Minding the Store: Great Literature About Business

More than we sleep, play, or make love, we work. Yet despite -- or perhaps because of -- this dominant daily grind, much of our literature is biased toward other pursuits. Nonetheless, there exists a substantial body of fiction concerned with labor and craft, selling and acquiring, professional zest and despair. Famed sociologist and psychiatrist Robert Coles and co-editor Albert Lafarge have collected short works of fiction and nonfiction in an anthology that admirably captures this overlooked literary subject in an entertaining and thought-provoking fashion. The famous bards of the marketplace -- John O'Hara, John Cheever, John Updike among them -- are all represented with well-considered, un-stale selections, while lesser-known authors such as Jean Thompson provide equally exceptional offerings. The selection, strong as it is, will provoke readers to offer counterweight items, in particular anti-work voices such as Jack Kerouac's. The purely American focus is limiting, and a couple of poets defined famously by their day jobs -- T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens -- surely must have had something to bring to the table. The anthology as a whole neither fully condemns nor completely endorses our preoccupation with work and its costs and rewards, but does see the subject as an ineluctable constant. No Wordsworths, lamenting how with "getting and spending we lay waste our powers," need apply.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."