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A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can't Remember

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All Iain Levison really wants is a steady paycheck, cable television, and the possibility of a date on Saturday night. But after blowing $40,000 on an English degree, he can't find the first, can't afford the second, and can't even imagine what woman would consent to the third. So he embarks on a time-honored American tradition: scoring a few dead-end jobs until something All Iain Levison really wants is a steady paycheck, cable television, and the possibility of a date on Saturday night. But after blowing $40,000 on an English degree, he can't find the first, can't afford the second, and can't even imagine what woman would consent to the third. So he embarks on a time-honored American tradition: scoring a few dead-end jobs until something better comes along. The problem is, it never does. A Working Stiff's Manifesto is a laugh-out-loud memoir of one man's quest to stay afloat. From the North Carolina piedmont to the Alaskan waters, Levison's odyssey takes him on a cross-country tour of wage labor: gofer, oil deliveryman, mover, fish cutter, restaurant manager, cable thief, each job more mind-numbing than the last. A Working Stiff's Manifesto will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered a demeaning job, worn a name badge, or felt the tyranny of the time clock.


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All Iain Levison really wants is a steady paycheck, cable television, and the possibility of a date on Saturday night. But after blowing $40,000 on an English degree, he can't find the first, can't afford the second, and can't even imagine what woman would consent to the third. So he embarks on a time-honored American tradition: scoring a few dead-end jobs until something All Iain Levison really wants is a steady paycheck, cable television, and the possibility of a date on Saturday night. But after blowing $40,000 on an English degree, he can't find the first, can't afford the second, and can't even imagine what woman would consent to the third. So he embarks on a time-honored American tradition: scoring a few dead-end jobs until something better comes along. The problem is, it never does. A Working Stiff's Manifesto is a laugh-out-loud memoir of one man's quest to stay afloat. From the North Carolina piedmont to the Alaskan waters, Levison's odyssey takes him on a cross-country tour of wage labor: gofer, oil deliveryman, mover, fish cutter, restaurant manager, cable thief, each job more mind-numbing than the last. A Working Stiff's Manifesto will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered a demeaning job, worn a name badge, or felt the tyranny of the time clock.

30 review for A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can't Remember

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    It's interesting reading this book now, when the job market sucks so hard. Published in 2002, A Working Stiff's Manifesto describes a period when jobs were plentiful but generally crappy--low wages, no health insurance, benefits that kick in only after the average employee is projected to quit. The only, sad difference between now and then is, now you're considered lucky if you have one of those jobs, because if you don't you're probably unemployed. One thing I caught myself doing frequently whil It's interesting reading this book now, when the job market sucks so hard. Published in 2002, A Working Stiff's Manifesto describes a period when jobs were plentiful but generally crappy--low wages, no health insurance, benefits that kick in only after the average employee is projected to quit. The only, sad difference between now and then is, now you're considered lucky if you have one of those jobs, because if you don't you're probably unemployed. One thing I caught myself doing frequently while reading this memoir was finding ways to blame the author, Levison, for the craptacularness of the dozens of jobs he's been through. He just doesn't have the right attitude, I'd tell myself. Or, he's such a whiner--why doesn't he suck up the fact that he's never going to find an awesome job and just stick with something? It's funny that I would tell myself these things. Did I not spend my first adult years in the 2000s? Did I not stick with jobs for three years at a time and see, first-hand, that all loyalty gets you is a ten-dollar gift certificate to Snacky Jack's at Christmas? The job market sucks today for the same reasons it sucked ten years ago: corporations do not give a rat's ass about people. It's all about the bottom line for them. A decade ago, they cut costs by employing people 39 hours a week to avoid having to pay full-time benefits. Today, they cut costs by outsourcing jobs to countries that have less stringent labor laws. Nobody stops them because the bottom line is the American way. I wonder why it is that I know all of this and yet my first instinct is to tell Levison to shut his mouth and bear with it. That disturbs me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    HeavyReader

