Issue 35, Final Fringe

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.

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Fringe: it’s the noun that verbs your world, and the magazine you’re reading. We publish work that is political or experimental in form or content and define both “political” and “experimental” broadly. “Political” can mean work that incorporates or comments on current events or it can mean literature and art that further personal dignity and advocate human rights. We regard “experimental” work as work that breaks with the canon, takes formal risks, or explores a strange or impossible point of view.

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