May 5, 2009

Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter

Gig is a collection of interviews with many different people, about their jobs. There are interviews with people as diverse as a steelworker, a tofu manufacturer, a supermodel, an adult webmistress, and a doula. Each interview is about five pages long, and most are just the person talking about what he or she does in the job, what is fulfilling (or unfulfilling) about the job. A large number of careers are covered as the book clocks in at nearly 700 pages.

The book was published in 2001, though many of the interviews appear to have been conducted in the late '90's. As a result, it's already somewhat dated: it was kind of hilarious to read people talking about the booming economy and seeing so much hope for the economic future.

I found this book to be alternately uplifting and depressing. Some of the interviews were with people who were obviously unhappy, or downright not nice. For example, there was the disturbing interview with a pretzel vendor: a woman who sold pretzels at a flea market, stole from her boss, and had an affair with a co-worker, all without any apparent shame or remorse. But on the flip side, there were completely wonderful interviews, like the WNBA player who seemed like a genuinely good person I wish I could meet.

Some were surprising: the telephone psychic, a profession I hold in absolute disdain, seemed like a reasonably good guy. The minister, a profession I think would be deeply fulfilling, seemed to be burning out. The stay-at-home-mom (my current job) didn't speak to me or my own experiences at all.

For the most part, I found these interviews to be interesting and engaging, whether I "agreed" or "disagreed" with what the person said. And at around five pages, each interview itself was a quick read.

This isn't a book to read to get a good feel for specific professions. You'd need to read interviews with far more than one person to get an at all realistic view of a career. Instead, this is a book that gives you a snapshot of a single person's experience. It's more interesting to read it from the psychological standpoint of what makes a person love or hate their job. Why do some people find fulfillment in the mundane while others chafe under a dream job? Or, I must admit, it's interesting to read this as a voyeur, getting to take a little peek into the lives of others.

My only major complaint about this book is that there's no conclusion, no summing up of what the editors learned through the process of conducting these interviews. There was no placing these interviews within the larger context of the economy or national outlook at the time. There were just interviews, interviews, interviews, bam, book's over. That said, I did really enjoy it. I liked getting these small peeks into the lives and careers of others. I even tried googling a few of the people to see if I could find out more about where their lives have gone since the book was published (without any luck, though. Some of the stories were really engaging and I wish I could get an update!)

Overall, I'd recommend this one.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you liked it. Not one of my faves ever, but I found it so much fun to peek into people's lives. Will you ever look at a UPS delivery guy again? Or thinking about what it takes to package meat?

    (And icing between takes?!)


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