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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  920 ratings  ·  105 reviews
The man the Detroit Free Press calls "a blue collar Tom Wolfe" delivers a full-barreled blast of truth and gritty reality in Rivethead, a no-holds-barred journey through the belly of the American industrial beast.
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Published December 14th 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published July 1st 1991)
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Dr. Detroit
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that "Rivethead" is still in print. The bad news is that its author, Ben Hamper, apparently isn't. As far as I know, this is the last (only?) work of his to be published. Having read "Rivethead" no less than 10-15 times, I can say that nothing I have ever read can touch it. Hamper's tales of his and his ne'er-do-well, misfit co-workers' escpades, set in the shadowy nether world of a General Motors assembly plant, are hilarious, sad, frightening, an ...more
John S. Flan III

Capitán Swing está corrigiendo los errores.

El libro es magnífico.
Ben Hamper worked on the production line of the General Motors bus and truck plant in Flint, Michigan from 1977 to 1988, and wrote about the experience in this book. It is a rambling and often funny account of mind-numbingly dull work, schemes employed by the workers to make it less dull, and the equally inane managerial schemes to, well, manage. Witness Howie Makem, the "Quality Cat" mascot, an actor in a cat costume showing up at various intervals to get the workers to produce higher-quality v ...more
This autobiography covers the career of a "shoprat" working at GM. It covers his reluctance to work at GM, through to his reluctance to leave. I will be honest and say I read the book from cover to cover in a matter of days. I was certainly interested in where Ben's life may lead him. I'll give the book 4 stars simply because it kept my interest and created a very strong emotional reaction.

Although a major fan of sarcasm, I actually found the book to be quite sad and I was concerned for Ben's me
Bookish Jen
You’re at work. It doesn’t matter if you’re white collar, blue collar, pink collar or no collar at all. Now imagine a grown man walking around your workspace wearing a cat costume. The name of this creature just happens to be Howie Makem (How We Make’em, get it?). Are you imagining this? Are you shaking your head and thinking, “What the hell?”

Well, former GM factory worker and writer Ben Hamper doesn’t have to imagine Howie Makem; he experienced him. And he writes all about it (and other assorte
I remember reading this book for a college class at CMU it gave me a bit of the picture that my dad has seen everyday since 1975 (dad's been a blue collar GM employee way to long). I brought it home and both of my parents read it. My Mom gave Dad steak dinners for a week. He was one of the guys that went straight home after work and didn't blow his check in the bars on Dort Hwy. My dad's only comment after he read it was "yep its pretty much just like that"
Mark Desrosiers
I enjoyed this righteous class-warfare memoir (by an old colleague of Michael Moore) up until the end, where -- if memory serves -- he is diagnosed with a "mental illness" and saves himself with Prozac. Total cop-out.
If you've ever worked on an automotive assembly line in the Detroit / Cleveland area, this is like going back in time to about the mid-1980's, when you could still get away with getting hammered without getting fired. The antics on the line, the noise, the boredom, the attitudes, the future prospects - it's all here. I was 19 again while reading this very accurate account of what it's like to be the one who thinks you'd never end up there (on the line), going there anyway because the money is ju ...more
Given the auto industry problems, this book, and the review I wrote several years ago are prescient.

Hamper came from a long line of "shoprats." After a school career punctuated by brief moments of lucidity, during which he wrote passable poetry and showed some promise as a writer, he found himself self-condemned to the Rivet Line. He had promised himself he would never emulate his father, a drunken bum who was rarely home, often hung-over and eventually left his family for a floozy barmaid.

Sandy D.
Funny, sickening, eye-opening memoir about growing up in blue-collar Flint, MI in the 60's-70's and going to work at a GM plant (building Suburbans and Blazers) in the late 70's through the late 80's. There's lots of drinking, drug use, violence, boredom, incredibly stupid management decisions (including a mascot - the "Quality Cat" called "Howie Makem" ), layoffs, more drinking, and screwing around on the job. Michael Moore encouraged this guy to write, gave him his first break, and Hamper also ...more
Aug 26, 2008 Matthew rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Matthew by: Kara Astrouski
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I have been a fan of Micheal Moore ever since I first saw "Roger and Me" in the early 1990s. I had no idea that there was such a perfect companion piece in Ben Hamper's book "Rivethead". Until my girlfriend Kara put this book in my hand, I was only peripherally aware of this man.

