Get local news delivered straight to your phone

TUESDAY

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

The shittiest job I’ve ever had was at a minor-league baseball-stadium snowball stand. There, the daily ritual—run down three flights of stairs, put a giant block of ice under each arm, run upstairs, jam ice into mass of jagged metal teeth, bleed—got old after a few innings. So I quit. In a span of 10 years, Iain Levison had 42 jobs way shittier than that, and, according to the subtitle of his A Working Stiff’s Manifesto, quit 30 of them, got fired from nine, and can’t remember the three others. And though Levison’s prose stings with the beleaguered bitterness of the down-and-out liberal-arts major, it never drags: His account of shoveling fish in Alaska, gofering for a philandering print salesman, and wandering into a water-filter sales scam is often laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s never dull. By contrast, Levison’s new novel, Since the Layoffs, is never laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s pretty much always dull. That book uses the comic despair of Manifesto as a jumping-off point: Jake, an unemployed factory worker, is trying to make ends meet. And in his Wisconsin town, which has been suddenly abandoned by money-grubbing industrialists, the only growth industry is contract killing. Levison’s cockeyed revenge fantasy replaces the light touch of Manifesto with a sledgehammer—or, rather, a rusty, urine-soaked shotgun. By the end of the novel, Levison is so far off course that it’s hard to see where he started or imagine where he might end up. He’s in town at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 22, at Vertigo Books, 7346 Baltimore Ave., College Park. Free. (301) 779-9300. (Josh Levin)