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HARDBARNED! by Christopher J. Driver


One Man's Quest for Meaningful Work in the American South

by Christopher J. Driver

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63505-034-9
Publisher: Mill City Press

The author explores the white-and blue-collar job markets while also trying to find fulfilling employment as a writer in this debut memoir.

It’s said that if you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. By that yardstick, Driver has spent most of his adult life hard at work. This lively, albeit sometimes-digressive, memoir offers “bits and pieces of a working life, job-related stories, lessons and misadventures of an aspiring writer…trapped in the life of a barn-hauling truck driver” in the South. It’s studded with pop-culture references, scholarly footnotes, cogent quotes from authors with whom Driver feels a kinship (Henry David Thoreau, Barbara Ehrenreich, Studs Terkel), personal photos, and illustrations by his wife, Tarri Driver. The author draws a distinction between a mere job and meaningful work, but this isn’t a screed of millennial entitlement; he credits his grandfather with imparting the value of a strong work ethic (“He showed me what it felt like to be satisfied by a job well done”). His fraught, often-bumpy journey will strike a chord with many readers—especially college graduates who have labored under the impression that their degrees would, for want of a better phrase, pay off. Driver laments, “A hell of a lot of good a Master of Arts degree in English does when your job is to deliver portable storage barns from a truck in the middle of nowhere.” Overall, he walks a fine line in this book; he’s grateful for the work that enables him to pay his bills, despite feeling defeated that he’s unable to make his education work for him, but at the same time, he’s cognizant of the millions of people who “struggle every day at crap jobs that pay next-to-nothing because it is the only option they have.” However, in describing the colorful characters he encounters and recreating their Southern-fried patois, he comes perilously close to caricature (“Sorry bout all ‘at chicken shit over thar, but that’s wore I need it tuh set”), and his habit of jumping from present to past jobs and back again robs the book of some momentum.

A largely resonant, darkly comic remembrance that embodies the struggle between pursuing reliable employment and devoting oneself to one’s passions.