Saturday, August 29, 2009
Books About Work
The Beast reading.
There used to be many novels that dealt with the workplace. Look back at books like THE JUNGLE, the novels ofTheodore Dreiser, the novels of Steinbeck, or ever Sinclair Lewis. We learned about various professions once upon a time. Malamud told us how a grocery store works. We learned about the life of vets, farmers, doctors, teachers, scientists.
The workplace seems to be a rare setting nowadays. Is it because of the death of the lower- middle class novel? Is it because most writers are college instructors or don't have day jobs. Are they coming from a different milieu? Or has the workplace become boring? If a novel is set in a workplace, it is used only for interactions between employees. There are a few exceptions I can name. Philip Roth told us much about glove factories in American Pastoral. O'Nan set a book at the Red Lobster of late. But on the whole, we are interested in family dynamics, relationships, other things.
Did work become too dull to describe? Can you think of a novel that told you about how something was made or done? Are the lives of ordinary people being overlooked in novels?