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The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt Paperback – March 18, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“Give us something to root for,” Akron, Ohio, writer and professor Giffels says near the beginning of this collection of personal essays about his embattled home state. Ohio once was home to manufacturing plants, industry, prosperity. That began to change in the 1960s, when factories began to close, and the dismantling of the state—and of Akron specifically—continues to this day. And it’s not just a figurative dismantling: one of the most moving essays here describes the author’s thoughts as he watched an old Firestone smokestack being literally dismantled, brick by brick, on a summer’s day. Giffels’ essays put a human face on daily life in today’s Ohio, while reminding readers of all the things Ohio has given the world: from the Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker to rockers Devo and Chrissie Hynde, to the hamburger (well, probably not, but Ohio’s claim to the burger makes a heck of a good story). An interesting and occasionally moving portrait of a place that, despite its decades-long downward slide, remains, for many, a pretty good place to live. --David Pitt

Review

“They still build souls in Akron. The Hard Way on Purpose is proof. David Giffels is a Rust Belt prophet, laughing—sometimes through his tears—in Doom’s face. You want to hear America singing? Buy this book.” (Scott Raab, author of The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James)

“David Giffels writes straight into the heart of Akron, Ohio, the place we both call home. It’s a hard place to be from, which is why it makes such a good story. What other place could have spawned Jim Jarmusch, LeBron James, Lux Interior and the Goodyear blimp? So it’s no accident that this book reads like the American soul—wicked and sincere and ingeniously weird. It is a great story, an authentic one about the way people protect the places they love, and The Hard Way on Purpose gets it exactly right.” (Patrick Carney, The Black Keys (celebrated indie rock band from Akron, Ohio))

“This amazing book will resonate with anyone who’s ever loved a hometown, wherever it might be—especially if it’s the kind of hometown people usually leave. Even if you’ve never been to Akron, Giffels brilliantly captures how it feels to love your city fiercely, even when it’s falling apart. He celebrates Akron as ‘the Paris of hard times.’ Giffels might be its Baudelaire.” (Rob Sheffield, author of Love Is a Mix Tape and Turn Around Bright Eyes)

“Occasionally, an essayist so perfectly chronicles a specific place that he or she becomes synonymous with it. Joseph Mitchell and New York; Joan Didion and California; Adam Gopnik and Paris; John Jeremiah Sullivan and the American South. With The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels has pulled a chair up to this lofty literary table, and in so doing, provided the hardscrabble industrial Midwest with its own lyrical, learned, and very large-hearted champion.” (David Goodwillie, author of American Subversive)

“A heartfelt analysis...the portrait painted here is an honest and revealing one, illuminating the cultural factors that have given a strange, shadowy sort of hope to millions of Americans.” (Publishers Weekly)

"This collection of essays about life in Akron, Ohio, is so deep and inviting and surprising that I plan to carry a bunch in my trunk. Then, instead of mounting the Heartland defense, I’ll just throw the bigmouth fucknut in question a copy of Giffels’ masterwork and let it do the talking." (Eric Nuzum, Washington Independent Review of Books)

"[An] appealing, original fusion of personal essay collection and Rust Beltpost-mortem. . . funny and crisplyrendered." (Kirkus)

"[Giffels] gives you the Midwestern experience, from hoping your greatest sports star will choose his hometown over the bright lights, big city (in this case, LeBron James, who famously didn’t keep playing for his hometown) to the search for the perfect bowling shirt." (Flavorwire)

“Giffels’ voice is friendly.…his details so vibrant and fresh. . . . A region on the mend has found its voice.” (The New York Times Book Review)

"Let this heartfelt collection of essays by David Giffels reveal the wit and pride that are beyond all our preconceptions of Akron, Ohio." (Los Angeles Times)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451692749
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451692747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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You don't have to be from Akron Ohio or the rest of the rust belt to love what is written. Gieffels gives you a glimce of life, that happens to be in Akron, but you can easily relate to them: from first job, the odd interview. Snow days with your family and spending time with your best friend around town. One can enjoy the historical contexts both in music, sports and in the former rubber capital.

