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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line [Paperback]

Ben Hamper
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 1992
The man the Detroit Free Press calls "a blue collar Tom Wolfe" delivers a full-barreled blast of truth and gritty reality in Rivethead, a no-holds-barred journey through the belly of the American industrial beast.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In a voice often as powerful as the riveting gun he wielded in the 1970s and '80s in a Flint, Mich., General Motors assembly plant, Hamper nails down the excruciating boredom of a shoprat's life on the line. These roughly chronological essays, many published in the local press, bare the rage and humor that, with booze and drugs, friendships and enmities, served to speed along the timeclock's "suffocating minute hand." A fourth-generation factory worker, raised on hard music, hard liquor and soft drugs, given a parochial school education, Hamper was the eldest of eight children deserted by their father, supported by their mother. He was determined not to be an auto worker but soon after high school, married and a father, he needed the steady work GM offered. With free-ranging intelligence and a sharply anarchic sensibility, he tries to figure out and establish some control over his place in GM's massive corporate system. While these essays might best satisfy in small doses, Hamper, no longer a GM employee, writes with unrelenting energy. BOMC and QPB selections; film rights to Warner Bros.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Hamper, a son, a grandson, and a great-grandson of General Motors' "shoprats," chronicles ten years spent in an abusive marriage with GM in Flint, Michigan. Despite exploitative management policies, arrogant and/or incompetent supervisors, and mind-numbing working conditions, Hamper, like the abused spouse who keeps returning to the abuser, becomes de pressed during layoffs and revives when recalled to the assembly line. Hamper copes with his perceived limited options by consuming impressive quantities of alcohol and writing an irreverent, cynically humorous column about shoprat life for an alternative newspaper. How much of Hamper's alienation and later panic disorder are the result of his ten years at GM and how much are due to genetics and choices is unexplored. Another weakness is Hamper's graceless style and his overuse of four-letter words. Despite these shortcomings, blue-collar voices are rarely heard, and therefore this is recommended for public libraries.
- Andrea C. Dragon, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD THE FIRST TIME I EVER SET FOOT inside an automobile factory. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I be Dec 3 1998
By A Customer
Unlike the songs of Bruce Springsteen that focus upon the working class of America, Hamper provides one with a glimpse into the life of an American factory worker. This book shows the lived experiences of people that have now become transperent voices in mainstream society. What Hamper does is provide a forum for these voices to be articulated. This book should be a mandatory reading in college classrooms. Specifically, english majors, sociology majors, and communication majors would benefit from the insight and rhetoric displayed through the harsh but real voice of Hamper. More books like this should be read by members of our society both in and out of the academic forums. In sum, I would recommend this book to the masses.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate description of line work April 5 2000
As a former line worker at a Japanese assembly plant, I can honestly say that this is a very accurate description of life on the line. Although the working conditions at the plant I worked at were not as bad as at GM, the mentality of the workers and how they deal with management is the same in a non unionized Japanese Plant. In fact even though it is thought that there is more cooperation between management and worker at Japanese Plants, I found that there was still a deep division between the two. The description of the pranks are hilarious. In summary, if anyone thinks that workers in Japanese plants are any better off than the North American plants, think again. An auto plant is an auto plant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Hamper tells it like it is, I was there ! Dec 1 1998
Life on the line comes back to haunt me with every word Ben writes. It's all true, I worked with Ben, I saw it all, drunk, high, sometimes sober. General Motors and all it's cronies couldn't keep the goodtimes from rolling down the line. Truck-in, truck-out, a drink here, a drink there, a joint here, a joint there, anything to escape.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone from the Flint area Jan. 10 2001
I found out about this book while watching Michael Moore's The Awful Truth on Bravo. Ben did some correspondence work for Michael. My husband, my dad, and I were watching it and my dad told me that was the guy from Roger & Me (a movie about Flint by Michael Moore-a must see for anyone who enjoys this book) that was in the mental hospital on Holly Rd. I got the book and read the acknowledgements and I realized that I went to school with his daughter! He hung out and a bar called Mark's Lounge and I used to work at the Sunoco gas station right next door to it while I was in college! Anyway being originally from the Flint area and working right across the street from the factory Ben worked in I knew that quite a bit of drinking and long lunch hours took place but Ben tells it is so funny. My favorite parts are when he talks about Howie Makem the quality cat. It is an easy read too. It only took me a couple of days to read it. But then again maybe that is because I couldn't put it down!
