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Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs Paperback – August 21, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Amazing . . . a gem of a book that uses only the strength of the human voice to tell an American story -- sometimes dark, always fascinating."
-- "USA Today
"The accounts are wonderfully revealing, with gritty and almost shockingly honest detail. For all their variety, they weave a cohesive, passion-filled story of what people bring to their work. It's an addictive read."
-- Harvard Business Review's Best Business Books of 2000
"Keen, disturbing, and deeply felt . . . the stories in Gig deliver a more rousing political wallop than those in Working . . . remarkable and strangely moving."
-- Susan Faludi, "The Village Voice
"I love this book! It's surprising and entertaining and makes the world seem like a bigger and more interesting place. "Gig manages to document everyday life and give pure narrative pleasure at the same time. One feels proud to live in the same country as the people in this book."
-- Ira Glass, host of This American Life
"A fascinating compilation of what the American workforce has to say about itself."
-- George Plimpton
"Eye-opening . . . more revealing than any theories a sociologist could concoct."
-- "The Industry Standard
"Entertaining, sobering, validating . . . Ordinary people discuss their jobs with extraordinary candor."
-- "US Weekly
"In the age of advanced spin, this book accomplishes a very rare thing. It actually lets workers speak for themselves. . . . The result makes for a fascinating read."
-- Andrew Ross, director, American Studies Program at New York University
"Emotional and eye-opening, each compelling description offers insight about the job itself and, more important, an intimateview of a single human life."
-- "Austin Chronicle
"An engaging, humorous, revealing, and refreshingly human look at the bizarre, life-threatening, and delightfully humdrum exploits of everyone from sports heroes to sex workers."
-- Douglas Rushkoff, author of "Coercion, "Ecstasy Club, and "Media Virus

About the Author

John Bowe has contributed to "The New Yorker", "GQ", "The New York Times Magazine", " "and "This American Life", among others. He is editor of "Us: Americans Talk About Love, "co-editor of "Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs", co-screenwriter of the film "Basquiat", and author of "Nobodies", a book on modern American slave labor.

Bowe is the founding editor-in-chief of Word magazine, and was named by Entertainment Weekly as "one of multi-media's ten most influential, forward-thinking" figures in 1996.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (August 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609807072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jay Friedman on December 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Briefly, this book conducts about 100 interviews with people with different jobs that truly run the gamut. UPS worker to mega-producer. Porn star to funeral home director.
I'd say about one in every seven is absolutely fascinating and eye-opening. 5 in 7 are just good reading and then one in seven drags. If you're interested in the fabric that makes up amercian society, you'll love this book at much as I did. Some of the interviews are just shocking, like the UPS guy who gives better service to the companies with the best porn in the bathroom.
Also, each interview is about 5-7 pages, so if you're someone who is pressed for time, it's easy to pick up and put down quickly.
Overall, a great read.
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Format: Paperback
It's too bad it took so long for someone to put together another book like Studs Terkel's "Working." "Gig" is a collection of interviews with over 120 Americans who talk about their jobs. The questions are removed, so you end up with 3- and 4-page monologues. It's an effective technique, letting each person describe their working life in their own words.
The editors retained the references to sex and a lot of swearing, which is good. That's how people talk, so you might as well leave it in. The degree of honesty isn't reflected in the tone of the interviews, however --- the people might feel free to swear, but they don't feel free to complain about bosses, insecurity about layoffs, being stuck in dead-end jobs, bad pay, poor career choices, illegal business practices, or annoying co-workers. All of these topics get *some* coveage, but only enough to remind you how rare they are. Frankly, I think the book is too positive, with far too many people saying they love their jobs and couldn't be happier.
You should read it for yourself and see if you get the same reaction. It's a very easy book to read; every interview is over before it can get boring. Everyone has a unique story to tell. The range of professions is wide, giving you a broad spectrum of people to listen to.
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Format: Paperback
... times have changed.
Reading WORKING years ago was a profound and emotional experience for me. In being presented with the dignity of the most "ordinary" of lives I felt like I got to know everyone in America and, further, I felt I'd been made a part of the united states (note the lowercase) in my own ordinary way.
GIG reprises the concept and, like WORKING, is endlessly fascinating, funny, horrifying, and bold. I think it succeeds admirably -- BUT -- I think it's fundamentally a different animal from WORKING, by virtue of the fact that the world has changed out from under the essential idea of the book(s).
While Americans in particular have always tried to maintain a distinction betwen who they "are" and what they "do", this distinction seems far stronger these days than it did in the post-war era. The jobs described in WORKING were the places the narrators had made for themselves in the world -- not necessarily permanent, fulfilling, or by choice -- but the result of an attempt to find, or accept, a place in society. This is why the stories were of lives and people, not merely functions.
In contrast, the jobs in GIG are just that: jobs. As I read it, the narrators make a clear and solid statement that they do not put as much of themselves in their jobs as did the people of the WORKING era (note that "gig" specifically means a temporary engagement). They go out of their way to make it clear that jobs are essentially disposable, interchangeable, often impossible to feel any respect for: essentially, distinct from what they really want to "be.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I want to start by saying this is not a bad book and the heart of the editors are in the right place. But I looked back at my copy of "Working" to see why the interviews read differently, and found this quote from the introduction by Studs Terkel,

"I had a general idea of the kind of people I wanted to see; who, in reflecting on their personal condition would touch on the circumstances of their fellows." (xx)

I don't know whether this weakness in Gigs comes from the relative youth and inexperience of the interviewers, or from our era where people tend to think of jobs as gigs that they will only inhabit temporarily, until something better comes along...Each individual interviewed seems to have plenty of time to talk (4-9 pages) but most individuals don't reflect on their fellow workers, they talk primarily about themselves and their own accomplishments, and the all encompassing drive to "get ahead." For this reason, it's more superficial, and not as fun to read. The rhythm of the language is right, the casual conversations, but I felt like every interview I read in Working I walked away with a piece of blood and flesh or soul of the individual, and here, although the effort is worthy, the result is not quite the same. I'm not sure if this is the editors' fault or a sign of the times, but I couldn't help noticing it...
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