when i read books like i really like, i keep tabs of my favorite parts. here’s some of things from Working that really stood out to me.

Eric Nesterenko, Professional Hockey Player (his section was one of my favorites, he is such an eloquent speaker):

It can’t be just a job. It’s not worth playing just for the money. It’s a way of life. When we were kids there was the release in playing, the sweetness in being able to move and control your body. This is what play is. Beating somebody is secondary. When I was a kid, to really move was my delight. I felt released because I could move around anybody. I was free. That exists on the pro level, but there’s the money aspect. You know they’re making an awful lot of money off you. You know you’re just a piece of property.

I still like the physicality, the sensuality of life. I still like to use my body. But the things I like now are more soft. I don’t want to beat people. I don’t want to prove anything. I have a friend who used to play pro football, but who shares my philosophy. We get into the country that is stark and cold and harsh, but there’s a great aesthetic feedback. It’s soft and comforting and sweet. We come out there with such enormous energy and so fit.


Mike Lefevre, Steelworker



I want my kid to look at me and say, “Dad, you’re a nice guy, but you’re a fucking dummy.” Hell yes, I want my kid to tell me he’s not going to be like me . . . I’d like to run a combination bookstore and tavern. (Laughs.) I would like to have a place where college kids came and a steelworker could sit down and talk. Where a workingman could not be ashamed of Walt Whitman and where a college professor could not be ashamed that he painted his house over the weekend.

If a carpenter built a cabin for poets, I think the least the poets owe the carpenter is just three or four one-liners on the wall. A little plaque: Though we labor with our minds, this place we can relax in was built by someone who can work with his hands. And this work is as noble as ours.



Roberta Victor, hooker

I was in control with every one of those relationships. You’re vulnerable if you allow yourself to be involved sexually. I wasn’t. They were. I called it. Being able to manipulate somebody sexually, I could determine when I wanted that particular transaction to end. ‘Cause I could make the guy come. I could play all kinds of games. See? It was a tremendous sense of power . . . The overt hustling society is the microcosm of the rest of the society. The power relationships are the same and the games are the same. Only this one I was in control of. The greater one I wasn’t. In the outside society, if I tried to be me, I wasn’t in control of anything. As a bright, assertive woman, I had a no power. As a cold, manipulative hustler, I had lot. I know I was playing a role. Most women are taught to become what they act. All I did was act out the reality of American womanhood.

3 Responses to “Favorites”

  1. Work and Other Sins « The Book Mill Says:

    […] which also celebrated the lives of ordinary working men and women, which I wrote about here and here.  This type of anthropological writing really gives value in what “ordinary” people […]

  2. Stuart Rose Says:

    Wow. I too read Nesterenko’s thoughts in Working- many years ago- and was very moved by his descriptions and reflections. I don’t remember the whole thing, but there’s a passage in there, a very lyrical one in which he recalls being outside in the dead of a Manitoba winter at dusk. He talks about the stark beauty.
    I’m going to get hold of the book again to re-read that.

    The whole book is interesting and a good deal of it is moving. You at once struck by the pride and meaning people find jin obs we tend to think of as dull, and by the frustration and the tedium so many people endure.

  3. Peanut Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Stuart. Working is one of my favorite books, it is great to just pick up and read if you have a few minutes to kill.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: