You Look Nice Today

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the first part of You Look Nice Today, the narrator, appropriately named Fred Tell, provides background information about the developing relationship between CaroleAnne, a kind of administrative assistant, and Robert Harbert. Although he is in charge of Human Resources, Tell overlooks CaroleAnne’s checkered career history and, impressed with her beauty and ability, observes how Harbert showers her with gifts (an old Honda, personal checks), gives her outstanding performance reviews, and attempts to help her deal with her abusive husband. When she believes she has been slighted regarding a bonus, CaroleAnne becomes paranoid, misinterpreting innocent comments as sexual innuendoes (“bagel,” for example) and then creating prayer sessions, ultimately believing that God has told her to accuse the corporation of harassment.

Tell then describes the trial, interspersing “actual” dialogue with his summaries and evaluations of the participants. CaroleAnne’s testimony, which is not helped by her moronic attorney, reveals her as psychologically disturbed. The Judge, a cartoonish character, enjoys making jokes and appears to sleep during the trial. When she learns about Harbert’s gifts and behavior, his wife begins to give him trouble at home.

In the last part of the book Harbert testifies, refusing to take CaroleAnne’s attorney seriously; and Tell is forced to examine his own role in the situation. Before the trial concludes, clearing him and the corporation of the charges, Harbert returns to his office and discusses a lavish termination settlement with Tell. He also realizes that his marriage is over, moves into an apartment, and starts a new life, unlike Tell, who remains in the corporate jungle.