Gig, eds. John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter

The Bible just got bumped off my five desert island books list.  Sorry, Bible!  It’s just that you have all that stuff about begatting and oysters, and none of my other desert island books take long breaks from being awesome to talk about stoning your disobedient sons!  And you know I can’t do without Shakespeare, and The Color Purple and Angels in America are JUST SO EPIC, and Greensleeves is my favorite book of all time.  You understand, don’t you?  And we can still be friends?  I mean when you think about it, way more people would take you to a desert island than would take Gig, so you are still coming out ahead and no point you being greedy about it.  xoxo love from Jenny & please tell the Lord I am totally still a fan of His work.

I saw Gig when I was lolling around the Sociology section of Bongs & Noodles, and I inspected it closely and bought it a few days later.  It is so cool!  It is the result of interviews with people in all sorts of different jobs – palm readers and bus drivers and book scouts and just dozens of things.  The interviewees have about two to five pages where they describe the job, how they got into it, what a typical day looks like, a story or two, and where they want to go from here.

MY GOD this book is just relentlessly fascinating.  I especially like it when people in jobs I would never consider doing, or didn’t know existed, talk about what inspires them.  There’s a corporate identity consultant who goes on at some length about Apple’s logo, and how it’s such a legendary logo because of all the things it implies about the company.  I don’t know – it’s just that I would never have thought of doing that job, so I would never have had to think about the Apple logo at all, if it weren’t for that book.  Or, possibly a more interesting example, from a produce stand owner:

I started off cooking peanuts back in 1956.  I was fourteen.  Sold ’em for ten cents a bag.  And see, I’ve always cut my peanuts with lemon.  That’s what makes mine different.  Most people just boil ’em in salt.  Well, I’ve always cut them with lemon.  I got that idea from the Good Master – the Good Master up there.  I dreamed it one night.  And I just woke up one morning knowing I was gonna start putting lemons in.

Though just when I think this guy’s a dear, this happens:

I’ll have pumpkins in October and Christmas trees for Christmas.  And all year round I’ll be selling pillows, bandannas, quilts, the Aunt Jemima dolls – which I’m probably gonna get a kick from the [African-Americans but that isn’t the word used here] about that, but that don’t mean a damn thing with me.  Ain’t nothing they can do about it, you know?

Blech.

Or, this is nicer, the flower lady – she seems so sincere!

I always want flowers.  I still spend my money on flowers.  Even when I’m around them all day, I still want them at home. And I don’t care that they die.  I think that the ephemeral quality of flowers is really seductive.  I think there’s something really wonderful about the fact that they really only last for a certain amount of time.  Within that time, they can be more beautiful than something that might last forever.

Some of these people have terrible stories to tell – bad things that happened to them, bad things that happened to their clients and coworkers.  Bad things they’ve done.  Look at this corporate headhunter lady:

But still, there’s lots of ways to get names.  I’ve gone into bars in Silicon Valley after Happy Hour and stolen the bowl where everyone drops their business card for a sandwich drawing every week.  I wear a trench coat or something and just walk out with seventy-five leads…You just need to be ingenious – hang out in the lobby of a company, and tell the receptionist you’re waiting for your friend to meet you, and then when the receptionist turns away, steal the directory from her desk.  Whatever it takes.

…And although it is deceptive, it’s lying sometimes, it’s not immoral, I don’t think.  Because I’m helping people.

Sure, lady.  Whatever helps you sleep at night.

I felt like the Doctor when I was reading this book –  you know how one minute David Tennant’s all “The human race!  Indomitable!”, and then the next second he’s all “Run and hide because the monsters are coming: the HUMAN RACE” and bringing down governments and things.  I mean you read this book and you can really see both points.  (Was that a superfluous Doctor Who reference?  Perhaps.  But I <3 David Tennant and couldn’t help myself.)

  • Wow, that headhunter bit made my eyes go wide as saucers! I mean, really? Not immoral? I think she might need a refresher in morality.
    Anyway, this sounds like a really interesting book!

    • Oh, there was a lot of stuff like that too. So many people felt like they had to justify themselves – not just when they were actively doing things that were wrong, but to justify themselves for working in that job, and say how you know, this job, it’s not really them, but it does help people in this way and that way. It was equal parts sad and fascinating. And some of the people were really happy, and that was nice. 🙂

  • Eva

    I think I’d heard about this one somewhere before, but your review makes me want to read it right away!!!

    • I hope you can get hold of a copy! I’d never even heard of it before, but now I know, the sociology section of the bookshop, it has wondrous things in it. In the foreword they mention another book, Working by Studs Terkel, that did the same basic thing but in the 1970s. Now I am madly curious to get that one and see how it compares. I wonder if people were so forthcoming then too!

  • There is no such thing as a superfluous Dr Who/David Tenmnant reference, believe me…

    • Hahaha, that’s kind of how I feel. I figure, the more I talk about it, (hopefully) the more people will investigate its joyous wonderfulness for themselves. 😛

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  • Susie Johnson

    I’m in Gig! I’m the integrated circuit layout designer!

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