‘Now for the Disappointing Part’ Is a Book About Selling Your Soul to Amazon on a Temp Basis

Work work work work work.

Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

The nature of work has changed significantly in the past 50 years, and it’s frankly kind of amazing that there’s not rioting in the streets over it. Think about it: At one point in American history, employers were expected to offer full-time jobs with benefits and a retirement program. Fewer and fewer Americans ever enjoy that kind of a relationship, and the rush into piecework only gains speed with the passage of time. Part-time work, gig-economy work, and temp work all have drastically reshaped the roles of employer and employee, and as benefits have disappeared, wages haven’t increased to make up for the lack of health care, pensions, and even vacation, which used to be standard parts of the contract.

In his new memoir Now for the Disappointing Part, Seattle author Steven Barker is churning through the American job market, grabbing hold of temp job after temp job before being swept back into the riptide again. He seems to be on unemployment in every other chapter as he waits for the next (temporary) job offer to float past.

Barker has worked for most of the big Seattle-area tech firms—Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia—and his memoir is built on the strange, almost inhuman culture that has developed in the temp economy. Every job comes with its own language and customs. Every interaction is freighted with expectations and subject to an inscrutable corporate hierarchy that temps are not allowed to understand. Prospective employer and employee eye each other warily in the interview process, trying to determine exactly how much they can strip-mine out of each other before the arrangement turns fallow.

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

More in Arts & Culture

Onerus’ Sci-Fi Theatre Cautions a Tech-Centric Future

Café Nordo’s new production envisions the calamity of corporate control in Cascadia 2046.

Seattle Comic Artist Björn Miner Featured Among America’s Best

The artist’s work appears in the 2017 Best American Comics anthology alongside the medium’s greatest.

The Cascadian Flag. Courtesy Wikimedia
The Cascadian Poetry Festival Propels Poetics With a Sense of Place

If a region is reflected in the literature that emerges from it, what does Cascadia mean?

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Jupiter New Year

The big planet sets a new agenda in intense Scorpio.

‘las mariposas Y los muertos’ Explores Hipster Appropriation in the Pitchfork Era

Benjamin Benne’s newest play wittily dives into rock and representation.

If the ‘Russia Stuff’ Has You Confused, Let Masha Gessen’s Dense Reportage Help

The nonfiction writer come to Seattle this week with two revealing books on Russia under her belt.

EJ Koh’s Stellar Debut Collection Starts in Heaven, Goes to War, and Then Finds Love

The Seattle poet is deft at exploring the complexities of human interactions.

Hope and Comfort

An Aries full Moon and a kiss between Venus and Mars help us out.

Most Read