Kind-Of Interview with Bud Smith on His Sort-Of Memoir, "Work"

by Jerome Spencer

“Do your beautiful thing. We don’t judge people who seek beauty in the dirt, we make fun of those who lay down in the dirt and do not dream.”

I was heading out on my lunch break with a copy of Bud Smith’s Work and some Oreos when my boss stopped me.

“Whatcha reading there? What’s it about?”
“It’s about this guy that works in a nuclear reactor facility, but he also writes a lot of books.”
“Wow.” My boss nodded, “Sounds electrifying.”
Silence.
“Get it?”
I didn’t.
“You can use that in your review.”
I did.

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But Work is about so much more than that. Work is a memoir (of sorts) about splendor and how to seek it out every day. Work is about hanging onto your inspiration even when the monotony of the “real world” starts to grind you down. Work is a love story to the working class from the working class, and a love story about a man and a woman. Work is an instruction manual about keeping your head above water no matter how high the tide of capitalism rises. Or maybe it’s not that deep; I don’t know.

Somewhat of a non-sequential autobiography, Work tells Bud Smith’s story of growing up in New Jersey, working heavy construction, falling in love, moving to New York City after/because of a drunken argument and writing. What makes this story so extraordinary is how none of it is actually ever extraordinary. Work is compelling because it’s just so average; this could be anyone’s life, but, in the masterful hands of Bud Smith, it becomes so compelling that you can’t put the book down.

Many of the stories are anecdotal and funny in that heartwarming, been-there kind of way, but Work also becomes full of insight to anyone out there that has a dream beyond making ends meet. There’s a dialogue in which Smith is encouraging his co-worker at an oil-refinery to write a children’s book for his daughter as they drive through Jersey that effortlessly captures all of the beauty we all share yet rarely acknowledge. There’s a lot of idealistic languages here; big talk about how art can save us all and how we should never give up and persevere and follow our dreams. Yet it never feels pedestrian or corny or over the top. Rather, it seems hopeful and joyous and, at times, prophetic

Work is the story about a man going through the same bullshit as the rest of us and managing to find the beauty in the struggle and appreciate the love all around him and just keep doing what he’s passionate about. I messaged Bud Smith some sentimental shit about how this book inspired me and he responded:

“Aw thanks, man… I love being alive and every day is a stupid chance to make something”

And maybe that should have been the review. Either that or the thing my boss said.