Work is the all-American pastime, taking more and more of our waking hours, and infiltrating our sleep. It’s been grist for books from Studs Terkel’s “Working” to Joshua Ferris’ “And Then We Came to the End” to Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened,”set in an ad agency circa “Mad Men.”
Recently we asked NBCC members, former awards winners and finalists, What’s your favorite book about work? The responses to this NBCC Reads series poured in (a few within minutes). Books ranged all over the map. Several books gathered multiple endorsements, including Philip Levine's “What Work Is,” Ed Park's “Personal Days,” Tom Rachman's “The Imperfectionists,” “Two-Up” by NBCC board member Eric Miles Williamson, George Orwell's “Down and Out in Paris and London.” The long tail of individual favorites began with NBCC Balakian award winner Joan Acocella's pick, Penelope Fitzgerald's “Human Voices.” Today's entry is from NBCC member and web manager David Varno.
I can't help stealing this occasion to mention one of my favorite novels, David Gates's Jernigan. It may not be about work overtly, but work plays an interesting part in the book, in that the characters seem to be doing whatever they can to avoid their jobs, and the most dramatic situations seem to come about as a result of what the characters can't or won't do.