In his first feature, The Target Shoots First, Chris Wilcha documented his tenure at Columbia House, the mail-order music service whose ads famously promised “12 CDs for a penny.” Then a recent NYU philosophy graduate, Wilcha landed the job partly due to his familiarity with “alternative culture,” a burgeoning new market at the time (Nirvana’s In Utero was soon to be released), and brought a sardonic Gen X sensibility to chronicling his time in the company’s marketing department. Part workplace comedy and part personal essay, Target chronicled Wilcha’s anxiety about selling out his personal integrity and punk rock principles by commodifying his generation’s tastes. At the same time, he and equally disaffected, creatively-inclined colleagues tried to mold the system in their own image by turning the company’s sales catalogue into an alternative publication, complete with snarky copy and genuine music criticism. Wilcha’s unfettered access to Columbia House, from the factory floor to company retreats, and unique commentary renders Target a perfect snapshot of ’90s culture and a timeless treatise on rationalizing well-paid, soul-sucking office jobs.
23 years later, Wilcha returns with Flipside, a spiritual sequel to Target that partly documents what he’s been doing for the past few decades.
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