Adelle Waldman, HELP WANTED & Remembering Paul Auster

A bestselling novelist took a job at a big box store, was shocked by what she found, and decided to write a novel about it.

We talk with Adelle Waldman about her new novel, Help Wanted. It’s about what happens when a group of workers at a big box store scheme to get their overbearing manager promoted out of their department. Along the way, it reveals what work life is really like for millions of low wage workers in today’s economy.

Then, we remember novelist Paul Auster, who died on April 30 at the age of 77. We air our 2008 conversation with Auster about his novel, Man In The Dark.

Writers Voice— in depth conversation with writers of all genres, on the air since 2004. Find us on Facebook at Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon, on Instagram @WritersVoicePodcast or find us on X/Twitter @WritersVoice.

Key Words: author interview, podcast, book podcast, author interview, Writer’s Voice, Francesca Rheannon, fiction, Adelle Waldman, Paul Auster

A Novel About The Real Lives of Low-wage Workers

Adelle Waldman always thought she would dedicate her writing career to penning fiction about the love affairs of the upper middle class, like her literary hero, Jane Austen. Her bestselling first novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., published in 2014, fit that mold.

But her new novel, Help Wanted, breaks it. Instead of skewering the absurdities of the Brooklyn literati, it shines a light on the odds low-wage workers are up against in today’s economy.

And those odds are daunting, as Waldman discovered when she took a job at a Target store to find out how those workers really live.

Despite the success of the Fight For Fifteen movement, which moved many major retailers like Walmart and Target to raise their hourly wage to $15 dollars an hour or even a few dollars more, real yearly wages are worse than they were 20 years ago. That’s because most non-management retail jobs are now part time without benefits.

Not only that, work hours are erratic, as corporate management fiddles with schedules to “maximize efficiency.” One week, a “Team Member” could be working 40 hours; the next week, 5, and on a different shift. It’s hard to plan, keep food on the table, pay rent or even manage a second job under those conditions.

With a richly drawn cast of characters, Waldman’s novel Help Wanted is a funny, moving tale of ordinary people trying to make a living.

Remembering Paul Auster

by Writer’s Voice Host Francesca Rheannon

I opened the New York Times on May 1 to the headline: “Paul Auster, the Patron Saint of Literary Brooklyn, Dies at 77.”

I was immediately transported back to the dimly lit studio at WMUA 91.1 FM in Amherst, Massachusetts where, in 2008, I spoke with Auster via phone about his novel Man In The Dark. Writer’s Voice was only four years old then and I was thrilled to have scored an interview with an author the Times obit called “one of the signature New York writers of his generation.”

After 9/11, Paul Auster said that “writing is no longer a matter of free will for him–it’s a matter of survival.” Man In The Dark deals with issues of survival in a post 9/11 America — the survival of hope, of connection with others, of choice in the face of evil And, finally, of the stories that knit families together.

Auster was the author of numerous novels, screenplays, and works of non-fiction, including Travels in the ScriptoriumThe Invention of Solitude, and The Brooklyn Follies. He was also a poet, translator and film director.

In Auster’s memory, we replay our 2008 conversation with him.

, , , ,

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.