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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line Paperback – July 1, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0446394000 ISBN-10: 0446394009 Edition: Reprint
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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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446394009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446394000
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Russell Fanelli TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter on March 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am about ten years younger than the author and we shared so many similarities in life it is spooky. I entered the service in the early eighties and worked a very similar low end existence on an isolated duty station. The book portrays in depth what young men will sometimes due to alleviate the boredom of a spiritually unfulfilling job. The massive drinking on and off the job, the foolish and immature pranks and games, the scheming, the conflicts, and the friendships that develop among those who toil together. The problem I have with the book is that Ben Hamper never followed the course of natural evolution and progressed outside that childish mode. He suffered from a state of arrested development. As the writer we expect that the observer would have greater incite into the overall experience and not simply be narrowly focused on the small percentage of people lack the ability to evolve over time. The character arc is missing and we are stuck following rivet head to the bleak demise of his own volition. Another curious aspect of this book is what he chose not to include. I thought he might have been gay because he fails to mention any desire for companionship other than the ones he had with men at work. That theory was proven false when he briefly mentions some girl friends later in the book. He also makes it clear his father was disappointing but then mentions he has a daughter who is never given any consideration through out the book. Did he never speak to her and thus repeat the same childhood he had? This entire book seem like nothing more than a catalog of drunken GM worker stories rather than that of a man's life story. I shall not end on a negative note and should mention his style was entertaining and his humor often very on target. In the end I am glad I read it but am left somewhat unsatisfied.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leticia Y. Lopez on April 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tony (hustler@globalbiz.net) on December 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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