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Walter: Writers on Work

Jess Walter Nov 23, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: For those in the car or cab on the way to the airport, a word of advice, if I may: grab something good to read for the inevitable wait.

We’ve been hearing from writers on the show this week about the economy, specifically, and how they’re thinking about what people are going through. Today, novelist Jess Walter.

Jess Walter: I do think I write about work. It would be impossible to write about work right now and not note the fact that unemployment is at this high and that regular Americans are suffering in this way.

I do think that it’s a really difficult and tragic time and as a novelist you’re drawn to those kinds of stories because of their inherent drama, but also their importance. In my neighborhood, I keep seeing what I think are yard sales until I get closer and I realize they’re evictions. That’s the sort of detail that sparks the novelist’s mind and sends him back to the keyboard.

I just saw the economic numbers that came out recently and it was so interesting because the economy had gone up 1.3 percent, but corporate profits were up 4 percent and to me therein lies the issue. If corporations are making 4 percent more, why aren’t there 4 percent higher employment numbers? We are stuck in a sort of swamp in which money is coming in, earnings are high. We’ve been calling this a jobless recovery, but it might just be a jobless economy we’re talking about.

After this jobless recovery — or whatever it’s called — I really think that there are people dealing with this at a level that I don’t think we’ve seen in books, or movies, or television. I think the fine edge of poverty is a lot sharper than we’re imagining right now.

Ryssdal: Jess Walter’s the author of “The Financial Lives of the Poets.” Our series concludes tomorrow with Isabel Wilkerson. Take a second to write to us.

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