Fiction, 9 to 5

The author of "Black Dogs" and "Enduring Love" picks five favorite novels about work.

Published August 30, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The world of work -- so defining in most lives -- is rather underrepresented in literary fiction. However, there are some honorable, and even brilliant, excursions.

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

The car salesman. The longeurs and the accountancy deceits are beautifully wrought. Rabbit's shafting by a Toyota rep, Mr. Shimada, defines a time in the 1980s of American industrial nervousness.

Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn

The journalist. Frayn is perhaps England's greatest comic writer. Grubby, compromised hacks haven't been done better since Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop." (The book was also published with the title "Against Entropy.")

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

The astronomer. A huge entity hovering near earth turns out to be a colossal intelligence. It's completely unimpressed by our civilization; some Beethoven sonatas hold its attention for a while.

Body and Soul by Frank Conroy

The musician. A wonderful evocation of a young man's mastery of the technique of the classical piano. Conroy is a fine jazz player, with a highly regarded "walking" left hand.

Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood

The paleontologist. The mind of a scientist neatly inhabited, while the chosen field of the heroine offers some useful, extended metaphors for sexual complication.

By the editors of Salon Books

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