    I laughed until I cried reading this book. It is excellent, excellent, excellent. The author chronicles many of the shit jobs he's had since graduating from college. That's right, he graduated from college, and he's still reduces to working shit jobs. Any of us could find ourselves in his situation. I am now more than ever grateful for my lovely library job. I laughed until I cried reading this book. It is excellent, excellent, excellent. The author chronicles many of the shit jobs he's had since graduating from college. That's right, he graduated from college, and he's still reduces to working shit jobs. Any of us could find ourselves in his situation. I am now more than ever grateful for my lovely library job.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    This is about work and literally nothing else. He mentions friends, he mentions "I took a girl on a date", so you know there's other stuff happening in his life, but it isn't addressed in this book. This is all about the jobs. At first I was kind of disgusted, he whines that he just can't get anywhere, and that people who have good, high-paying jobs are lucky and nothing else. He won't take a better-paying management job because it involves overtime, he steals from the places he works at. Come o This is about work and literally nothing else. He mentions friends, he mentions "I took a girl on a date", so you know there's other stuff happening in his life, but it isn't addressed in this book. This is all about the jobs. At first I was kind of disgusted, he whines that he just can't get anywhere, and that people who have good, high-paying jobs are lucky and nothing else. He won't take a better-paying management job because it involves overtime, he steals from the places he works at. Come on. But then you keep reading and realize that this guy IS willing to work, he takes almost any job available. The only thing holding him back, his only demand, is that he wants around 40 hours a week and a day off now and then. Those aren't crazy demands, but job after job turns into crazy, unreasonable nightmares, because these jobs are at the low end of the food chain, and nobody cares enough to make them liveable. Fire the guy who doesn't want to work 80-hour weeks and bring in someone else, there's an endless supply of those willing to take the position. No benefits, no insurance, no problem. You see the rejected interviews, the unlucky circumstances in which he goes to work in the morning and is unemployed that night. The prose isn't mind-blowing, but it gets the job done, and several of the insights are great. Definitely (unfortunately) a snapshot of our times.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lavinia Ludlow

    For anyone who's ever had a shitty job. For anyone who's ever had a passion outside of the 9 to 5. For anyone who was ever hassled for the work uniform or called an "associate" as opposed to "employee." And for anybody who's ever been slapped silly for hitting overtime and costing the company 1.5 times your hourly wage. And I quote, "They have some kind of computer system, I am told, where lights and buzzers go off in the payroll office the minute anyone receives overtime, and regional managers For anyone who's ever had a shitty job. For anyone who's ever had a passion outside of the 9 to 5. For anyone who was ever hassled for the work uniform or called an "associate" as opposed to "employee." And for anybody who's ever been slapped silly for hitting overtime and costing the company 1.5 times your hourly wage. And I quote, "They have some kind of computer system, I am told, where lights and buzzers go off in the payroll office the minute anyone receives overtime, and regional managers and district managers and various other executives fly in from the golf course and start screaming." Iain Levison touches on what it's like to struggle for his art and work all those dead end jobs, some he can't remember. He masters a unique voice, jaded but powerful. Great for anybody who's ever worked in a fish market, as a mover, etc, or blew 40k on a degree in English, which led him to work in a fish market, as a mover, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    I will admit that Levison comes across pretty bitter sometimes. However, as the holder of a useless Master's degree that can't seem to find a job that pays more than $13 an hour, I kind of get where his bitterness is coming from. Have my own decisions led me to this position in life? Yes. On the other hand, there was a time when just having a Master's degree would have opened a world of possibility for me. Those days are long gone, but I didn't know that until it was too late. It's frustrating. I I will admit that Levison comes across pretty bitter sometimes. However, as the holder of a useless Master's degree that can't seem to find a job that pays more than $13 an hour, I kind of get where his bitterness is coming from. Have my own decisions led me to this position in life? Yes. On the other hand, there was a time when just having a Master's degree would have opened a world of possibility for me. Those days are long gone, but I didn't know that until it was too late. It's frustrating. In the end, I found Levison's book more funny and entertaining than I did depressing or infuriating. His stories of the Alaska fishing business are both disturbing and hair-raising, although kind of fun at the same time. Most of the time, I just kind of felt sorry for him. I've been stuck in some pretty crap jobs, but none as crap as his. This is a super easy read. I probably finished it in about a day. It's good for some quick, semi-lighthearted fun.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    For being unemployed, with no apartment, no car, no job, and living with my parents, I found this book to be an excellent comfort. Not everyone out there in the big, wide world of work has it so great. A lot of jobs, in fact, suck. This book served as a nice reminder of that fact.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    As someone who just finished doing their taxes--and had to explain to an accountant why they worked 5 taxable jobs in one tax year--I really enjoyed this book. Because of some "self-employment 1099-form" situation, I had to create a business on the spot; then I had to find an appropriate title to encompass someone who both teaches poetry to the elderly and facilitates large corporate-group ticket sales for a local science center. This book is certainly an extreme example of someone who works ext As someone who just finished doing their taxes--and had to explain to an accountant why they worked 5 taxable jobs in one tax year--I really enjoyed this book. Because of some "self-employment 1099-form" situation, I had to create a business on the spot; then I had to find an appropriate title to encompass someone who both teaches poetry to the elderly and facilitates large corporate-group ticket sales for a local science center. This book is certainly an extreme example of someone who works extreme jobs-- Alaskan fisherman, truck-driver, moving man, etc. Levison's stories were fascinating, moving, dark, and pretty accurate: if you get health insurance on your 100th day, you will be fired on your 99th. The stories are sprinkled with the tiny human cruelties that make up the American workforce, and every once and awhile, there was a kindness that really moved me. I also now feel incredible informed (which is the natural result of working a ton of jobs for short periods of time): it was full of helpful hints on which jobs to jockey for should you ever be employed on certain fishing boats in Alaska, how to do these jobs (when to wear gloves and when not to, etc), what not to fall for in a classified ad vs. what to always look for, and other things like that. My only complaint about this book is the angle that it was Levison's decision to major in English that led him to his unemployability, and doomed him to be pricked by fish-spines and lift boxes his whole life. Half of this is a marketing decision, I think, but he does have some lines in the book alluding to the fact that his English degree has been a hinderance to finding employment. He has said that it has made him a liability at some jobs (English majors "analyze" too much)-- like being an exterminator or fisherman-- and too impatient with other jobs-- like being a moving man. But what it really boils down to is a conversation he had while working on a fishing boat in Alaska, when a young man asks him what he's gonna do with all the money he earns, and he says "I have no idea." Levison's decision to major in English came from a love of literature and writing, but he didn't, beyond that, have a plan for it. As an English major myself (and probably hence the immediate defensiveness) the reaction I have usually gotten on interviews has been excitement on behalf of the employers-- but I haven't been looking at Alaskan fishing boats or trucking companies. I have been looking at jobs doing write-ups for arts and science companies, at teaching writing, editing, and most of Americans can't form or edit sentences, or don't feel comfortable doing so. Levison says over and over that his dream is to work in a building with a coffee maker; that's pretty much your minor if you major in English. The only thing Levison didn't have was a plan for what he wanted to do after college, and he admits this time and time again, whether he wants to or not. That can get a little irritating page after page. The ultimate irony, of course, is that for all his complaining about being an English major, "wasting" $40,000 on a degree he "can't use" and all of that, was that he ended up writing a book. And a very interesting one, even if not a great piece of literature. And now he may not have to work as much of those shitty jobs, unless he wants to, of course.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mark Oppenlander

