Theriault, Reg 1924-
THERIAULT, Reg 1924-
Writer. Worked as a migrant worker beginning c. 1939; worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for thirty years. International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, former official.
How to Tell When You're Tired: A Brief Examination of Work, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1995.
The Unmaking of the American Working Class, New Press (New York, NY), 2003.
In his book How to Tell When You're Tired: A Brief Examination of Work, author Reg Theriault draws on his decades of personal experience in the world of work, including stints as a migrant worker and thirty years on the docks of San Francisco as a longshoreman. Containing stories drawn from the author's experiences, How to Tell When You're Tired drew praise from New Statesman contributor Jeremy Seabrook. Seeing value in a viewpoint grounded in "the direct experience of the tough materiality of hard labour," Seabrook praised Theriault for penning a text that is "grounded, folksy, and sometimes very radical." In Publishers Weekly, a critic credited the author with advancing a legitimate argument against increasing productivity at the expense of worker-management tensions, and called How to Tell When You're Tired a "refreshing look at the workplace by a seasoned expert."
Theriault continues his examination of working people in America in 2003's The Unmaking of the American Working Class, in which he argues that blue-collar culture has ethical underpinnings that are worth saving in the face of a changing job market where most manufacturing jobs are going overseas. Characterizing the book as a "rumination on politics, economics and unions," a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Theriault's "thought-provoking analysis" of why a political party based on the interests of labor never became established in the United States. Noting the author's nostalgia for the world of manual labor as it existed in the early years of the twentieth century—before trade unions, migrant workers, and machinery disrupted the sense of pride between labor and laborer—the Publishers Weekly critic maintained that The Unmaking of the American Working Class would find an enthusiastic audience among "the increasing number of people concerned with the negative effects of globalization." Although a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed the book "rudderless" due to its author's somewhat digressive storytelling style, praise was also accorded the author for his perceptiveness in realizing the importance of pride in physical labor, in the act of creation and tangible contributions; "that what removes us from our labors removes us from our lives."
Theriault views work as "the civilizing factor in the development of mankind," as he told San Francisco Bay Guardian interviewer Brian Bouldrey. "Primitive men and women working together to perform a common task was the essential ingredient that led to the best in society as we know it today.… Self-directed men and women working together to accomplish a common task will always divide the work up fairly. During this process the politics of democracy is born."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of The Unmaking of the American Working Class, p. 1516.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 8, 1995, David Masumoto, "The Working Class," p. 12.
New Statesman, September 13, 1996, Jeremy Seabrook, review of How to Tell When You're Tired: A Brief Examination of Work, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, July 31, 1995, review of How to Tell When You're Tired, p. 63; November 11, 2002, review of The Unmaking of the American Working Class, p. 50.
Whole Earth Review, winter, 1995, James Donnelly, review of How to Tell When You're Tired, p. 96.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Online,http://www.sfbg.com/lit/ (January 29, 2003), Brian Bouldrey, "Labor of Love" (interview with Theriault).*