Working-Class Short Stories?

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Working-Class Short Stories?

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Mrz. 11, 2008, 11:55pm

Two chestnuts I still like are Updike's "A & P" and Langston Hughes's "A Good Job Gone." Hughes's story, "Cora Unashamed" is pretty good, too--with an I.W.W. guy in a bit part. (PBS filmed it). Ann Petry's "Like a Winding Sheet" is good but oh so tough to take. Other recommended short fiction related to labor and class?

Mrz. 12, 2008, 8:03am

I had to find the author's name, I read this a long time ago in some sort of collection. The Quiet Man by Maurice Walsh. It made an impression because my grandfather was also a steel worker and had a reputation. It is the story the John Wayne movie was based on but the story is much better.

Mrz. 12, 2008, 6:42pm

Also depends on what political turn one gives to the idea of working class from the perspective of 2008. Updike's "A & P" is well-crafted but has always struck me as a vaguely slumming exercise. Russell Banks' "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story" from the collection Success Stories hits a lot of good notes, but leaves me with a similar impression. I wouldn't want to go out on a limb about authenticity, because that invites too much BS, but I can't help but think of the old line (Sam Goldwyn? George Burns?) that if you can fake sincerity, baby, you've got it made.

Positive examples: though much of Charles Bukowski settles for miserablism, I've always enjoyed "Kid Stardust on the Porterhouse". Mary Helen Stefaniak is a writer everybody should discover. Her "America, the Beautiful" from Self Storage is very good indeed; maybe nowadays it's marketed as multicultural but if one seeks labels, working class could work, too. Also "The Excitement Begins" by Leslee Becker in a story collection called The Sincere Cafe. The question of rural working class is important, too. Becker does that very very well.

Mrz. 13, 2008, 3:19am

Thanks for the great recommendations. "A & P" always made me a bit nervous, but it frames class-issues for younger college students in ways they seem to "get." But with Updike, you do get the middle-class lens--and the misogyny. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson gets at some small-town class-stuff well, but a lot of it is about failed bourgeois aspirations, as in "The Egg." Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers by Lois-Ann Yamanaka is a fresh, very funny, but authentic "take" on working-class life in contemporary Hawaii. It's *really* funny. I'd recommend Fae Myenne Ng novel Bone--great class-and-immigrant stuff in S.F. Superbly written.

Mrz. 29, 2008, 5:34pm

Sherwood Anderson, of course, and I might add, on occasion, Ring Lardner. And I like F.X. Toole's collection of boxing stories Million Dollar Baby, if you think of boxing as a profession as much as a sport.