Labor Day Literature

On Labor Day, FD does not think anyone should work for pay, so, instead of joining those who went to the mall today, FD stayed home and cleaned the study.  Really, even took the broom to the floor, once the floor could be seen.  Despite what felt like significant work, there are still piles of post cards, yarn, notebooks, and (behind the closet door, but not forgotten) FD’s summer hats.  And yet, some progress was made, a few items discarded, a few papers shredded, and some correspondence attended to.

While working, FD thought about work and fiction.  Was work ever really a literary focus?  Well, there’s Hesiod, Works and Days (available on line, and still in print after centuries…) but FD has not read it, in Ancient Greek or in English.  FD does remember reading George Gissing’s New Grub Street and the (to FD at least) the even more interesting The Odd Women.  (Australian academic Peter Morton maintains a page on Gissing) But like many other writers, Gissing’s insights into work are most keen in terms of the work of writing — and writing is a profession that, while it is well represented in fiction, is probably one of the smallest of all professions.   It seems to FD that another literary fiction also includes professions like soldier, farmer, explorer, and the like [mostly, but not exclusively male] who in are land/hand related professions.  Least represented are the jobs of the majority of workers of this late capitalist era — sure there have been some recent novels of the cubical class (Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End comes to mind but, again it’s set in an advertising agency — more writers!).  But novels are much more likely to focus on love and death (as Yeats and Faulkner both noted) than work.  Where are the novels about secretarial work, or call center workers, or department store clerks?  Not reviewed, perhaps, or perhaps not written…

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