Nutshell: lumpenproletarians engage local petit bourgeois in effective anti-sobriety campaign during 1930s great crisis.
Opens with pregnant description: “When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl under their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book--to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves” (3). I’m not sure of the merits of this metaphor in relation to the process of composition--but it’s some kind of commentary on reading: my understanding is that flatworms reproduce by traumatic insemination, forcible insemination wherever entry might be made, depositing the semeio
of the text wherever it may go.
Nice descriptions of how bad it was during the crisis: “In April 1932 the boiler at the Hediondo Cannery blew […] In time the new boiler arrived and the old one was moved into the vacant lot […] In 1935 Mr. and Mrs. Malloy moved into the boiler […] Below the boiler on the hill there were numbers of large pipes also abandoned […] Toward the end of 1937 there was a great catch of fish and the canneries were working full time and a housing shortage occurred. Then it was that Mr. Malloy took to renting the larger pipes as sleeping quarters” (48).
We also find that “Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars. With the Model T, part of the concept of private property disappeared. Pliers ceased to be privately owned and a tire pump belonged to the last man who had picked it up. Most of the babies of the period were conceived in Model T Fords and not a few were born in them. The theory of the Anglo Saxon home became so warped that it never recovered” (67-68).
One major narrative, interspersed with little vignettes about various personalities and clever little scenes, possessed of a quiet humor, but also a trite, untheorized moralizing (e.g., “poison of greed” (119)). An odd immaterialism at times: “They could ruin their lives and get money” (142), a sentiment rooted in irreducible theological notions that does little to assist those who are impecunious.
Recommended for persons who treat bipalychaetorsonectomy with beer milk shakes, those for whom the machinery is much less important than the fiscal statement, and readers in printed rayon party dresses, wrinkled now and clinging to their convexities.