May 23, 2019

Down and Out in the Gig Economy

“In 2009, in the paranoid middle days of the recession, I enacted a boomerang-child stereotype: I moved back home into my parents’ basement. Raised in privilege (son of lawyers, private schools, no college debt), I treated the move as a minor humiliation justified by the conditions of the times. Aside from the basement’s tendency to flood during the rare Los Angeles rainstorm, it was a fine setup, a linoleum warren of adolescent artifacts and piles of books that I ordered from eBay when stoned late at night. I worked a handful of freelance gigs—Hebrew school teacher, content farm contributor—applied for jobs, and wrote book reviews, the journalistic entry point for many young writers. On weekends I drank with my better-heeled friends and crashed at their apartments. A brighter era, I assumed, was yet to come.

One morning, I got what seemed to be a job offer from an editor at a literary magazine for which I had been writing. It was, and remains, the only time I’d been offered a full-time job in journalism. The exact contours of the offer were vague, but it involved my spending at least a few months going through the magazine’s archives and writing a kind of institutional history featuring one of the magazine’s early editors, a folklorist and general eccentric. I had graduated from college three years earlier. I had no entrepreneurial ability, an overriding fear that the economy would degrade into a more overt form of barbarism, and a desperate worship of all things intellectual. I emailed back, eagerly accepting the offer.

I spent days and then weeks sweating the editor’s response. A social coward, I debated with my parents the propriety of calling this tiny literary magazine’s office in an effort to reach the editor. It seemed like the most important thing in the world. Later I got over myself, placed the call, and talked to the magazine’s managing editor. He told me that the editor was traveling in southern California, not far from where I lived. I wrote the editor, offered to talk to him, drive to meet him, whatever was needed. I was ready to move across the country for this project. He didn’t respond to my messages.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"With many other countries already studying the Asian playbook, the United States and Europe could benefit from doing the same."

"Trump's cursing is one of the most straightforward parts of his appeal... Trump is not the only politician whose profanity has stood him in good stead."

"‘If we get all of this because Netanyahu wants to make Trump happy, that’s fine with us,’ says local council rep in Golan Heights as plans ramp up for ‘new’ neighborhood honoring U.S. president..."

"...there is something worth paying attention to in this latest petition from fans keen to have a creative work made the way that they want it. The comments on the petition are instructive."

"The sunny job numbers and steady growth hide the fact that most people think the economy works only for people in power."

"Like many other Americans, I now wear AirPods all day at my desk to combat the awful tyranny of the open office. Since they don’t cancel noise, they provide me with writing music..."

"The logic of attributing mental states to nonhuman animals is complicated. We cannot use deductive inference, because there are no general rules..."

"As the canon of English literature slowly, gradually opens itself up to books by women and authors of color, Modern Library and Penguin Classics have just launched two new series..."

"Egalitarian couples assume their progressive ideology will carry the day. Sociologists know that it doesn’t.... sharing child care is associated with valuing gender equality..."

"Business Booms for Sephardic Food: Women are leading the way as small businesses bring traditional recipes to the commercial marketplace..."

"With most animal populations, the niches that encase the populations are of constant size. Animal societies growing in a given niche have dynamics neatly fitted by equations with a constant limit or ceiling."

"Now some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful.... 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem..."