    A co-worker of mine once described a movie he had seen as "alternately hilarious and horrifying." I find that to be an apt description for this book as well. Iain Levinson tells a series of mildly disconnected stories about a sequence of dead-end jobs he held somewhere during the late 90's or early 00's. Levinson had an English degree but found that he could not get a single worthwhile job, despite his liberal arts education, a fact which causes him to subsequently treat his education with a fair A co-worker of mine once described a movie he had seen as "alternately hilarious and horrifying." I find that to be an apt description for this book as well. Iain Levinson tells a series of mildly disconnected stories about a sequence of dead-end jobs he held somewhere during the late 90's or early 00's. Levinson had an English degree but found that he could not get a single worthwhile job, despite his liberal arts education, a fact which causes him to subsequently treat his education with a fair amount of scorn and derision. He takes jobs working in restaurants, delivering heating oil, as a gofer on a movie set, as a long-distance trucker's assistant, and finally, for an extended portion of the book, on a couple of fishing and crabbing boats in Alaska. Oddly, Levinson rarely looks for work in corporate America, which I find peculiar. Many employers would have loved to have had a creative employee with his evident intelligence and communication skills. He opts instead for manual labor and customer service jobs time and time again. On the other hand, it seems clear that Levinson doesn't really WANT to work for anyone or be on a "career path" of some sort. He likes living his laid-back, single lifestyle and doesn't want to be told what to do by anyone. His goal is to have a job that simply pays the bills and allows him some spare time to drink, date and work on the Great American Novel. Levinson's slacker memoir is filled with truly embarrassing, disturbing and even downright horrifying moments. Many of these episodes are hilarious, but others are just jaw-droppingly scary. Watching someone get the crap beat out of them in a bar in Alaska? No thanks. These anecdotes are compulsively readable however, due in no small part to the quality of Levinson's writing. It is like reading "Nickel and Dimed" as translated by comedian Dave Barry. Every so often, Levinson drops into commentary about the plight of the working man (or woman) and considers why all of his jobs are so bad and how "the Man" or "the pursuit of profits" or some other faceless entity or concept is screwing everyone over. Although some of his observations are fairly keen, he doesn't spend too much time on these subjects and that's probably just as well. Although I often felt bad for the situations Levinson found himself in, I also had a sense that he brought at least some of this on himself. A paragon of moral virtue - or good sense - he is not. And it is just these foibles which make for a hilarious - and horrifying - ride.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I really enjoyed this book. I can see why it might not appeal to everyone, but how could I resist a saga about a man with a useless English degree trying to find employment/a place in the world?? Technically, though, Levinson is better off than I am, because he never went to grad school! Personal notes aside, I admire Levinson's narrative because it encompasses intense bitterness while perserving a charming dash of openness. Rather than merely lamenting his fate, he keeps trying to make things w I really enjoyed this book. I can see why it might not appeal to everyone, but how could I resist a saga about a man with a useless English degree trying to find employment/a place in the world?? Technically, though, Levinson is better off than I am, because he never went to grad school! Personal notes aside, I admire Levinson's narrative because it encompasses intense bitterness while perserving a charming dash of openness. Rather than merely lamenting his fate, he keeps trying to make things work. He takes jobs that might not look very good, with the hope that he can learn the trade and make ends meet. While he isn't what I would call ambitious, he is a quick learner, and it always seems grossly unfair when he is fired after finally getting good at a job. But that is one of the essential features of the life of the chronically underemployed. Levinson doesn't use a lot of theoretical concepts to explain his situation and how he got there. But I think that's one of this book's main strengths. He no longer has any time for abstraction. The gritty reality of having to stuff a room full of fish onto a conveyor belt in Alaska would surely squelch any wretch's impulse to philosophize. The other aspect of this book that resonated with me was how Levinson emerged as a character torn between two worlds. He has physically demanding, menial jobs, but his