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Literature 'needs to look at office work'

15th March 2010

Writers need to start covering the everyday lives of the men and women stuck working in offices, a literary commentator has suggested.

Jennifer Schuessler, an editor of the New York Times' book review section, pointed out that 19th and early 20th century novels such as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle were not afraid to revolve around work, but believes this trend has become rare of late.

'With the arrival of postwar prosperity, the literature of working-class struggle gave way to the literature of middle-class disillusion … It's a theme the literary novel hasn't been able to shake,' she claimed.

Schuessler admitted that 'powerful fiction' can be created from blue-collar misery, citing the works of Raymond Carver and Russell Banks as examples, but said few authors are focusing on the unique hardships of office life.

The commentator called on writers to start including the minutiae of office work in their novels and craft plots which have modern employment issues at their core, rather than using jobs as a minor part of characters' back stories.

Last month, Anthropology author Dan Rhodes told the Independent that he likes to take jobs outside of the literary world, as he cannot see himself teaching creative writing to others to make a living.

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