Non-Fiction Text Review – Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line

“Riveting!” is a lame pun in which I am not going to use to describe Ben Hamper’s Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line.

Objectively, I will say that this is a well composed book. Rivethead follows the memoirs of Bernard “Ben” Hamper and his experiences with the assembly line for GM Motors. Many men in Hamper’s recent ancestry have worked in the assembly line, including his own father. From the very beginning, though, Hamper wanted nothing to do with this sort of career. Though it was one of the few jobs offered in Flint, Michigan, Hamper dreaded the thought of having to endure the dull repetition of the assembly line and dreamed escaping the drollness of being a Rivethead.

Despite his best efforts, Hamper was an underachiever throughout high school. He graduated barely in time to marry his pregnant girlfriend. With not much of a choice, Hamper follows in the footsteps of his father and many other men in his family, and joins the assembly line. Not only does Hamper work in the same place that his father did, he develops some of the same habits as well, namely alcoholism and slacking off at work.

Though, Hamper seemed to have been able to avoid completely following in the path that seemed to be set before him. His writings appear to have worked more than just therapeutically for him, as he did not remain in the assembly line forever. His writings and musings about the people and events that he encountered drew the attention of certain people at the Flint Voice, the local newspaper for the Michigan town. I won’t reveal the rest of the story in the book, as it is up for the readers to find out on their own.

Synopsis aside, Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line gives vivid detail to an otherwise boring and menial lifestyle. The voice that is written in the narration gives implication to a proper education, but at the same time, a sort of apathy toward achievement. At times, the narration will intentionally forego grammatical syntax and capitalization to give a better image of what sort of lifestyle there is to experience on the assembly line as well as the emotions that well up within Hamper in this story. The story itself is considerably compelling as a man works his way to break free from the rut that his family had been caught in since the invention of the automobile.

Speaking subjectively, the book was decent, but not phenomenal. I don’t intend to downplay the real life accounts of Ben Hamper, but autobiographies of strangers do not entice me. Hamper’s own story was complex in it of itself, and worked well enough to keep me attentive here and there, but I struggle to pay attention at all for any realistic prose (fiction or non-fiction) unless the story was exceptionally unusual. With that being said, Rivethead was successful in not repulsing me.

All in all, I would say that Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line is a very well written book. Despite my aversion to books of that type, it was slightly better than bearable. My opinion is not vitally important to the quality of this book, but it does display how well Rivethead is put together. I would highly suggest this book for people who enjoy autobiographies (and do not don’t mind profanity). I would moderately suggest this for a person who hates autobiographies but has to read one for a class. In total, I give Ben Hamper’s Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line 3.5 out of 4 stars for its ability to reach out to a demographic that wouldn’t normally be interested in this type.


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