Making a Living, Making a Life: Work and Its Rewards in a Changing America

Winter 2000

What consumes at least 40 hours a week, at least 2000 hours a year? Working—it’s making a living and making a life. Whether you wear a blue collar or a white one, farm from the land or vacuum the rug, you work. We all do. Some of us like it, some of us don’t. Some get paid, others get paid even more. What does working in America mean to you? Is what you do who you are? Which is more important, professional or personal happiness? If these questions interest you, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. You will be able to explore these ideas in a variety of works of literature.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these issues come “alive” within and among us in this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the readings. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone comes together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 521-5472 or dropping by OCU’s Walker Center 171. A brochure describing the series theme is also available.

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from (note new Winter hours) 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 11 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 7. Books, materials, and services for this series are provided by “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma.” Funding for this series is provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” is a cooperative project of the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council.


January 11, 2000 Growing Up by Russell Baker

Baker’s acclaimed autobiography opens the series. With good humor and good feeling, the popular New York Times columnist tells his struggle to satisfy his mother’s stern injunction to “make something of yourself.” The traditional idea of success and the American Work Ethic will reverberate through the wit, irony, skilled dialogue, humor, and depth of feeling in this memorable autobiography.

January 25, 2000 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Miller’s world-acclaimed play of Willy Loman probably raises within all of us remnants of the hope in the traditional American Dream of success. But has the American Dream turned into a nightmare? After fifty years and productions across the world, including Russia and China, this play, on Broadway again now, provides us still with a certain catharsis. Our scholar is also a director of plays, and so he will bring a particular sense of this work as a drama.

February 8, 2000 The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

Cather’s illuminating novel is set in an America that is at least a half-century removed from its frontier past, an America that sells off its heritage while buying the relics of European antiquity. The main character grew up on the prairie, entered academia as a History professor, and now reflects upon whether he has attained both professional success and domestic happiness. How does an American feel as the end of life approaches?

February 22, 2000 Working by Studs Terkel

Described as one of the greatest bestsellers of our time, Working’s subtitle is perhaps as descriptive of the book as any other: “People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” In this incredible documentary, Terkel uses a tape recorder as well as any journalist alive to elicit the private dreams and fears of ordinary Americans. Frequently, workers voice the great expectations they have for their children as a means to put up with how badly they are treated at their job. In short, this book of voices will move you profoundly.

March 7, 2000 Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

Intelligence, a sense of excitement, craft (and craftiness) pervade Ogilvy’s brief but extremely engaging history and handbook of his risky business. You may acknowledge his emphasis on the creativity in advertising and business, but will you agree with him and his methods? Is the self-motivating, risk-taking American entrepreneur an endangered species? A provocative finale for the series. Who are we? What do we really want?