Favorite Poem: Andrew Ross

The Day Lady Died
by Frank O’Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

[Selected by Andrew Ross, author of Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. "In his own breathless way, O'Hara recounts how business as usual (and it really is his business) can be brought to a standstill. " From Lunch Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets Series) by Frank O'Hara.]

How Andrew Ross Became A Famous Cultural Studies Scholar

Here’s an excerpt from a lengthy interview, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, of Andrew Ross, most recently the author of Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times (NYU Series in Social and Cultural Analysis). Go to the Chronicle’s website to read the full review.

In “Queen of the Jungle,” the lead story in James Hynes’s Publish and Perish, the protagonist is writing a book that he hopes will gain him the grail of a tenure-track job at the prestigious “Chicago University.” His wife is already there, but he’s stuck in an adjunct position at the University of the Midwest. During a week of wild creativity, he rewrites his otherwise pedestrian dissertation on modern literature, coming up with chapters like “The Sitcom at the End of the New Frontier: The Brady Bunch and The Wild Bunch in Contrapuntal Perspective.” His wife takes one of the chapters to show to the chair at Chicago and reports, “Frankly, it was a little too Andrew Ross for me,” but the chair “loved it, called it very cutting edge.”

It is not every day that a literary and cultural critic is immortalized in popular fiction, even a story set in academe. When Publish and Perish came out in 1997, Andrew Ross was just over 40, but he had already published eight books and had had a hand in editing one of the leading journals in cultural studies, Social Text, for a decade. Trained as a literary critic and writing his first book on modern poetry, Ross had moved on to explore a capacious range of topics, including New Age culture, pornography, technology, and the Weather Channel. The edge he cut was cultural studies when cultural studies was still new in the United States. It drew along a rising generation of critics.

Being cutting edge has its downside. Ross’s work gained him a substantial academic reputation, Ivy tenure, and then a professorship directing the American-studies program at New York University and more than a little media coverage. (While he did not get his picture in Rolling Stone, he did get his picture in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, and New York Magazine.) But it also made him a target, drawing attacks from those who charged him with being a postmodern relativist, merely trendy, and unscholarly, criticisms that came to the fore when he edited an issue of Social Text on science that included an article on “postmodern physics” later revealed to be a hoax.

The Precarious Employment Podcast

From KPFA’s Against the Grain:

Download program audio (mp3, 41.02 Mbytes)

The era of stable, secure, steady work with one employer is over. According to Andrew Ross, author of the book Nice Work If You Can Get It, precarity has become a central element in people’s lives. What explains the rise of contingent employment, and how prevalent has it become in the creative economy and in education? Ross talks about recent trends and their impact, and offers his vision of an alternative to “flexploitation.”

A Nice New Yorker If You Can Get It

Andrew Ross’s Nice Work If You Can Get It appears in the Briefly Noted section of this week’s New Yorker (June 29th).

According to Ross, job insecurity became commonplace long before the current financial debacle. As economies shifted from industry to information, the benefits and securities of the Keynesian era quietly gave way to a workforce of temps, freelancers, adjuncts, and migrants. Ross finds that city fathers are more interested in Olympic bids and stadium projects than in sustainable employment, while corporations spend more on “social responsibility” public-relations campaigns than on addressing worker complaints, and activists are too focussed on narrow concerns to find common cause with natural allies.

BookTV and GRITtv

Some video for you to peruse, the first courtesy of GRITtv:

Over the last couple of decades millions of Americans have dispensed with convention and embraced a non traditional work life. 9 to 5 jobs looked grim — but now with unemployment at 8.9 percent and over half a million losing their jobs monthly, the appeal of convention and perhaps a bit of security is coming back. Trouble is, now those old school jobs are hard to find. Did we bring the problem on ourselves? Not entirely, but partly, says Andrew Ross.

We embraced risk – and now we’re paying a price. Ross is Chair of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University and the author of Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times.

Also, Andrew’s speech at the New York Tenement Museum was recorded by CSPAN’s BookTV – Here’s the link.

And Hasan K. Jeffries will be on Book TV soon, talking about his book Bloody Lowndes.

Susan Boyle: Just Another Unregulated High Risk Investment?

Andrew Ross, Chair of NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, is author of Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. Illustration courtesy of The Painter Of Pancakes.

