The Odd Jobs of Literary Giants

I saw this in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest in an article by Alex Palmer, the author of Literary Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Literature. Many of those famous authors whose words are immortalized in literary classics did all sorts of odd jobs while they were perfecting their writing craft.

For example, meet …

Kurt Vonnegut, manager of America’s first Saab dealership

John Steinbeck, painter, fruit picker, estate caretaker and Madison Square Garden construction worker

Stephen King, high school janitor

Harper Lee, reservation clerk for Eastern Air Lines

J.D. Salinger, entertainment director on a Swedish luxury ocean liner

William S. Burroughs, exterminator

Richard Wright, letter sorter

William Faulkner, postal worker

T. S. Eliot, clerk for Lloyds Bank of London

Langston Hughes, busboy

I’m no literary giant, but I was recently asked a related question on an author questionnaire for my first book: “What was the most unusual you’ve ever held?”

Like Stephen King, I was a janitor, my first job as a teenager. I also was a recreation leader at a city park.

But here’s the answer I gave to the above question: I worked graveyard shifts heading the toy department at a large retail store during the holiday season while also attending daytime classes at San Diego State University.

What about you? What’s the oddest job you’ve held?


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