The Worst (Fictional) Jobs in Literature

Every week in a competition of wits The New Yorker asks a question of the Twitter-verse. Its most recent contest asked followers to reply to the question, “What’s the worst job in literature?

Although James Joyce’s proofreader appeared several times in the list, most tweeters stuck to the fictional theme. In the end the job The NY found worse than Hamlet’s motivational coach and Jay Gatsby’s poolboy was the winning entry “Narcissus’ girlfriend.” There were, however, so many gems within the bunch that we had to round up a Top Ten for you.

Think your job’s unbearable? Check out the hilarious responses below:

1. Captain Hook’s harpsichord key repairman

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

2. The reception committee for Godot

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

3. The chiropractor of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

4. Gregor Samsa’s exterminator

“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

5. Public relations for Lisbeth Salander

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

6. Richard III’s physiotherapist

William Shakespeare’s Richard III

7. Hester Prynne’s stylist

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

8. Huck Finn’s elocutionist

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

9. Ophelia’s swim instructor

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

10. Oedipus’s shrink. Or ophthalmologist.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

New Fiction by… F. Scott Fitzgerald?

We already know that most, if not all, of the world’s most celebrated writers had their fair share of rejection before shooting to literary fame. It comes as no surprise, then, that F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer of The Great Gatsby, was at one point turned away by such an elite publication as The New Yorker.

Back in 1936, before Fitzgerald was a household name but eleven years after the publication of his most famous work, he was turned away for a short story titled “Thank You for the Light.” It’s a “mildly fantastical” piece about a traveling saleswoman addicted to cigarettes, desperate to smoke in a disapproving town. The subject matter and tone of the work was slightly our of character for Fitzgerald, as The New Yorker staff’s reaction shows.

The magazine wrote in an internal message that it was “altogether out of the question. It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him and really too fantastic.”

Not having seen the light of day since that rejection, the story has been given a second chance by the publication thanks to a fateful turn of events. While clearing the vault for a Sotheby’s auction of Fitzgerald’s works, his grandchildren discovered this secret story for the first time. Advised by Fitzgerald scholar James West, they resubmitted it to the magazine. Thankfully, this time it was accepted.

An entertaining and quick read, “Thank you for the Light” appears in The New Yorker‘s August 6th issue, and can be read online here.