I found out yesterday that Publisher’s Weekly reviewed Working in the Shadows. Although this is my third book, the intensity of the feelings I suffer–and suffer is the perfect word–between the time I learn of a review and actually read it has never diminished.
Those feelings swing between two poles, elation and dejection, based on two possibilities:
Possibility A: They will absolutely love it. Even better, they just might say it’s the greatest piece of writing they’ve ever encountered. They predict I will be rich within a few months, and anticipate multi-million dollar tie-in deals of all sorts (movies, action figures, etc). They also mention that they couldn’t help noticing from the author photo that I’m extremely attractive.
Possibility B: They wonder whether English is my second language and speculate about who within the publishing house I must have slept with to get my unreadable tract published. Words like boring and pedestrian make multiple appearances. They conclude with the broad statement that far too many books are published each year.
The reviews always fall somewhere in between, but I was happy to find the with PW it was definitely closer to Possibility A.
Publisher’s Weekly, 12/14/2009
Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do Gabriel Thompson. Nation, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-56858-408-9
“Thompson (There’s No José Here) details working alongside undocumented workers in this stirring look at the bottom rung of America’s economic ladder. Thompson’s project feels initially like a gimmick; that this middle-class white American can go undercover in the lettuce fields of Arizona or the poultry plants of Alabama seems more stunt (or rehash of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed) than sound journalism. But the warmth with which he describes his co-workers and the heartbreaking descriptions of the demanding, degrading, and low-paying jobs quickly pull the reader in. Gimmick or no, the author pushes his body and his patience to the limits, all the while deferring attention to the true heroes: his co-workers, whose dignity, perseverance, physical endurance, and manual skill are no less admirable for being born of sheer necessity. What emerges are not tales of downtrodden migrants but of clever hands and clever minds forced into repetitive and dangerous labor without legal protections. Thompson excels at putting a human face on individuals and situations alternately ignored and vilified.”
¡Gracias Publisher’s Weekly!
One of the really nice aspects of the review is that I could tell the reviewer came to the book ready to tear it apart as a stupid gimmick that didn’t work. It certainly seems a good sign that I can win people over who are prepared to dislike it. (Hey maybe even the ALL CAPS anti-immigrant crowd will be converted? One can dream…) And I can actually appreciate why folks, especially in the book publishing world, are skeptical about the growing genre of books where someone does some experiment for a certain amount of time and writes about it. Not Wearing It: How My Year Going Sockless Changed My Life, and What It Says About Humanity. Those sorts of titles. This was one reason I was actually pushing for a subtitle that didn’t have “A Year of Doing…” in it, because it seemed a bit gimmicky. But, as my publisher told me, those books tend to sell well, so what could I say to that?
On a much more important note: Today Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) will introduce new comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the House. Some wizard with acronyms came up with the bill: the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act….CIR ASAP.
In the words of Michael Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
I predict a good clean start that lasts three or four seconds, followed by some serious dirty boxing, concluding with a fourth or fifth round knock out of the ALL CAPS crowd. From what we’ve seen with the healthcare debate, I don’t think we want this fight going into the later rounds.