the scales tip too firmly away from life and into the realm of work, and why we need to resist such a fate as much as we can."--Literary Hub
"Perfectly captures our unhinged current times." --GARAGE
"At once hilarious, surreal, and serious, Leichter's first novel reveals truths about capitalist society while exploring the meaning of doing one's work well, despite how ridiculous or temporary it might be. This will be enjoyed by fans of Jen George and Helen Ellis." --Library Journal
"The story in Temporary--an absurd, wild, emotional take on women's work in a dystopic version of the gig economy--is built of exquisite, striking writing. . . . This is someone for whom ideas and language are both fuel and match." --Diane Cook
"To recommend Hilary Leichter's Temporary is not just to recommend a piece of writing, but a kind of derangement, a unique way of being in language, thought, feeling. Leichterworld is built with the author's astonishing heart and ear, and it's a world of delightful, ever-escalating absurdity, mesmerizing prose and a poignant serio-comic vision. . . . One of her gifts is to locate the dire center of every trifle, and the deep comedy at the core of our grief. Temporary, of course, is about work, but it's also about the very human play of words and moods and images that help make life worth working to sustain." --Sam Lipsyte
"This book is very funny. . . . It's contemporary but kind of feels like a much older book." --Kevin Nguyen
"Temporary is a wickedly charming examination of the gig economy, of hustling from one weirdo workplace to another. One of your ridiculously demanding bosses may require you to swab the decks on a pirate ship. Another may require you to perform the role of a literal barnacle. Does this novel sound super fun? It is, but it will also break your heart." --Mary South
"An experimental novel which features a heroine who is basically a shape-shifter. She's a temp, but it's a gig economy like we've never seen before . . . A 'wow, ' great metaphor for freelancing." --WNYC, All of It
"There's a lot compressed into these crisp sentences: the pressure we find ourselves under when we define our lives by our work . . . the increasing, quasi-magical power held by administrators and bureaucrats, regardless of profession; the understanding of workers as fungible goods. But it's all done with lightness, in a style that is quietly allusive (the 'pleasure dome' calls up Coleridge's vision of Xanadu) and that relishes linguistic playfulness. . . . While Leichter's economic analysis is serious, her manner is delightfully goofy." --Anthony Domestico, Commonweal
"This funny, irreverent, imaginative, short novel follows the protagonist through several fantastic and strange temp jobs--CEO, assassin, pirate--to find universal realities about life, love, and work." --Mary Beth Widhalm, Austin American-Statesman
"The world is a hostile and unsteady place for most workers, in Leichter's world or our own. . . . . I hope Temporary is only the first in a new decade of novels reflecting the true formlessness and weightlessness of modern life. It may be grim, but it will also be true, and no monster may be confronted but that we see it first." --Ploughshares
"Maybe, Temporary suggests, we don't need the steadiness to make us whole, but rather human connection." --The Rumpus
"Temporary is a delightfully absurd, misfit novel that darkly captures how work can construct, confuse, and corrode identity. . . . In a moment when we are simultaneously hailing temporary and precarious workers as heroes, yet continuing to endanger and devalue them, stories like these--that render the invisible visible--may be exactly what we need." --Eve Zelickson, Public Books
"[T]akes everything you've already seen and read about--be it Office Space or the work of Douglas Coupland--and tosses it into a shaker with some ice and a whole lot of 90-proof whiskey. . . . Temporary keeps you guessing and though it'll make you think of your own career choices and aspirations, it'll do so while continuing to warp the very essence of what it means to work and to be an employee." --Thrillist
"Wildly unhinged and exhilarating in its derangements, Hilary Leichter's debut is a thrilling, subversive, mordantly funny look at what it means to be alive today--aka what it means to have to work. . . . Pre-pandemic, Temporary was an astute critique of late-stage capitalism, a reminder of how important it is to resist letting work consume every minute of the day. Post-pandemic? It feels even more relevant, a reminder that living to work is really no life at all." --Kristin Iversen, Refinery29
"Uproariously funny. . . . What Leichter is getting at in her wonderful, slippery, surreal book is the structure of work. . . . By taking her Temp to extremes, Leichter is able to puncture the utter absurdity of work itself." --Tor.com
"As if Alice in Wonderland and The Odyssey hooked up at a party and conceived a child who, out of shame, tried their hardest to become a functioning member of society. . . . I loved this book that manages to create fantastical lore out of the banality of office work, that idealizes the working class experience without being condescending, that offers whimsy to failure." --Entropy
"A weird, punny, hysterical, hard and soft-hitting collection of laughs, tears, and thought-provoking entertainment. Temporary will be one of the best books you read next year." --Paperback Paris
"The novel's twists and turns are funny, surreal, and consistently surprising. The world of Temporary isn't quite ours--the people are stranger, the jobs more absurd, and ghosts really exist. But it says so much about identity, capitalism, and our contemporary working world, so full of uncertainty and risk, while remaining a highly entertaining read." --Book Riot
Leichter is satirizing how much of our identities are wrapped in our work, and the failures of the gig economy. It's absurd, funny, and hits just a bit too close to home, like all the best satires do." --Alma--
"[A] poignant, lyrical portrayal of the gig economy, and of the intertwined searches for employment and identity that face everyone as they enter adulthood." --Squarespace
"Temporary is a demented, de-tuned love song for the working life. Hilary Leichter possesses the brute force of language and imagination to create ultra-vivid worlds, suffused with an eerie weirdo beauty. It is Leichter's brilliance that these invented worlds reflect so directly, blindingly, on the secret, mythical workings of our own." --Ben Marcus
"Temporary took me by storm. Each short chapter is a wallop of topsy-turvy wisdom and humor, and together they build a strange and sparkling universe. The novel is about work and identity and the masks we wear, but it's also about our weird little human hearts and what they can bear. I am a Hilary Leichter superfan." --Ramona Ausubel
"In Temporary, the quest for gainful employment is epic; operatic; deliciously, sunnily, terrifyingly entertaining. Hilary Leichter is a conjurer of rare talent." --Kelly Link
"This clever book! I don't know how Hilary Leichter worked this bit of sly magic, but she waved a wand and created the perfect parable for our perilous gig economy. This hilarious, sad book about work and worth is what everyone needs to read right now." --Amber Sparks
"A profound, devastating, and unforgettable book of wonders. Devour Temporary in one sitting so you can join the feverish club of people who love this book!" --Xuan Juliana Wang
"A narrative so deliciously allusive and disarmingly literal that this reader kept thinking maximum glee had been attained, only for the glee to somehow grow even more maximal just a few sentences later." --Helen Oyeyemi