educated mind reminds him that this isn't the future he deserves. Levinson's academic training actually makes it much harder for him to accept the fact that there is no career waiting for him. There is no space for one more English major in this crummy economy. In other words, education actually interferes with his capacity to adapt and find some rhythm in the soulless monotony of manual labor. At first, it bothered me that there is no clear sense of time in A Working Stiff. Levinson will refer to how long he's worked at a particular job, but it's difficult to keep track of how many months and years these sundry jobs represent in total. After I got into the book a bit more, I realized that this temporal blurring was part of the point. Time seems both endless and unmarked for those who get themselves out of bed every morning to work at jobs they know they're too smart for. Now, for the big question: How does he make this bleak scenario funny?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Only 1 review! Poor bloke, here's my two cents. I read this doozy over a year ago but I still remember enjoying it immensely. The story: twenty something gets a liberal arts uni degree and struggles to find work though from no lack of effort. Sound familiar? Certainly does to me! Levison (a Scot living in America) does what he can to stay afloat and find something fulfilling and pays well. Like I said, it's been a year but there was one unforgettable sequence where he gets a job aboard a fishing Only 1 review! Poor bloke, here's my two cents. I read this doozy over a year ago but I still remember enjoying it immensely. The story: twenty something gets a liberal arts uni degree and struggles to find work though from no lack of effort. Sound familiar? Certainly does to me! Levison (a Scot living in America) does what he can to stay afloat and find something fulfilling and pays well. Like I said, it's been a year but there was one unforgettable sequence where he gets a job aboard a fishing ship for (what he thinks) will be $3000 for 2 weeks work (turns out it was dependent on how much fish they catch and they didn't catch many. Needless to say it was far less than £3k). His job is to sit in a hold with a shovel and wait for a ton of fish to drop down atop him. He then shovels the fish down a chute but the effort numbs his arms and he resorts sitting on a pile near the chute to using his legs. There's a powerful moment near the end of his shift where his body is so battered and numb that he kicks the last few hundred of fish down the chute while screaming at the sky that's raining down on him. Besides this moment, the entire book (short at about 200 pages) is about genuinely funny moments in his everyman career. Levison comes across as very likeable and very articulate, and the book flies by. I've had jobs in America and Japan as well as the UK where I'm now living and wanted to write a book like this. Having read Levison's I can say his experiences are far more entertaining and funny. I checked out his other two books, both novels, and loved them. "Since the Layoffs" is similar in theme to "Manifesto" as it details an unemployed chap in a dying town who turns to a career as a hitman, while "Dog Eats Dog" continues the crime theme with great success. I urge you to check this writer out. He's awfully underrated and unheard of and it's unfair that such a talent goes unnoticed while millions of dunderheads wait salivating for Dan Brown's next load of tripe (are the made up lies in Brown's novel true? Tony Robinson sets out to investigate). I also recommend Hunger by Knut Hamsun if you enjoyed this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    This book is a comic tragedy. The guy just wants to do his job and get decently paid without a lot of bullshit. Unfortunately, all these jobs are either low-paid or have lots of bullshit or both. He's actually a hard worker who tries to be helpful and only resorts to theft and quitting as a last resort. I was impressed that he survived as many terrible jobs as he did. The fact that he's a college educated English major is supposed to be funny because most of his jobs involve heavy manual labor a This book is a comic tragedy. The guy just wants to do his job and get decently paid without a lot of bullshit. Unfortunately, all these jobs are either low-paid or have lots of bullshit or both. He's actually a hard worker who tries to be helpful and only resorts to theft and quitting as a last resort. I was impressed that he survived as many terrible jobs as he did. The fact that he's a college educated English major is supposed to be funny because most of his jobs involve heavy manual labor and his education is not at all useful. These jobs involve a need for street smarts and shrewd bargains that he quickly learns. He's a smart guy who just wants the basics and it's a shame that our society makes it so difficult to meet reasonable goals.

