Ian Singleton on "Résumé Against Boredom"by Fringe Magazine • 08.20.2012
Today in Vintage Fringe we’re revisiting Ian Singleton’s “Résumé Against Boredom,” originally published in Issue 22. We asked Ian a few questions about the piece and about how life has changed since we first published it.
Fringe Magazine: What inspired this piece?
Ian Singleton: The Work theme from Fringe inspired this piece. I’ve had a varied array of jobs, and I had always written about them. Also, at the time I’d been doing a lot of thinking about work. I guess many writers aren’t lucky enough to have only their “work”. Most of us, I imagine, have a “job” on top of it all. I heard about the study in the British journal from a coworker. I was in the lucky position of having scientific proof of everything I was feeling, of the way my job was making me feel. Another answer is that literature has always provided an escape from the humdrum of the workday for me, since I finished high school and worked summers. I remember reading and writing on my lunch breaks, or my whatever breaks, and thinking, “If I only had more time…” Each school year I would become disappointed in higher education. Then I would work some job for a whole summer, like being a mailman six days a week, hearing about my friends’ summer excesses, and I would appreciate the college years, probably more than a lot of lucky kids.
FM: Looking at it 2.5 years later, is there anything you’d change?
IS: That’s a tough question. I’ve looked at it a few times over the couple of years it’s been up, sometimes trying to imagine I’m a supervisor reading it. I’m proud of it. I also think of it at this point as a production that took more than just me to become what it has. [Fringe Nonfiction Editor] Llalan Fowler gave me some good edits for it, and I worked harder on it than I had expected. If you change the question to, “Would I have written it differently today?” the answer is probably yes. I can’t say what I would change, but I myself have changed since then.
FM: What do you do to fight boredom these days?
IS: There’s a story by Tobias Wolff in which a sideline character in a fast food restaurant is described as listening to music, and the narrator reasons that this means she’s a creative person and her brain needs more stimulus than assembly line food can provide. I think that’s true for many of us. When I was a mailman, the postal inspector announced he would follow (”inspect”) me on my route one day. All the union guys told me different tactics to deal with him. This letter carrier said: “Go as slow as you can to show him you need that time. Stretch it out.” Another letter carrier said: “Go as fast as you can. Lose that asshole!” I walked at a moderate pace, took my breaks, tried to be friendly, as I was raised to be. Sometimes it’s easier to put on some music and do a repetitive task without thinking, without trying to figure out how to escape. But then you’re basically becoming an automaton. Of course it’s easier. You’re not being human. I could go on about this for a lot longer. I better stop.
FM: What have you been up to since we published this? Tell us about your book.
IS: I’ve published some stories, a couple reviews, a poem, a translation of a Russian poem, and I just heard that my manuscript of short stories is up for publication in a few years. The book that will come out includes stories that are from 7 to 1 years old. When I found out I dropped to my knees and looked at the sunlight on the ceiling. I was alone on a Sunday afternoon, so I decided to get out of the house and walk around. While walking, I realized I was relieved. Now I can work on other things, and I can finally set those stories aside. I’m drafting and trying to limit my obsessive tendency to jump between different projects. With regard to question 2, I guess I could work on something for the rest of my life. Tobias Wolff, again, has a bit to say about that in the introduction to his book Our Story Begins. But now some of my stories will be in a book with its own editor, which someone has designed. A group of people will have made a production of it. I feel like my work with these stories is done; though, I suppose I’m gonna have to market the book. I’ve never done this before, obviously. Mostly, I feel relieved. I feel released to do newer, better writing.
Here’s an image that this piece reminded me of. It hung over the punch clock at the Labadie Collection, where I worked for a couple years, one of the best jobs I’ve had.