What We Are Reading Today: Beaten Down, Worked Up Steven Greenhouse

Updated 07 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Beaten Down, Worked Up Steven Greenhouse

Beaten Down, Worked Up — from longtime New York Times labor correspondent Steven Greenhouse — is an in-depth look at working men and women in America, the challenges they face, and how they can be re-empowered

Greenhouse writes in depth of the history and current state of American labor and specifically highlights labor unions. 

Greenhouse “probably knows more about what is happening in the American workplace than anybody else in the country, having covered labor as a journalist for two decades,” said Zephyr Teachout in a review for The New York Times. 

Teachout said Greenhouse “achieves a near-impossible task, producing a page-turning book that spans a century of worker strikes, without overcondensing or oversimplifying, and with plausible suggestions for the future.”

The review said Greenhouse “may be a great advocate for unions, but he has no patience for union insiders who have grown used to internal power, who ask for too little and focus too much attention on strategies designed to minimize damage.”


Mazen Maarouf brings magical realism to the darkness of war

‘Jokes for the Gunmen,’ on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, has been translated into English. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2019

Mazen Maarouf brings magical realism to the darkness of war

  • ‘Jokes for the Gunmen,’ on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, has been translated into English by Jonathan Wright and published by Granta Books.
  • It was published in Arabic by Beirut’s Riad El-Rayyes Books in 2015.

CHICAGO: From award-winning Palestinian-Icelandic writer, poet and journalist Mazen Maarouf comes a collection of short stories, “Jokes for the Gunmen,” now translated into English.

Unraveling sometimes fantastical and other times traumatic realities, the stories are mostly from the perspective of a child in a war zone in which life is about survival and how one’s perception of the world can be narrowed through limited circumstances.

Maarouf introduces his readers to narrators who mostly stay nameless, whose stories pick up in the middle of their lives, long after the bombs began to fall and life became about survival rather than living.

He unapologetically explores the depths of a child’s thinking as painful incidents occur and instability ensues in his characters’ lives.

He is unafraid to create uncomfortable situations, and often the accidental outcomes are the ones that seem to help life move forward.

Misunderstandings and misinterpretations often lead characters to their destinies, and in Maarouf’s collection, the only way to take the unforgiving realities of life is to turn them into a joke.

He explores elements of magical realism in his stories, such as when one character’s uncle, a self-proclaimed matador, dies three times in the same week, and one in which a son tells his mother fantastical stories about biscuits.

Dark humor encapsulates each unique story. Maarouf explores dreams, life, jokes, war, relationships, and the contrast between light and dark.

Each of his stories is embedded in a deep reality that cannot be shaken when it comes to war and its aftermath.

There is a harshness that overlays each incident, but one that pushes forward the notion that life must be lived through war.