  12. 5 out of 5

    miteypen

    I gave this book 4 stars because of how well the author portrayed the average working person's dilemma: finding a fulfilling job that pays a decent wage (especially if your degree is in English!). Some of his stories are hilarious, others horrifying, but they all are cautionary tales about what to expect once you're thrust out into the working world. This was originally published in 2002 and 13 years later it is even more germane. I recommend it to anyone who thinks they have the shittiest job i I gave this book 4 stars because of how well the author portrayed the average working person's dilemma: finding a fulfilling job that pays a decent wage (especially if your degree is in English!). Some of his stories are hilarious, others horrifying, but they all are cautionary tales about what to expect once you're thrust out into the working world. This was originally published in 2002 and 13 years later it is even more germane. I recommend it to anyone who thinks they have the shittiest job in the world. I also recommend it to people who think American workers have it good. It's not high literature but it's a quick well-written honest read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Cospito

    Not the laugh-out-loud read I expected based on other reviews. A quick, easy read, good for a rainy weekend. Definitely an enjoyable and relatable book as someone who also graduated with a very expensive degree and so few job prospects, I left the country!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex Ankarr

    My copy of this book has disappeared and I'm so mad. It's an awesome funny fierce challenging read. My copy of this book has disappeared and I'm so mad. It's an awesome funny fierce challenging read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is the story of how Levison, armed with a nearly-useless degree in English, worked 42 jobs in 10 years, quit 30, was fired by 9, and can’t remember the other 3. Throughout this endless journey (one that hits very close to home for many) he works as a cook, a fish cutter, a crab fisherman, and a truck driver, to name just a few. In every case he finds the absurdity of the job, and in a larger sense, he spots the absurdity of what passes for “work” in this country. He comes to notice that app This is the story of how Levison, armed with a nearly-useless degree in English, worked 42 jobs in 10 years, quit 30, was fired by 9, and can’t remember the other 3. Throughout this endless journey (one that hits very close to home for many) he works as a cook, a fish cutter, a crab fisherman, and a truck driver, to name just a few. In every case he finds the absurdity of the job, and in a larger sense, he spots the absurdity of what passes for “work” in this country. He comes to notice that applying for jobs he’s not capable of doing is not his worst problem. Much worse is the way in which most employers are very much out for themselves, stepping on whomever doesn’t fit in with their plan. In every case he moves toward the inevitable conclusion that working for a living is nothing more than a way to keep a lot of people busy while making a very few at the top very rich. Other than a bit of a downer ending and some less than stellar behavior in the middle, and a few dated observations of the internet (understandable as many of these events happened before things like e-mail became somewhat universal) this book is a hoot. I enjoyed every page. It’s like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed meets Charles Bukowski’s Factotum, only for me this book was much more relatable and funnier than either of those two. I can see where Levison’s fiction comes from, with all his characters who are trying to break free from monotonous and unbearable existences, albeit in a hilarious way. It was hard to find much about this book I didn’t like. I would highly recommend anyone interested in Levison’s work to start with this one before getting into the fiction. It is all pretty great and I count myself a fan.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Levison spent $40,000 getting a degree in English, and now he can’t find a job. Resorting to the lowest and dirtiest work in the land, he scrapes together a living by boarding a fishing boat in Alaska and answering ads that herd the unsuspecting into multi-level marketing schemes. Meanwhile, he tells tales on his roommate, who aims to break into film-making. If Levison’s book weren’t so funny, it would be depressing as all get-out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    A hilarious and alarming (hilarming?) account of one guy's attempts to navigate the US job market circa 2000. Never have I been so thankful for my European nationality and my cosy bookshop job. A hilarious and alarming (hilarming?) account of one guy's attempts to navigate the US job market circa 2000. Never have I been so thankful for my European nationality and my cosy bookshop job.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jo Anne