A very good read that makes you want to read it again

"Made me wanna, made me wanna, you made me make it" The Pretenders "Precious"
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I chose this book because of my curiosity with the Mid-West and how life must be for others. I really have no interest in sports, tires, and old factories; however, I loved this book. David Giffels is an excellent writer and I could not wait to read the book every night. When I was done, I studied the cover and realized I had read another one of Giffels' books, All the Way Home. Another great read from a down to earth writer. If I'm ever in Ohio, I will go visit Akron.
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I’m thankful that someone had stories to share about downtown Akron and thrift store culture. I started college in 1988. The dynamic and late Charlie Salem was my English professor. I was into exploring downtown which resembled an abandoned movie set. The building known as The Bank looked like it was from an old Dick Tracy movie. This book helped me live vicariously through someone with a little more guts. I went snooping around there one night only to be scared away by the sound of a power saw, I assume for salvage purposes. On thrift stores: even if I don’t like Kylie Minogue, I knew I could find a better home for a short stack of her records that seemed out of place. Also, who knew the Mandarin House ever sponsored a baseball team? There’s a shirt I should have bought. Akron and other cities like it are great for finding things others left behind. There are also chapters on bowling, hamburgers and other Akron institutions. When you always find yourself alone on Main Street, something so abandoned can feel like it was left to you personally.

I love Giffels style as it is smart and clear. The book speaks to the people who stayed to repurpose the ruins and eat in the new wave of gourmet grilled cheese sandwich bars. The survivors still living large are folks who don’t build anything though they maintain the technology that keeps changing. The articles about sports remind me of Terry Pluto who also clearly sees the irony in our futile athletic history. The wit and perspective is like Chuck Klosterman but less trippy.

For more Giffels, you can catch him in a few iTunes podcasts. I also like the cover having an old sign with typography stacked vertically—a graphic design faux pas… a rule meant to be broken in the context of tall buildings in my opinion.
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As a transplanted Akronite who arrived at age 17, left for college the following year, returned a few years after that, got married and left again for ten years, I wasn't convinced that I would properly comprehend Mr. Giffels' affection for this place. Oh, I knew it would be a fun book to read-anyone who has read his other work knows he can tell a fun story!- but since my first years here as a teenager, this city has baffled me in its often contradictory images, and I wasn't sure I could relate. But what the author has done is perform a well thought out analysis of not just his beloved city, but of himself and his crazy relationship with it. He accomplishes this with empathy, history, and a few startling laugh out loud observations that even Jerry Seinfeld wouldn't see coming. And of course, this is the story of a young man's relationship with his city, but in the observations, people, and local "hot spots" described in the book, the reader will recognize their own home town, or the town that they loved most growing up, for the precious part those places play in making us who we are. Kudos, David! I've already passed it on to my husband, who is chuckling under his breath as he reads. I may have to read it again before I share it with anyone else!
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As a historian, I found Giffels' reflections on the changing of life in the Midwest during the encroaching Rust Belt era insightful and complete. Each story is refreshing. From his observant youth, to working as a ball boy in the emerging NBA, to his young adult adventures exploring the crumbling industrial buildings of what used to be the backbone of society. His unique and keen perceptions on the every day occurrences as well as the extraordinary make for a humorous read of an historical time in America's history. I'm using it in my classes next year, as I'm sure the students will enjoy reading it and won't even realize they're gaining great insight on their own hometown.
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I met Mr. Giffels when he collaborated with Steve Love on "Wheels of Fortune" a number of years ago. That volume focused upon the demise of The Rubber Capitol of the World (Akron, Ohio) and this book of essays has much in it which touches upon that period. As well, however, David branches out in all the directions he (and some friends) experienced growing up in Tiretown and rings true on virtually every page. Some few will carp about the occasional vulgar usage, but sometimes truth has a rough edge to it -- in case you haven't noticed. Anyone who lived in an industry-ruled city in the '50s, '60s, '70's and even '80s should find much to connect with here.
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