Susan Boyle is the would-be Scottish Edith Piaf, whose vocal prowess on a TV talent show brought her instant global fame month. The stark contrast between her humble station and the nobility of her voice caught the mood of the recession. Indeed, the story of this unemployed and socially isolated woman who hit the media jackpot may be the first of many such parables thrown up by our hard times. As millions around the world lose their jobs every month, and countless more confront the fear of falling, the Depression genre of “rags-to-riches,” which brought us Seabiscuit and other unlikely champions, will get a good airing. The lucrative talent show industry (which exploits “free” amateur labor) is in the right place at the right time to sell us this kind of solace.

But consider how the spectacle of underdogs walking off with the top prize is just another expression of the casino economy that has proven so catastrophic to the security of most of our livelihoods. Over the last two decades, paid work has become more and more of a gamble. More and more employees have had to go it alone, involuntarily for the most part, as they compete for the lucky break that will bring security and wealth. Even before the recession, over 30% of the American workforce were in non-standard employment, in a limbo of uncertainty, working from one temporary contract to another as members of the precariat. The high wage temps, once lionized as “free agents” for breaking their dependence on a regular paycheck, frazzled their souls in pursuit of a career hit. By definition, most of the contestants are sorry losers in this game, and they were among the first to fall into the unemployment hole.

Financiers who placed their plush bets using other people’s money have rightfully earned themselves public contempt. Now it’s time to de-glamorize risk, and to draw a firm line between the fantasy of auditioning for a TV talent show and the reality of making a living. If and when jobs reappear, they have to look less like lottery tickets. It would also help if their products were sustainable (land-gobbling subdivisions, gas-guzzling vehicles, earth-poisoning armaments, high-carbon energy, and financial instruments are not). But much of that depends on the people formerly known as employers, for those who answer to that description are increasingly thin on the ground. Can they learn how to behave like stewards of peoples’ livelihoods, by committing to workers in the long term? If not, then the definition of a job is going to mutate into something closer to its etymological origin–a discrete “lump,”or “piece,” of work that exists only for the duration of its fulfillment.

Party with Andrew Ross and Stanley Aronowitz

We had a great party last night for Nice Work If You Can Get It and the launch of the NYU Series in Social and Cultural Analysis. We had a plethora of NYU faculty, including a number of NYU authors, like Arlene Davila, in our offices at Union Square. And we had some other luminaries stop by as well—Bruce Robbins (Columbia), Stanley Aronowitz (Grad Center), and Ramon Gutierrez (Chicago).

Here are two brief videos, one of Andrew Ross and the other of Stanley Aronowitz, both talking about the what, where and why of Andrew’s book.

Andrew:

Stanley:

Diane Rehm Tackles the Recession

Andrew Ross, author of Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times appeared yesterday on the Diane Rehm show. Listen to the podcast here!

Unemployment and Job Insecurity

Economists predict the recession could end later this year but the outlook for the job market remains bleak. A look at how Americans are coping with record unemployment, the on-going economic crisis, and job insecurity.
Guests

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO

Andrew Ross, Professor and Chair of New York University’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including “Nice Work If You Can Get It – Life and Labor in Precarious Times.”

Heidi Shierholz, economist, Economic Policy Institute.

Michael Lazarchick, career counselor who manages a One Stop Center in Atlantic County, New Jersey. He is a licensed professional counselor and past president of the National Employment Counseling Association, a division of the American Counseling Association.

We also just read a great review of Andrew’s book in Bookforum:
“…illuminating…Who knows what will be on the table when the damage of the global crisis is told? At the very least, one may hope for a return to security, sensible financial regulation, and a renewed interest in economic equity. Other worlds are possible, and with luck thinkers like Ross can point the way to imagining them more fully.”

Presidential Fashion Statements

Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU and author of the forthcoming Nice Work If You Can Get It (NYU Press 2009), provided much of the commentary for a recent NYTimes article on Obama’s post-election fashion.

Andrew Ross, a professor and chairman of the department of social and cultural analysis at New York University, points out that informality in presidents isn’t just about looking relaxed. “It’s intended to convey clear-cut messages,” Mr. Ross said. He cited the examples of Jimmy Carter, who wore a cardigan when he asked Americans to turn down their thermostats and save energy; and Mr. Reagan, whose khakis and jeans projected a frontier mentality that jibed with his view of big government.

“It remains a fact that white males can dress down much more easily than women and minorities,” he said. That’s because, unlike white males, their formal rights have never been secure. Hence they lean toward more formal attire.

Referring to casual dress, he added: “There are just too many traps involving black male stereotypes that Obama could fall into. He’s likely to be on guard.”