    Before you decide to spent barrels of money on English, Film or Philosophy degrees, read this book. I'm 60 years old and finally understand why my folks were biting their tongues when I announced I was going to college to learn French and filmmaking. (Actually, learning French wasn't a bad idea, I just am no good with other languages.) I graduated with a BA in Film History and Theory with a minor in Creative Writing. I really wanted to direct (original idea!) but I didn't like the technical side Before you decide to spent barrels of money on English, Film or Philosophy degrees, read this book. I'm 60 years old and finally understand why my folks were biting their tongues when I announced I was going to college to learn French and filmmaking. (Actually, learning French wasn't a bad idea, I just am no good with other languages.) I graduated with a BA in Film History and Theory with a minor in Creative Writing. I really wanted to direct (original idea!) but I didn't like the technical side of filmmaking. It took me 12 years to pay off my loans and while I DID do a bunch of freelance writing film reviews, I never made much money on my degree. Iain Levison living his life as an English major could have been my life. He had many low paying, soul sucking jobs. I was sick to my stomach the entire time I was reading his book, while laughing my head off. He's a fantastic writer and at least got a book published, something I haven't done. His time in Alaska working on fishing boats and in canneries was also something I considered when I lived in Seattle and I still thank my sister to this day for talking me out of it. I think this book should be taught in every school in the world, because then kids will know what to expect when they graduate college with a degree in some art. No, I'm not saying people shouldn't become writers, or artists, because when you see something you created out in public for others to see, it's a mind-blowing experience. BUT--if you want this life, be prepared to work on it every day, and love the work. Don't do it for the money cuz we all don't make it like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I think Iain should travel the world, reading from his book and talking to kids (well, maybe even counseling them.) He's the real deal. And, even if you think, "shut up, loser" at me, make sure you learn some math so you can make change when the cash registers go down at Wal-mart, where you might be working until your creativity starts paying the bills.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Jones

    I gave this book four stars, and not five, because: The book itself is too short. Once the author gets going, his storytelling remains adequate, and the more he goes into the horridness of some of his jobs brings them out in relief for the reader. While his attitude is usually less than enthusiastic at the places he works, the context of working slavishly day-to-day evokes plenty of empathy without becoming self-pitying, overly angry or unreasonable. Secondly, the book is not a "manifesto". While I gave this book four stars, and not five, because: The book itself is too short. Once the author gets going, his storytelling remains adequate, and the more he goes into the horridness of some of his jobs brings them out in relief for the reader. While his attitude is usually less than enthusiastic at the places he works, the context of working slavishly day-to-day evokes plenty of empathy without becoming self-pitying, overly angry or unreasonable. Secondly, the book is not a "manifesto". While maybe I'm not really sure constitutes a manifesto per se, the book really is just first-person narrative. However, I prefer reading people's stories about working life and putting up with dumb bullshit from managers, customers and co-workers alike than reading an abstruse "new" perspective on labor and so on (not that I'm anti-Marx). Finally, the book got four stars, and not three, because: For anyone who's ever gone through the living hell of using multiple W-2 forms when filing their taxes for a single year, this book is for you. For anyone who's come home from a ten or twelve hour day (doing anything), ate a pot of macaroni and cheese festooned with squirts of ketchup and collapsed into deep sleep until your next shift, this guy's few tales of ennui and exhaustion will resonate. Furthermore, can I just underscore how great it is to hear someone's working stories without having to justify them with platitudes about a)winning b) getting ahead of everybody else c) investing d) having a bizarro, sociopathic attitude about wanting to do a great job. At the same time, the author is a total "dude", who could stand to read Marx or even just some blue-collar labor stuff. A bit of an "anti-intellectual", but real enough when he says after working in the heat or the cold, all anybody would really like to do is eat some pizza and drink some beer on their day off.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I stumbled across this book because my girlfriend works with the author's sister. The premise seemed right up my alley... a fairly intelligent, educated guy without any particularly marketable skills who wanders from one job to another. His degree is in English and mine is in philosophy, but we both crave variety and enjoy physical work. Clearly we share some common ground. The book can basically be broken down into three sections. The first section details about two dozen of Levison's jobs, and I stumbled across this book because my girlfriend works with the author's sister. The premise seemed right up my alley... a fairly intelligent, educated guy without any particularly marketable skills who wanders from one job to another. His degree is in English and mine is in philosophy, but we both crave variety and enjoy physical work. Clearly we share some common ground. The book can basically be broken down into three sections. The first section details about two dozen of Levison's jobs, and is fantastic. It is well written, and his sense of humor had me laughing out loud several times. I could definitely see myself in a number of the situations, but he does the things that I only think about doing (which is probably why he gets fired from jobs and I don't). The first third of the book would have gotten a 5 star review from me without breaking a sweat. The second section is all about him living up in Alaska while working on fishing boats. It was interesting for the most part, but not written with the same sense of humor. The work sounded like living hell, and I don't think Levison could find the humor in it. Because of that, it dragged on a little bit. The last section, which was shorter than the first two, was about life after returning to the continental United States and getting back on the job merry-go-round. But instead of having the sense of humor found in the beginning of the book, there was bitterness and cynicism. He was resigned to a life where he would hate an infinite series of meaningless jobs, and you could tell he found it to be depressing. Even with the end being a downer, I'm glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone who has had similar life experiences. It's a nice afternoon's diversion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Justin de la Cruz

