chapter  5
41 Pages

Worker

Adrenaline highs, job satisfaction, community gratitude, local fame, cultural capital, and social authority are among the rewards garnered by the organizers of shared reading events. But what is involved in the performance of this type of cultural labor-ideologically, materially, and emotionally? And how does the “passion for reading” and for books articulated by cultural workers such as librarian Mary Wallace inflect their role as shared reading event organizers? Wallace’s “mantra”—“How can I get people to read more books?”—expresses passionate feelings about her work inspired by her identity as a book-lover, while also articulating an ethical goal appropriate to her professional role. Because book reading is still regarded as a worthwhile leisure pursuit in North America and the UK, expressing passion about it in public is socially permissible, even de rigueur, if you happen to be a Reader Advisory librarian, literature teacher, or Book Festival organizer. The desire to encourage people to read, or to read more books, coincides neatly with the professional objectives of these jobs in the reading industry. Cultural workers are not, however, supposed to reveal the personal costs involved in the translation of these aspirations into shared reading events. It is fine for them to acknowledge some of the pleasures and perks, such as the thrill of introducing a best-selling author, for example, because excitement signals the glamour associated with literary celebrity, thereby enhancing the spectacle effect of a staged event. But the cultural worker cannot articulate in public the negative or toxic effects of overwork, or rather, she cannot verbalize it, although the lines on her face or a slow gait might register emotional and bodily fatigue to the observant audience member. Yet, the body of the worker is as crucial to the successful performance of cultural work as her sense of social mission, her “passion for reading,” and the creative skills and specialist knowledge that she employs in the programming and staging of events.