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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 08/2016
  • 978-1-63505-034-9
  • 310 pages
  • $15
Ebook Details
  • 08/2016
  • 978-1-63505-034-9 B01KII575Q
  • 310 pages
  • $9.99
HARDBARNED! One Man's Quest for Meaningful Work in the American South

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

Overeducated and underemployed? In love with learning but stumped on how to translate it into a paycheck? Desperately striving to make your seemingly useless liberal arts education work for you in any sort of satisfying or meaningful way? Trying to simultaneously engage your interests, skillset and values and still pay the bills while pleading for another student loan deferment? I feel your pain and have stories to share, but if you’re looking for inspirational uplift, self-help or a life coach, please look elsewhere. HARDBARNED! One Man’s Quest for Meaningful Work in the American South is a darkly comic, brutally honest and introspective memoir about working for a living—without being able to shake the feeling that there has got to be more to it than that. Christopher J. Driver, unable to land a writing job after completing two undergraduate degrees, for three years worked a series of crappy jobs in construction, landscaping, retail, warehouses, hotels and restaurants between tours in a van with his DIY punk band. He then decided to go back to school, but a master’s degree in English didn’t open any doors either. Again failing completely in his attempts to find full-time employment as a professional writer, after a brief stint in computer sales, he drove a truck for the next three years—delivering and repossessing portable storage barns throughout several states in the rural, southern USA.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: That a well educated man must take any type of work to pay the bills is tragic, but Driver does an impressive job of presenting his story as a dramedy. Readers can gain thought provoking insights from the author's back-story and his decision to haul barns (among other jobs taken in desperation) for a living.

Prose: This is a strong memoir and the author's voice is compelling Lovely surprises of wit arise, and transitions through life stages are well done.

Originality: Memoirs are simultaneously commonplace and inherently unique. The number of overeducated barn-haulers in America is anybody's guess, but only Driver could tell this particular story.

Character Development: The openness of the narrative helps readers to feel they know Driver as well as any close friend. Qualities and flaws are revealed with equal measures of pride, modesty, and guilt, highlighting the realness of the character. Additional characters are described with strong distinctive traits.

Blurb: A strong indication of an emerging talent is the ability to make work like barn-hauling interesting. Driver's wit and grit are evident in this memoir, and it will be a pleasure to see what he'll produce next.

Date Submitted: August 15, 2017

Reviews
Based on his Hardbarned blog, this book is Driver’s fascinating and funny look at the three years he spent delivering, repossessing, and repairing portable storage barns in the rural South, ranging in size from tiny toolshed to “massive Greyhound touring bus.” Needing to pay bills after graduate school, Driver finds himself “working behind the wheel of a one-ton diesel pickup truck, dragging a 30-foot custom-built hydraulic lift trailer with a steadily building berserker rage.” His descriptions of the barns are hilarious: “They look fairly new for the most part, except when they’re converted into meth labs and accidentally explode, or when they’re cut to pieces and modified into dog kennels, horse barns, chicken coops, dance clubs, game rooms, garbage dumpsters, hunting lodges or temporary living quarters for incontinent adults.” His rage comes from having to deal with customers who don’t tell him that he must set up their barns “on the sides of hills; in between garages and broken-down cars; in creek beds and piles of mud and garbage; and amid rotten tree stumps, fire pits, discarded motor oil, broken High Life bottles, animal shit, charcoal and anything else imaginable, including dead bodies.” Unfortunately, Driver bogs down the narrative by including in it the various jobs he had from youth through college. The descriptions of these are interesting—especially when Driver talks about his career in a punk-rock band—but the strength of his writing is best shown in the chapters that describe his life with barns and their owners; these chapters would have made a powerful book on their own. (BookLife)
Kirkus Reviews

The author explores the white-and blue-collar job markets while also trying to find fulfilling employment as a writer in this debut memoir.It’s said that if you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. By that yardstick, Driver has spent most of his adult life hard at work.

This lively, albeit sometimes-digressive, memoir offers “bits and pieces of a working life, job-related stories, lessons and misadventures of an aspiring writer…trapped in the life of a barn-hauling truck driver” in the South. It’s studded with pop-culture references, scholarly footnotes, cogent quotes from authors with whom Driver feels a kinship (Henry David Thoreau, Barbara Ehrenreich, Studs Terkel), personal photos, and illustrations by his wife, Tarri Driver.

The author draws a distinction between a mere job and meaningful work, but this isn’t a screed of millennial entitlement; he credits his grandfather with imparting the value of a strong work ethic (“He showed me what it felt like to be satisfied by a job well done”).

His fraught, often-bumpy journey will strike a chord with many readers—especially college graduates who have labored under the impression that their degrees would, for want of a better phrase, pay off. Driver laments, “A hell of a lot of good a Master of Arts degree in English does when your job is to deliver portable storage barns from a truck in the middle of nowhere.” Overall, he walks a fine line in this book; he’s grateful for the work that enables him to pay his bills, despite feeling defeated that he’s unable to make his education work for him, but at the same time, he’s cognizant of the millions of people who “struggle every day at crap jobs that pay next-to-nothing because it is the only option they have.”

However, in describing the colorful characters he encounters and recreating their Southern-fried patois, he comes perilously close to caricature (“Sorry bout all ‘at chicken shit over thar, but that’s wore I need it tuh set”), and his habit of jumping from present to past jobs and back again robs the book of some momentum.

A largely resonant, darkly comic remembrance that embodies the struggle between pursuing reliable employment and devoting oneself to one’s passions.

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 08/2016
  • 978-1-63505-034-9
  • 310 pages
  • $15
Ebook Details
  • 08/2016
  • 978-1-63505-034-9 B01KII575Q
  • 310 pages
  • $9.99

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