    This was a light read about a dude sort of in my situation. He worked his way through college to get an English degree and a load of debt and when he was done he had trouble finding a job that utilized his skills. So he bounced around America working a variety of strange jobs. The book is kind of like that show "Dirty Jobs" on paper — he ends up doing various crab fishing jobs in Alaska (one of the jobs, sitting in a room and getting fish dropped on him and having to push them through a hole ont This was a light read about a dude sort of in my situation. He worked his way through college to get an English degree and a load of debt and when he was done he had trouble finding a job that utilized his skills. So he bounced around America working a variety of strange jobs. The book is kind of like that show "Dirty Jobs" on paper — he ends up doing various crab fishing jobs in Alaska (one of the jobs, sitting in a room and getting fish dropped on him and having to push them through a hole onto a conveyor belt, he lists as the worst job in the world), driving a truck across America and helping people move house, cutting fish in a deli, etc. He makes a few good points about the working situation in America and on higher education, but most of the page space is dedicated to details about the jobs. It's quite entertaining at times and I learned a lot about delivering oil (for warming homes) and doing gross manual labor in Alaska. He's got a decent voice in his writing, but it's a solid three just because it was a little entertaining and a little informative but not like groundbreaking or life-altering. Still, a fun little read here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    "Everyone is f*ed up, and those who aren't soon will be. The mayor should figure out how to say that in Latin and make it the town motto. Or better yet, 'Dutch Harbor: What fatal flaw in your character made you wind up here?'" Too, too funny. What really sold me on this book is that it's more than a bitter recounting of folks that've done the author wrong -- he draws a vivid picture of each unusual workplace, and devotes plenty of attention to bringing the colorful characters to life. It's effect "Everyone is f*ed up, and those who aren't soon will be. The mayor should figure out how to say that in Latin and make it the town motto. Or better yet, 'Dutch Harbor: What fatal flaw in your character made you wind up here?'" Too, too funny. What really sold me on this book is that it's more than a bitter recounting of folks that've done the author wrong -- he draws a vivid picture of each unusual workplace, and devotes plenty of attention to bringing the colorful characters to life. It's effectively a depressing/hilarious travelogue that makes you wish you'd majored in engineering. Initially I was put off by the author's myopia regarding his own role in disastrous work situations, but by the end of the book the self-deprecating tone put that to rest. The section at the end in which he scoffs at all these dreamers who want to make money on the internet, "a series of picture-sending telephone wires," is hilarious in an entirely different way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I grabbed this book as it was on the same shelf as Nickel and Dimed at the library and I am glad I did as it was/is the author's reality rather than Barbara Ehrenreich's brief experiment. I liked Nickel and Dimed, but A Working Stiff's Manifesto's voice had humor about the paths the author has taken in his life and wasn't created by someone looking down on the working poor and briefly inserting them self into that reality. The obvious demographic differences of the authors means that I understan I grabbed this book as it was on the same shelf as Nickel and Dimed at the library and I am glad I did as it was/is the author's reality rather than Barbara Ehrenreich's brief experiment. I liked Nickel and Dimed, but A Working Stiff's Manifesto's voice had humor about the paths the author has taken in his life and wasn't created by someone looking down on the working poor and briefly inserting them self into that reality. The obvious demographic differences of the authors means that I understand that each wrote from their place in life and I think it was partly that I could better associate with someone closer to my own age and also that I see people I have known in him-people who have chosen the life of a working stiff or became resigned to it. A quick read like Nickel and Dimed and worth reading both to make for an interesting discussion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    This book is like Office Space for lower middle class America. That said, Levison's writing is absolutely hilarious, sardonic and, at times, hits way too close to home. However, unlike corporate drone Peter Gibbons, who has to be hypnotized into action, Levison doesn't take sh*t. Quick witted and confrontational, he jumps from job to job, coast to coast in search of his next paycheck, while trailing angry bosses, disgruntled coworkers and even active arrest warrants in his wake. For those who ha This book is like Office Space for lower middle class America. That said, Levison's writing is absolutely hilarious, sardonic and, at times, hits way too close to home. However, unlike corporate drone Peter Gibbons, who has to be hypnotized into action, Levison doesn't take sh*t. Quick witted and confrontational, he jumps from job to job, coast to coast in search of his next paycheck, while trailing angry bosses, disgruntled coworkers and even active arrest warrants in his wake. For those who have worked in retail, food service and middle management, many of the stories are all too real. However, his Alaskan misadventures and one-time trucker exploits keep the story fresh, upbeat and show just how far an English B.A. can take you...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ludditus

