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Work it

In a New York Times Book Review column, Laura Miller ponders the way the world of work is under-represented in literary fiction, concluding that “if the office (or factory or restaurant) is where people find adventure, camaraderie, meaning and even intimacy, then it seems a fine place to look for the novel’s next great motor.” She mentions Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Mark Costello’s Big If, and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections as being among the few examples of work-lit. (And in case you’re wondering, the last great motor, she argues, was marriage and adultery, as evidenced in classics like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina.)

The hook for the column is a new David Gates-edited anthology of work-related fiction, Labor Days. While Gates isn’t saying that reportage should trump character, he argues in the book’s introduction (as quoted by Miller) that a work setting ”opens possibilities, introduces complications, gets characters into revelatory conflict, expands the canvas, colors up the palette, cuts down the chances of boring the reader. (Maybe).”

Related links:
Laura Miller on work-lit in The New York Times Book Review