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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting May 31 2014
By Andie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting first-hand account of life working in a factory. Themes related to people & work can be further explored in discussion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!!!! May 10 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. A great read for anyone!
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 spouses so they can understand what goes into assembling products then their children so they can understand that what they learn in school no longer applies in the real world.

This book should never stop circulating. Rivethead is riveting, funny, eye-opening line working experience. You will never look at a suburban truck the same again. Yes, that is what Ben Hamper was assembling while writing this book. His inspiration came from the noise of his riveting gun, Jack Daniel lunches and meetings with GM management.

Mr Hamper rattles GM's management "cage." The "white shirts" (management) sit in their portable offices looking down on the workers like mindless ants. And if someone gets hurt and stops production...white shirts will come down, sweep away the line obstruction and yell at everyone to keep working. Can you believe this? Is this really what is going on in these factories. If you do not accept the GM corporate culture, then someone else will blindly take your place for $12.65 an hour.

This book should be a high school read. Studied. Analyzed and GM should respond in all its sincerity
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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 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 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 Gift for a nephew Dec 28 2011
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read yet April 27 2004
By A Customer
Being from a manufacturing town, I can tell you that the stories and reflections in this book ring true. It is a great book. I actually lost the book because it was passed on to so many other friends. The book ends a little weird, but these types of personal reflections on life sometimes do.
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Most recent customer reviews
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. 5 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. 12 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. 13 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book. Must read for anyone wo works in an auto factory.
Published on May 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any manager
This book applies to life on the assembly line or in any company in which the work is repetitive. How often do we read books to be better managers or to motivate our people in new... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001 by john stadter
5.0 out of 5 stars Did we work at the same place?
I read this book the first time when I was a clerk at the Postal Service on the night shift. Apparently GM and the Post Office have a lot in common. Read more
Published on July 29 2001 by Craig Schnieders
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