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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
Posts: 1605


Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:08 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Good post, Caro. I agree, the content of the work and the social dramas that come out of that can be fitted together to make a good story. I actually do enjoy finding out about the kinds of work I've never experienced, either myself or in my wider circle, as many people I know tend broadly to work in similar fields.

Another good example: Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. We find out a lot about how a journalist on a small coastal town newspaper works and what is expected to constitute the "news", how he gets it and how the paper is put together. Along with his own personal story, and that of the community.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley looked in detail about how a midwest farm worked, as well as the family drama. A number of midwestern and southern writers have detailed American farming systems in fiction,  Willa Cather, Bobbi Anne Mason and Barbara Kingsolver included.

H G Wells' Mr Polly works in a shop, and we learn a lot about that, until he escapes. And J B Priestley wrote about work of various sorts.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's quite true that the failure of the business in Buddenbrooks mirrors the fall of the family, but there's not all that much business transacted within the novel's many pages. We sit in on a meeting or two, but from what I recall the actual day-to-day work of the firm is seldom touched on, presumably because Mann has better things to be talking about.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chibiabos83 wrote:
It's quite true that the failure of the business in Buddenbrooks mirrors the fall of the family, but there's not all that much business transacted within the novel's many pages. We sit in on a meeting or two, but from what I recall the actual day-to-day work of the firm is seldom touched on, presumably because Mann has better things to be talking about.


And let's face it, if the day-to-day work of a mercantile firm were to be described indetail, it would have bored the back sides of us all!



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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I think the kinds of work that people are highlighting here as featuring in some novels are work that is vaguely interesting to people in general - farming, journalism, teaching, shop work, all have elements that are about more than a process.  They are more than a job of work, they are vocational, a way of life - shop work is not always that, of course, but in the case of High Wages, mentioned here and elsewhere by Green Jay, it is.  As has already been referred to, I know lots of people who say Moby Dick would be a great novel if there weren't so much about the intricacies of whaling in it (I haven't read it, so can't comment on that personally!).  Certainly sometimes the work people do is described, but given how much time the majority of people spend working, novels rarely focus on it in a way that reflects that work-life balance.  

Novels are more either about a story or about human behaviour and relationships and a person's place in the world, and many jobs do not give scope to explore this.  Analysing data, for example, is limited in terms of how a novelist could sustain a focus on it that provides the sort of satisfaction most of us require in a novel.  Obviously police work comes into detective novels - but when Morse, for example, sends Lewis off to search through computer files, etc, he is left to it while the more interesting aspects of the story are developed.


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Posts: 2105


Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

People who actually work in detection will tell you it is absolutely nothing like the impression you'd form from reading "police procedural" fiction! As with most professions, the majority of detective work is tedious drudgery. In fact, these days a fair amount of breakthroughs come from statistical analysis not too far removed from Himadri's line of work.



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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeAlx wrote:
People who actually work in detection will tell you it is absolutely nothing like the impression you'd form from reading "police procedural" fiction! As with most professions, the majority of detective work is tedious drudgery. In fact, these days a fair amount of breakthroughs come from statistical analysis not too far removed from Himadri's line of work.


Indeed!

I think it quite understandable why authors tend not to depict work in any detail. As Evie puts it:

Quote:
Novels are more either about a story or about human behaviour and relationships and a person's place in the world, and many jobs do not give scope to explore this.


Quite. But the consequence of this is, again as Evie puts it,

Quote:
...given how much time the majority of people spend working, novels rarely focus on it in a way that reflects that work-life balance.  



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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3367


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has any one read the novel THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris? Apparently it's a detailed and funny account of day-to-day life in a office.
After reading Thomas Hardy I think I might be able to prune trees or milk a cow.  Or be a hangman.

Might I draw Readers attention to THE OXFORD BOOK OF WORK (ed. Keith Thomas. 1999) which is a compendious litrerary anthology of 600 pages from Classical Antiquity to Now about Toil.

I just remembered Anthony Trollope's BROWN, JONES AND ROBINSON which is all about the day-to-day running of a department store.  Zola's THE BELLY OF PARIS about the workers, stallholders and shopkeepers in Les Halles.


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While watching a WW11 documentary on Norway the name of Nevil Shute (Norway) came to mind. He had a career in aeronautical engineering for many years before he began writing using his experience on, for example, the R100 airship and with Vickers to construct his novels. I think construct is a good word to describe those novels as he does describe the office and factory experiences he had. I tended to read the novels for those details rather than the stories of his characters. Those early novels may be out of print now but a number of the later ones were filmed such as A town like Alice about POWs in Singapore, On the beach a story of a romance in a post nuclear world and No highway in which an engineer predicts metal fatigue in aircraft.

According to Wikipedia two of the themes of his novels are the dignity of work spanning all classes and the bridging of social barriers like class and race.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neville Shute was a very popular writer back in the 60s &  70s. I even remember reading a couple of his novels No Highway and Pied Piper. A Town Like Alice, based on one of his novels, was a fine film. Thanks for reminding me of him!



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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2981


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I still read Nevil Shute on occasions - I read his Pied Piper on the plane to Britain.  It was interesting to realise that this tale of someone taking kids out of France was written in 1943 before the outcome of the war could have been certain.  Pastoral used to be one of my favourite books - I read it for the romance and the hint of sex in it, unusual in the books I read when young.

I meant to reply to Evie earlier about computer work in police novels - some of them put very detailed explanations of the computer workings and how the criminals are discovered via their computer use. (I probably skimmed that, but then I skim a lot of description too or scenic detail, or fights and battle descriptions.)  I often think it must be a nuisance for crime authors nowadays to have to have such a lot of knowedge about how computers work and how to access their usage.  

Cheers, Caro.





Last edited by Caro on Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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