Book Review: Invisibles

4 Jan

For my first book of 2015 (ok, I started it in 2014, but my resolutions, my rules), I read Invisibles, by David Zweig.

The premise of this book is that there is more fulfillment to be found in dedication to mastering your work than in seeking outside praise/fame. Zweig profiles a number of interesting people with behind-the-scenes jobs, from structural engineers to lighting designers on big Hollywood films – generally people who are highly regarded in their fields yet unknown to the general population.

The concept was interesting, and I think one that is definitely worthy of exploration. I know that I’ve found much more personal fulfillment when I was collaborating with the whole staff to put out the newspaper each week than in seeking praise for my accomplishments (although I think the most self-marketing-y thing I’ve ever done was apply for college. Writing all those essays about how wonderful/deserving of money and admissions you are is weird and uncomfortable.

While reading his book, I was struck by how many of these people were craftsmen (and one woman … come on Zweig, really?). I know there’s a lot of fulfillment to be found in making/fixing something yourself, but as someone who doesn’t intend on having a career in construction or sculpture or car mechanics, it made me wonder how one can carry out these ideals in an office-job setting. The importance of taking pride in your work instead of pride in the praise you receive will certainly be something I keep in mind as I progress through my career, however.

The primary drawback of this book was that the author was annoying. He was pompous and arrogant, and it stuck out even more in a book about how it’s really important not to be pompous and arrogant. The guy was constantly interjecting things like “the reason I was able to understand the importance of Radiohead’s guitar tech’s job is because I used to play guitar professionally” and “now this next stuff is complicated, but I’m a perfectionist and thus did a ton of research so that I can explain it to you plebeians.”

Ugh. Shut up.

When Zweig writes about the subjects of his book, he shares interesting anecdotes and insightful thoughts. When he interjects himself, it’s one of the more annoying nonfiction books I’ve ever read.


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