This is an exceptional story: We notice the wealth of detail, reporting. We admire the efficiency of pace, of sentences, of movement from one event to another. We admire the varied sentence lengths, e.g.:

“‘It should all be good now,’ he said mid-morning, but then his back began to hurt from standing, and he used the word ‘boring,’ and two customers began having a loud conversation about Gas-X, and he said, ‘I’m going to try to tough it out. I mean, I ain’t gonna try, I am going to tough it out,’ and from that point forward every minute became an act of persuasion until he walked off the job in the middle of day 10.

“Back home, once again: ‘You got any money?’ Brenda asked.”

Sentence fragments paired with colons such as the one in the above paragraph punctuate the piece. They lend the story lilt, jazziness—and move the story effectively along. The scenes vary in length, too. It’s clear that Finkel had much material to choose from, and chose well in illustration of his important themes. In one scene the main character, Chris, goes with a friend to visit their old home. It’s become a desolate lot. The scene, their conversation there, is powerful, heartbreaking. Finkel ends the piece with a resonant and, narratively speaking, satisfying scene that closes out his themes.

Read “The Meaning of Work,” by David Finkel

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