Mr. Griggs' Work (Orchard paperbacks, 1993 softcover printing)
Writer: Cynthia Rylant
Artist: Julie Downing
My daughter is in kindergarten and brought this book home from the school library. While I never review children's books, this compelling, disturbing view of a deranged employee obsessed with his job made me want to share this cautionary tale so that other parents out there can steer their children away from this psychological examination about the erosion of a healthy work/life balance.
Things start off innocently enough. We are introduced to Mr. Griggs, a veteran window clerk at an undisclosed Post Office branch. The reader is almost immediately endeared to such a dedicated, hardworking employee...until he punches out and goes home. Mr. Griggs is portrayed as living alone, although the likely backstory is that his obsession with his job led to his wife fleeing with their children in tow during the middle of the night. He lives in his mind, dreaming of work while he is in the bathtub and while doing his dishes, thoughts of mail and parcels dancing around his sick, sick head.
It is at this point that insanity begins to seep in, as Mr. Griggs goes to work in the middle of the night “to check on things”...for free. No one in their right mind would go to work outside of their regular schedule, especially when you aren't being paid to do so. I turned the page slowly, afraid at what could be around the corner. Would he murder a janitor working the night shift? Stalk a woman jogger in the park, skinning her alive and wear her skin as clothing? Pretend to be his dead mother and murder people? None of these things happened, although the mentally deranged man began to imagine animals as mail, squirrels as letter carriers, and trees as Post Office boxes. His grip on reality is now tenuous at best.
His obsession with his chosen profession had begun to wear him down. With all of his mental faculties focused on his unhealthy obsession with his job, he became sick...so sick that he actually had to take a day off of work. The thought of someone else doing his job made him despondent. Whatever ailment he had seemed to vanish the next day, as he went back to work and continued his descent into madness. His delusions caused him to be late for work, with customers being lined up outside in the cold waiting for him to open the door. They seemed to appreciate his unhealthy obsession, which they mistake for dedication, to his job. The book ends on a chilling note, as this lunatic is still out there, selling stamps...
I know that I will sleep a little less soundly tonight.