Jason Boog Looks Back to Figure Out How to Go Forward

When the stock market crashed in 2008, the offices closed at the legal publication where I worked. I lost my benefits, my office space, and my security, all in a single meeting. I holed up in the New York University Bobst Library for a couple of weeks as a freelance writer, scribbling reports and watching my health insurance expire. I was a single speck in a national catastrophe for writers.According to the Department of Labor, the printing and traditional publishing sector shed well over 134,000 jobs during the Great Recession. This was part of a much larger set of losses as digital technology disrupted traditional publishing. Between 1998 and 2013, the book publishing industry lost 21,000 jobs, periodical publishing cut 56,000 jobs, and the newspaper industry shed a staggering 217,000 jobs.

After my old job folded, I camped out on the seventh floor of the library, tucked away among the American Literature shelves. I started looking for clues on how writers survived the Great Depression. In the stacks, I found You Can’t Sleep Here, a novel written in 1932 by a 20-year-old Hungarian immigrant named Edward Newhouse. His book tells the story of a young newspaper reporter fired during the early days of the Great Depression who sleeps in a tent city along the East River and who showers in a bathroom at the New York Public Library.

The reporter paces up and down the side of Central Park at sunrise, hoping to get the first look at the want ads before thousands of other unemployed people. “I had to walk till 55th Street before one of the newsstand men would let me look into the want ads.” A quiet desperation permeated every line of Newhouse’s story. I couldn’t stop reading.

Read the full excerpt here.

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