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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line [Paperback]

by Ben Hamper
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

Price: $19.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Book Description

July 1, 1992 0446394009 978-0446394000 Reprint
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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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line + Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
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Editorial Reviews

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446394009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446394000
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Rivethead" describes life on the GM assembly line. August 22, 1997
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ben Hamper's outrageous description of life on the
car and truck assembly line had me laughing out loud at the antics of both workers and bosses at the GM factory in Flint, Michigan. Hamper uses words like rivets and blasts them at the nearest human target; no one escapes his savage attack, not even himself. Hamper is a "flake" and he knows it, but he is an observant flake who is just as adept at turning a phrase as he is finding ways to avoid work. He seeks to please no one, not even himself, and he succeeds beyond even his expectations. Read at your own risk is how Hamper himself might caution us about "Rivethead."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark ,dark and depressingly funny an interesting read August 16, 1999
By A Customer
The book title betrays the story in that it's more tangable and real to the modern day production worker than any other book written in recent times. The characters are ones which we have all seen and met..in fact Homer Simpson would understand this factory. The attempts to improve productivity are desparate as the introduction of 'quality cat'a man hired and dressed up in a tiger outfit is found after some weeks later slumped on the floor smoking a cigarette. Suffice to say the book makes some very important statements on the drive for profit and the effects it has on you me and everyone else.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Hamper tells it like it is, I was there ! December 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 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Ben Hamper shaped this darkly humorous account of his years working on a General Motors truck assembly line with considerable skill. While his engaging prose firmly establishes the mind-numbing, repetitive nature of factory work, he also reveals how he and those around him on the line maintained some level of humanity by using humor and other diversions in their never-ending battle with the clock. Hamper's take on GM's outmoded management techniques and bumbling efforts to maintain market share in the face of global competition during the 1980s (for example, assigning an employee to dress in a cat costume and patrol the factory as a mascot for quality) is especially amusing.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I have my own tales from an Assembly Line March 29, 2007
I didn't really like reading this book because I too work in a (once) major three Auto plant. I didn't feel that it properly portrayed some of the workers. It made it sound like all workers are like the author where they just really don't give a damn about anything except having a joking time on the job. It also made the workers sound like they were underachieving, undereducated, bottom of the barrel workers and I didn't care to have that stigma for all of us. I hold two bachelor degrees, like my job and take it serious!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars riveting tale from the assembly line.. July 6, 2007
Ben Hamper shares his life as a worker on the GM assembly line in Flint, MI. Bold, frank, honest and often hilarious. This book was recommended to me years ago and for some reason I never read it until now. Hamper chronicles a part of American history (manufacturing jobs) that seem to be going stateside or as Ross Perot once described in a quip about NAFTA, what's that whoosing noise? manufacturing jobs headed to Mexico. This is prose for the ages. Loved the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read August 7, 2006
I grew up in and around Flint, Michigan during the decline of the auto industry there. It was very common to see family members and other people I knew in "the shop" deal with the seemingly annual layoffs and the re-hiring process. Rivethead does a good job illustrating this to people outside of the auto industry.

As another reviewer mentioned, the portions of the book detailing the quality mascot are hilarious.

It probably helped that the places Hamper describes and mentions in the book were all places I knew growing up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rivethead Hammers it home! January 27, 2001
Ben Hamper, aka The Rivethead, is the one guy with the courage to tell the truth about the American assembly line. Hamper worked in the GM Truck and Bus assembly plant for over 10 years, and along the way met more characters and drank more beer than most do in a lifetime. He also wrote one of the funniest and most revealing books about the American workplace ever published. Spend an afternoon on the rivet line with Ben Hamper, and find out what "Quality" really means.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars C onfirms belief's re the factories.
Interesting book. Supports my fathers contentions over his years there that the problems lie with poor performance by many employees and management's inability to control it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. K. Reasor
3.0 out of 5 stars less than expected
Author definitely has a flair for writing, but after a few chapters you just want him to DO something to improve his life instead of sitting back and complaining about it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Daniel Patterson
4.0 out of 5 stars quick, fun read.
this was a neat look into the life of a "rivethead" given only as could have been delivered by this one individual named ben. Read more
Published 2 months ago by mikemoster
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected.
An interesting perspective on the automotive industry in the late 70s and early 80s told in a colorful way by an actual worker that has the talent of the pen.
Published 2 months ago by Tabletmeister
4.0 out of 5 stars Sobering look at life on the assembly line
This is not fine literature, nor is it trying to be. You will not find nuanced stories of the give-and-take of the American assembly line of the 1980s. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. Richter
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent yet shocking
Excellent description of the assembly line and American automobile industry. It was shocking to read what went on and the way the workers were.
Published 3 months ago by c.b
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Writing
This is a fun read. You can swallow it up in two or three sittings easy. First off Ben knows how to write and not only make working assembly interesting, he somehow makes it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars The reason public opinions of unions are low.
Biting the hand that fed (or drank) him.

First I am a big fan of Ben's friend Michael Moore so I picked this up. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Clev Landers
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice portrayal but vulgar
Rivethead provide a peak into the culture within a unionized automobile factory. The depiction provides a realistic perception of what life on the line is like. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Econ
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I work at the same place and this book really hits home. For anyone who thinks auto workers are over played, I challenge you to work a week in the flint truck plant in the summer.
Published 5 months ago by Brian C.
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