    Way before the last crisis, this marvel of a book (which somewhat reminds me of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America), managed to show in an extremely vivid and unputdownable way the true face of America, the true face of capitalism, the true face of the contemporary precariousness and hypocrisy. As I was reading it, I highlighted a number of phrases (in the ePub) and I wanted to review them before rating the book, but I reconsidered: no spoilers. This book is a must-read and nothing Way before the last crisis, this marvel of a book (which somewhat reminds me of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America), managed to show in an extremely vivid and unputdownable way the true face of America, the true face of capitalism, the true face of the contemporary precariousness and hypocrisy. As I was reading it, I highlighted a number of phrases (in the ePub) and I wanted to review them before rating the book, but I reconsidered: no spoilers. This book is a must-read and nothing else. 42 jobs in 10 years. Go figure. And no health insurance.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Hilarious when he blows up the head of the rich people's elephant figurine while trying to pump oil. The Alaskan fishing experience was crazy; I can't imagine being up to my neck in fish in a dark room. I don't agree with his take on the internet. You can tell this was written in 2003, but he still sounds a bit naive for that time. Overall, this was a great read! Hilarious when he blows up the head of the rich people's elephant figurine while trying to pump oil. The Alaskan fishing experience was crazy; I can't imagine being up to my neck in fish in a dark room. I don't agree with his take on the internet. You can tell this was written in 2003, but he still sounds a bit naive for that time. Overall, this was a great read!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    This is like a laugh out loud Nickel and Dimed. And you can't accuse him of voyeurism because this is his actual life. The chapter about his time spent in Alaska is particularly funny. It kind of reinforces the "odd are good, goods are odd" theory for me. This is like a laugh out loud Nickel and Dimed. And you can't accuse him of voyeurism because this is his actual life. The chapter about his time spent in Alaska is particularly funny. It kind of reinforces the "odd are good, goods are odd" theory for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    LaLa

    Hysterical Laugh out loud funny bad boy lit. I must have been in some kind of mood when I read it, because I couldn't put it down, but everything I read it aloud to people around me they kinda rolled thier eyes and did the polite laugh..... Hysterical Laugh out loud funny bad boy lit. I must have been in some kind of mood when I read it, because I couldn't put it down, but everything I read it aloud to people around me they kinda rolled thier eyes and did the polite laugh.....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I wanted to love this book, after reading another book by Iain Levison, but I found this to just be OK. Probably it was just too short - I would have liked to have heard about some of his other varied professions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Meszaros

    While there are definitely some priceless moments (the ceramic donkey), I was more than a bit disturbed by this book. Levison first joined the military to get training in electrical engineering. While he did receive training it what may be considered a vocation, he soon realized that what he learned was highly specialized and almost useless in the real world. He then attended college, earning an English degree. Once again, he felt that he was lied and cheated to about the usefulness of the degr While there are definitely some priceless moments (the ceramic donkey), I was more than a bit disturbed by this book. Levison first joined the military to get training in electrical engineering. While he did receive training it what may be considered a vocation, he soon realized that what he learned was highly specialized and almost useless in the real world. He then attended college, earning an English degree. Once again, he felt that he was lied and cheated to about the usefulness of the degree. At this point in the book, I kept hearing the lines from the musical Avenue Q: What do you do, with a BA in English? What is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge Have earned me this useless degree In Levison's case, the degree is not only useless, it is a detriment. One employer after another wants nothing to do with Levison and his degree, assuming that he will want more money and be stuck up. He instead bounces from one horrendous, low-paying job to another, often lying about his skills to get hired for princely minimum wage jobs. All in all, he estimates having at least 40 jobs after college. After a short foray working as an assistant to a friend who is a long-distance trucker, Levison decides to take the big money plunge and go to Alaska to work on a slime line gutting fish. While large sums can be earned working on the rusty hulks, leaving before your contract can leave you stranded without pay or a ticket home. Conditions are miserable and the other workers often violent and dangerous. If anything, I found this book a sad, though fascinating, cautionary tale for the modern worker. While Levison does, for the most part, portray himself as a guy with poor decision making skills but a hard worked who just can't seem to get a break, I do have the sneaking suspicion that some of his misery is brought on himself. He does mention once, late in the book, that he does often have to squelch feelings of superiority because of his degree. He also mentions that he put himself through college as an EMT, something which he never returns to. Regardless, a much more thought-provoking book than I had expected, though I doubt the author had intended it as such. Perhaps the most disturbing comment in the book - in his blurb at the back he is listed as currently unemployed.

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