Books

For Labor Day: 10 Authors and Their First Jobs

These days, people rarely stick with their first jobs, and why would they? It's not like Marble Slab has a competitive pension plan. And though we tend to disparage those horrendous first outings into the world of work, they provide a vital function in catapulting those with artsier aspirations out of 9-to-5 drudgery and into a beautiful art form.

In honor of Labor Day, which is Monday, we sifted through our favorite authors to find what jobs they had before they became literary giants, the jobs that made them say "Screw this!" and pick up a pen.

10. Charles Dickens: Shoe polish label-paster Dickens was just a kid when he went to work at a boot-black warehouse to help support his family, and he found more than a little inspiration for his seminal work about the perils of child labor, Oliver Twist: One of the boys he worked with was named Bob Fagin.

9. Harper Lee: Airline reservation clerk Lee worked for Eastern Airlines and British Overseas Airways during the '50s before penning her only novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

8. George Orwell: Policeman Before he wrote about Thoughtcrime and Big Brother, Orwell (born Eric Blair) was out locking people up for petty crime as a member of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. His experience here was the inspiration for the anti-Imperialist short story "Shooting an Elephant."

7. James Baldwin: Pentecostal preacher At the age of 14, James Baldwin joined the Pentecostal church and became a preacher. I don't know about you guys, but when I was 14, I could eat an entire thing of marshmallows in under a minute.

6. John le Carré: Teacher Before he joined MI5 and was led to a life of intrigue he would later write about, le Carré (born David Cornwell) was a teacher at Britain's prestigious Eton College.

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CAROLINE EVANS
Contact: CAROLINE EVANS