Soul-Grinding, Eye-Opening, and Absurd: Tales of a Low Life


In 1972, to scare up some scratch before college, the young Luc Sante worked in a grim plastics plant, a job at once soul-grinding, eye-opening, and absurd. In Granta’s “Factory” issue, the Low Life author (and Voice contributor) describes the two types of foremen, the frazzling minutiae of his tasks, and how ellipsis-mad Celine made for the best reading during the intermittent downtime. Sante’s wise and deadly memoir is also improbably droll, as when he dilates on “homers,” the pointless, little private projects that workers sometimes cobbled from rejectamenta: “[U]sing as a base an unidentified transparent cylinder that might have been part of a pill box, you could pile up widening rings of bullet-shaped tree elements, also in clear plastic, sticking them on when they were still hot from the [mold], ending up with a conical whatsit you could pretend recalled a crystal chandelier.” Seeing a manual for Injection Molding Machine Operator or Tender in his high school guidance counselor’s office, he muses that while the information in it is bona fide, “it made as little sense as if an equivalent booklet had been entitled Prison Inmate.” Sante reads at this outdoor series with recent Granta writers James Lasdun (author of the exquisitely creepy novel The Horned Man) and Masha Gessen.

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