On My Nightstand

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Journalist and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich has just published "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream," in which she goes undercover as an unemployed white-collar worker and discovers the bleak job prospects for millions of middle-class Americans. She is also the author of several other books, including the best-selling "Nickel and Dimed." Ehrenreich spoke with freelance writer Dylan Foley in New York City.

What have you been reading?

I recently read "Self-Help Inc.: Makeover Culture in America" by Micki McGee, a sociologist. She had a lot of interesting things to say about the American tendency to be constantly working on your personality, making yourself your own project. It historically stems from the rise of the bourgeoisie and the individualism that comes with that. You are constantly renovating yourself and it is work to exist among other human beings.

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For fiction, I'm reading "The Hungry Tide" by Amitav Ghosh. I am now on a big Ghosh kick. This is the third novel of his that I'm reading. The first thing I read of his was "The Calcutta Chromosome," which I loved. It's very strange, borderline science fiction. I liked his novel "The Glass Palace" because it's historical. With the new book, I've always been fascinated by the Sundarbans (region), because of the aquatic tigers. They can swim, and tiger attacks are a major source of mortality in that part of India. Ghosh is a good writer, but he also has something to say. I am not just attracted to beautiful writing.

I also threw in "The Right Madness," a new James Crumley novel. It is a C.W. Sughrue mystery set in Montana. Crumley is an old-fashioned guy with a conscience, and he's a damned fine writer. The problem is I feel like I have a hangover after I read him -- Crumley's characters drink so much and take so many drugs.

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