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3 Strange Jobs Held by Authors Before They Were Famous


Even history’s most revered writers had to do something to hold body and soul together before they hit it big. No surprise that these creative minds often toiled in something a little more offbeat than the usual food service or babysitting gigs.


(Photo Credit: porschelinn/Flickr)

At The Huffington Post, author and musician Paul Anthony Jones recently compiled a list of 20 day jobs held by famous authors before they entered the pantheon of literature. Among the odder gigs:

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1. Jack London, Oyster Pirate

Sadly, the author of The Call of the Wild didn’t wear a patch on his eye or a parrot on his shoulder during his tenure as a “self-styled oyster pirate” in San Francisco. He was basically just a thief, stealing from oyster farms and selling his ill-gotten gains in local markets.

Similar (legitimate) job, today: Fisherman, $50,543 median annual salary

2. J.D. Salinger, Luxury Cruise Activities Director

How do you cure a broken heart? If you’re J.D. Salinger, you rebound from a failed relationship (with Oona O’Neill, soon to be Charlie Chaplin’s wife) by signing on as activities director on a Caribbean cruise, and write a short story that later becomes the basis for The Catcher in the Rye.

Similar job, today: Cruise Director, $61,801 median annual salary

3. Kurt Vonnegut, Car Dealer

By the time the author of Slaughterhouse-Five earned enough from his writing to devote himself to it full-time, he’d already done stints as a soldier, journalist, PR associate, and college professor. But perhaps his most offbeat job was car salesman. In 1957, he ran his own Saab dealership on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Later, he described the experience: “It and I went out of business 33 years ago. The Saab then as now was a Swedish car, and I now believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: Why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature.”

Similar job, today: Sales Consultant, Cars, $36,271 median annual salary

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What’s the weirdest day job you’ve ever heard of? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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