Plumber without portfolio: Joe “types without a clue”

Plumber: n. a person who installs and fixes toilets, and should have stuck to his day job

Portfolio: n. a selection of a person’s work (papers, artwork) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress

Joe the Plumber (an unattractive adjunct to the McCain campaign second only in repugnancy to Sarah Palin) has written a book. Or typed it. (Or had someone else type it for him…).

Timothy Egan wrote a hilarious and angry commentary on it, “Typing without a Clue,” in yesterday’s NY Times. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are a couple of tidbits:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate.

Joe, a k a Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, was no good as a citizen, having failed to pay his full share of taxes, no good as a plumber, not being fully credentialed, and not even any good as a faux American icon. Who could forget poor John McCain at his most befuddled, calling out for his working-class surrogate on a day when Joe stiffed him.

With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion.

Joe is evidently not in line to be the 100th monkey.

Egan goes on to bemoan the hard life of real writers and the sorry state of the publishing industry.

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

On the other hand, plumbing is a career path that never goes out of fashion. “After the deluge,” says my ex-, who has plumbing skills, “they’ll still need plumbers.”

3 responses to “Plumber without portfolio: Joe “types without a clue”

  1. I gave up all hope of honesty and integrity in the printing profession and the wisdom of the general reading public when I came across two books by Sylvia Browne in my local libraries. Books of revelations provided to her by her spirit guide. And presented as non-fiction.
    I wonder if any profits Joe makes will be immediately applied to his back taxes: or purchase of a plumber’s license.

  2. The original essay brought a quick response from another writer, novelist Jean Shields of Portland:

    “That Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin can express their ideas is precisely what differentiates us from North Korea. The response to censorship is not elitism. It is an attitude that says, Publish it all. Let the reader decide.

    Nor is the test of time a reliable test. Not every book needs to be a lasting masterpiece. There is a place for the beach read, the pundit du jour, the 15 minutes of fluff.

    Publishing is a business. Not a very profitable one, but a business nonetheless. And the reality is that the so-called big books make it possible for publishers to bring out the more literary titles Mr. Egan commends.

    While that’s a boon for me as a writer, more to the point, the diversity is good for readers. So should Joe and Sarah go for it? You betcha.”

  3. And another letter to the editor from Morgan Huse of NYC:

    “Although it’s unlikely I’ll be reading anything by Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin, it’s hard to feel sympathetic for Timothy Egan.

    So he’s upset that his profession is being overrun by poor practitioners. Take a number and get in line.

    Sadly, writing is not the only profession threatened by mediocrity, and it’s far from the most consequential.

    For example, we’ve all had to deal with the results of a woefully unqualified president for the last eight years. It’s cost the country a lot more than $24.95.”