Saturday 25 May 2019



A spare and chilling account of the day-to-day experience of Sloper, a janitor in a big-city office building, WASTE explores the import of the discarded--for those who generate it, those who dispose of it, and those who are themselves discarded. From the humble prospect of his station, Sloper uncovers ominous possibility in lives he barely brushes. 

Brian Everson says, "Only Eugene Marten can keep a reader enthralled with the minutiae of a janitorial existence.... Precisely and exquisitely detailed, WASTE is a stark little masterpiece." 

And Dawn Raffel writes, "[P]itch-perfect. WASTE wastes nothing--not a syllable, a beat, a ragged breath." 

And Sam Lipsyte writes, "There is nothing quite like the controlled burn of Eugene Marten's prose."

Not rushing to the other Eugene Marten book on my shelves - In the Blind after reading this one.

Sloper is an office janitor and a strange one. He lives in the same building as his mother - him the basement, her upstairs with no interaction between the two. Initially we follow him on his nightly rounds, where he is rather partial to recovering and eating discarded food from the office bins. We learn his routine and the petty rules and bureaucracies that govern the cleaning crew and we witness his infrequent reactions with late working office staff and his colleagues.

One such female worker is inexplicably discovered dead in the rubbish chute of the building. Sloper recycles her and now has himself a somewhat passive girlfriend. Good job he's got a large fridge. Not such a good job that his mother decides to pay him an unannounced visit. More weirdness follows.

Other subsequent interactions follow with his girl and other tenants of the property including a care-giver and her wheelchair bound charge. Sloper contemplates a career change and marriage. (Not sure what the author was up to here as I kind of lost the thread of the novel.) 

In the end, Sloper's guilty little secret is discovered and he gets to enjoy some cold storage for himself, with company.

Overall, weird and not just a little bit disturbing. I didn't enjoy it necessarily, though it had it's moments. I didn't endure it, as it wasn't a painful slog - its relatively short which helped. I just don't think I totally understood parts of it, which always kind of frustrates me. It's definitely different which I give the author credit for.

3 from 5

Read - May, 2019
Published - 2008
Page count - 132
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback


  1. To be honest, Col, this doesn't sound like my sort of thing. It certainly does sound disturbing, and I'm not sure I'd be able to warm to the main character. Just a little too macabre for me, I think...

    1. Disturbing indeed, Margot. There's plenty else you could be reading!

  2. Sounds interesting for the fact that it's so original. I might have to look this one out.

    1. It's short if you do cross paths with it. Original indeed.

  3. Wow, I hope the author isn't writing "what he knows!" :-)

    1. Me too - there will be a Netflix documentary about him otherwise!