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Andrew Donaldson: Want to Get Ahead in Life? Try Being a Bigger Jerk

By Andrew Donaldson for The Times

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude.


The Rage, by Gene Kerrigan (Vintage) R140

Award-winning police procedural in a credit-crunched Ireland, with two tough-as-nails narratives: in the one, Bob Tidey, a detective sergeant with the Dublin garda, investigates the murder of a corrupt banker; in the other, small-time ex-con Vince Naylor seeks revenge for a cash-in-transit heist that goes wrong. Kerrigan, an experienced political journalist, has been hailed by some as Ireland’s Raymond Chandler. Morally complex and gritty, hard-boiled entertainment.


Are our critics too kind on our local authors? The thought occurred after news last week that Camilla Long was awarded the Hatchet Job of the Year for her dismissal of Rachel Cusk’s (otherwise acclaimed) divorce memoir, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation. Writing in the London Sunday Times, Long slammed Cusk as a “peerless narcissist” and rubbished her book as “acres of poetic whimsy and vague literary blah, a needy, neurotic mandolin solo of reflections on child sacrifices and asides about drains”. The award, now in its second year, was established by literary website The Omnivore, to honour “the angriest, funniest and most trenchant” review in a newspaper or magazine.


It’s a toxic place, work, and today’s white-collar wage slave needs to know not so much how to do the job, but rather how to hustle, spread blame and steal credit to get ahead. We refer to these people as “arseholes”, but to Oliver James, author of the best-selling Affluenza, they are members of the “Dark Triad” of machiavels, narcissists and psychopaths who will eventually rule our miserable lives.

In his new book, Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks (Vermilion), James provides help in identifying the “triadic individuals” you work with and how to be, as a critic in The Guardian put it, “enough of an arsehole to get on without, you know, actually being an arsehole arsehole”. Some of it is quite self-evident, and will strengthen long-held convictions that the human resources people are mere dabblers in gobbledegook and bogus babble.

There are similar titles – Mike Phipps and Colin Gautrey’s 21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics and Guy Browning’s Office Politics: How Work Really Works are two recommendations – but unfortunately the book on how to get them to throw themselves in front of a bus has yet to be written.


“Why has there got to be always something that knocks you down? Why is this country full of things that you can’t see, things that beat you down, kick you down, throw you around, and kill our hope?” – House of Earth: A Novel, by Woodie Guthrie, edited and introduced by Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp (Fourth Estate).

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