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A Memoir

by Iain Levison

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-56947-280-7
Publisher: Soho

A raucous memoir of odd jobs and unhappiness by an author who is more drifter than working stiff.

Willing to up-end his life for a shot at earning a few bucks, Levison finds himself by turns a trucker trainee, a fish cutter, an oil deliveryman, and a film-set gopher. He encounters each job at once dutifully and passively, accepting the need for work and working willingly enough, yet never staying with anything beyond three months. This, Levison claims, is a result of having majored in English, which has no practical application. Thus every job is either one he “can’t get” or “doesn’t want”; rather than stay with one thing he doesn’t like, Levison varies the experience. When a job at a high-end food market grows old, he pirates cable professionally. Later, he works for weeks packing crabmeat on a rusty Alaskan tanker. Like David Sedaris in Naked, Levison is able to show each job as both funny and pathetic. Perhaps the best moment comes when he bungles a delivery of home-heating oil. Holding instructions that read “Fill at the donkey’s nose,” he assumes that a statue of a donkey in the front yard is, in fact, the receptacle and stuffs the oil gun up one of its nostrils. The donkey explodes from pressure. He later finds the intended oil tank beside the donkey and realizes, as he explains to his boss, that “fill” is a noun as well as a verb. Unlike Sedaris, however, Levison offers the reader no narrative arc. In addition, “manifesto” is a misnomer for something that asserts no beliefs and recommends no course of action. Levison is a nihilist who can only complain. Though he has yet to find a job he likes, he is accepting of careerists, seems to support capitalism, and other than wishing he hadn’t wasted his money on college, harbors few regrets.

Amusing but punch-less.