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I was forced to read this book...against my better wishes, my hellish American History professor assigned this book to our class. As I read the title I remembered thinking: "how in the world is an assembly line job interesting enough to read about?" About the only thing I thought the book had going for it was the foreward by Michael Moore. It looked like I was going have to spend another weekend plodding though a boring book when I could have been spending it at the movies or out with my friends. It turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life. The books was hilarious -- It was real, gritty, sharp and wonderfully written. After reading the introduction, I was hooked: I locked myself in my room, unplugged the telephone and didn't put down the book until I was finished. That was ten minutes ago -- now I am online looking to see if he has written any other books...I was disapointed to see that he hasn't. Ben Hamper -- wherever you are -- I have joined the ranks as your loyal fan. Even though you no longer work for GM, I hope you will find another story out there and tell the world about it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Harper Please Write More! Jan. 15 2001
This is a must read for anyone who is curious what a day in the life of a factory worker is like. Ben Harper takes you on journey through the massive bowels of the General Motors Truck and Bus factory; and lets you in on the daily hijinks, scams and booze habits of he and his linemates to help ease the passage of time and the mind numbing by-product of their job. Harper's gonzoesque sytle is fresh, gritty, real and hilarious; and his take on General Motor's bureaucratic hierarchy of authority is as funny as it is frustrating. He let's us in on everything to GM's quality mascot cat "howie makum" to the flashing slogan banner in front of his work station announcing "riveting is fun". Ben Harper makes you want to come to work with him; but stay only for a day.
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By A Customer
This is a must-read if you're a white collar, blue-blood, fancy suburb-living, Subaru Outback-driving, Liberal Arts educated American. Or even if you're not--. Its honesty will rattle those who presume to "understand" the American blue collar work force--especially middle managers sitting in some cushy office with fake plants in the corner and hot coffee in a favorite mug. It's a great companion read to "Forming the Future: Lessons from the Saturn Corporation" -- written by Jack O'Toole, the labor representative on the team to create the 80's upstart GM division. The fact that Michael Moore writes the preface to Rivethead should give you an indication that this is raw, off the beaten literary track, good reading. Enjoy.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Interesting first-hand account of life working in a factory. Themes related to people & work can be further explored in discussion.
Published 3 months ago by Andie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!!!!
A funny, yet entirely accurate summary of life in a auto-assembly plant in the late 1970s. You can substitute any Big 3 plant in North America and the story wouldn't change much. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Neil Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are those people who make those vehicles we drive everyday?
Everyone who works on an assembly line should read this and then they should give it to the "white shirts" who manage the assembly line then pass the book on to their... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Sherrie Malisch
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for a nephew
This was a Christmas gift for my husband's nephew. Did not read personally but my husband did a book review and this had good reviews.
Published on Dec 28 2011 by K. Meloche
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read yet
Being from a manufacturing town, I can tell you that the stories and reflections in this book ring true. It is a great book. Read more
Published on April 27 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
I have no doubt that this is an accurate description of life at GM during his tenure. I wonder if it is similar now? Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003 by James H. McDuffie
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
This is certainly a tale of life at GM. I wonder how many people had similar experiences. I also wonder how much of the problem was with the author. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2003 by James H. McDuffie
5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Hamper, Where Art Thou?
I bought this book on the recommendation of one of my graduate school professors, thinking I would suffer through it. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2003 by Steven L. Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, funny, easy read.
I spent four years in college reading over a hundred books for my classes, including this one. I am done now, and this is the ONLY book I am even thinking of re-reading. Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2003 by bxluddite
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, great, great!
I just re-read this and it is one of my all-time favorite books! It's so funny. Anyone who grew up in a Midwestern, blue-collar environment will relate to the drinking and dark... Read more
Published on July 31 2002 by Hello Kitty Ellen
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