How else to introduce a new book of oral history than with a long quotation?

“The town is different, especially after that date. It’s quiet. There’s no hum from the factory. There’s no noise from the presses going up and down. I grew up with that. Being three blocks away, at night, hearing the presses forging, forging. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. Window open, you know, it’s a cool evening; you can hear it. That’s probably one of the things that everybody talked about. There’s no sound. It’s gone. It’s quiet.”

The book is DW Gibson’s “Not Working,” the speaker, Randy Badman of Dewitt, Neb., and together they show how powerful the genre of oral history can be. Like most of Dewitt’s 572 residents, Badman used to work at a local factory making Vise-Grip pliers, and his description of the factory’s departure reveals the familiarity and comfort of a steady job. (Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk.) “Not Working” collects more than 60 such interviews with men and women who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2011. It’s a great idea with some very good moments – but also one that, thanks to a few rather predictable elements, fails to satisfy completely.

Read the full review in The San Francisco Chronicle

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