While "Roger and Me" shows the effects of the GM plant closings in Flint, MI, as Moore humorously tracks the CEO Smith, "Rivethead" details the effects of a life lived in the hottest, darkest, and most dangerous depths
Full disclosure: I'm in HR and a colleague of mine gave me this book because in his words, it gives a great perspective of the front line. I have to say, I agree with him and that even if I didn't love this book, I enjoyed it and appreciated it for that perspective. It can be easy for us to disentangle the business perspective to take a look at work from the perspective of what Ben Hamper calls "the shoprat." Hamper holds nothing back as he describes his upbringing, decision to enter the GM plan ...more
Checked this out from the library based (I think) on a recommendation from winnowill2.

It's the story of a fourth-generation shoprat growing up in Flint Michigan and, as everyone expected, going to work at the GM assembly line in the mid 1970's thru the mid 1980's. Hamper doesn't pull any punches about his blue-collar life - the crushing monotony of doing the same job over & over, leading to drinking on the job, sneaking out early or figuring out how he and a fellow line worker can double-u
Fred Oliver
I read parts of this story years ago in a used book store but for some reason I was unwilling to make the purchase. It never really left me and, when I found it on Paperback Swap I decided to go for it and I was finally able to fully reap the rewards of this story. The first reward is from a well written story, particularly in light of the author's background. The second, perhaps larger, reward is in the interest value of the story of the hard-drinking life of a reluctant automotive assembly lin ...more
Jul 01, 2008 Marc rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marc by: Stacey
A look into factory life from the perspective of an assembly line worker. Hamper wrote articles about factory life for Michael Moore's Flint Voice. The author effectively portrays the average worker as a cog in the machine of GM. Along the way, he tells stories of "shoprats" drinking on the job, devising ways to share work, and creating ways to battle the urge to watch the clock. The stories become somewhat redundant, but that could be unavoidable since he writes about life on the assembly line ...more
Back when I was young, I spent two years working in a steel mill. Hamper worked some ten years in a GM plant, and based upon my own experience, he paints an accurate picture of what life is like in a factory. The people, the tedium, the ultimate hopelessness of that sort of existence, he captures it perfectly. If you want to know what it's like to be born and bred into a blue-collar life, read Hamper's book.
One of the funniest books I've ever read, partially because my mom's family has a long history of working on the line for companies like GM (my grandfather was a lifelong shoprat). Some of it is funny because it confirms stories that my cousins and uncles have told me about working on the line. And some of it is hilarious simply because the experience of being at the mercy of market forces, the UAW, and Detroit's initial attempts at adopting Japanese style management are so ridiculous that you h ...more
This book was the best my best find in recent years. Hamper was an assembly line worker in Flint Michigan at a GM plant, and Michael Moore (best known for his documentaries) got him to start writing.

This book is fantastic. Hamper is cynical, funny and insightful, but also more than that. I got the fantastic insight into blue-collar working class of America (which I honestly didn't even know I needed until I put it down).

I can't recommend the book enough. The quality of writing may not match Ste
Absolutely my favorite non-fiction book ever! Ben Hamper worked with Michael Moore back in the day before Moore was fat with his own ego and traveled around on private planes to tell us all that we should save energy by not flying... Hamper even makes a short appearance in the movie Roger & Me.

While moonlighting for Moore as a writer reporting from the perspective of the assembly line, Hamper worked for GM. His story is sad and funny at the same time. This book is laugh out loud funny more
Bill Johnson
This is an unrewarding first-hand account of the life of a GM worker during the decline of the auto industry in the 1970's and 1980's. While not particularly well-written and full of profanity, it is still a good read for people interested in the auto industry.
A series of autobiographical essays by a friend of Michael Moore who worked on assembly lines for General Motors until he was 30. It was really a great peak into a different sort of life.
Paul J
My father spent half of his life slaving in the depths of the GM Electro-Motive plant in Lagrange, IL. I've always apprectiated his dedication as a loving father, but Hamper's hillarious recap of life on the assembly line has given me a new appreciation of the sacrifices he made for our family. Oddly enough, I also fell out of my chair laughing a few times at Hamper's uniquely cynical take on his own birthright. If you like Michael Moore, you'll love this book. Even if you don't, you'll probably ...more
Kate Susko
Hamper's writing is hilarious; the topic of the story is pretty dull (you can only talk about work on the assembly line for so long), but his tone makes this book a page turner.
This is a memoir by Ben Hamper about his years working in the 60's 70's for General Motors. His story is tough and gritty and makes for some very interesting reading. He is a very honest writer and doesn't try to airbrush his life as a "rivethead" . I liked the book and it made me appreciate a little more the hard work and mind numbing repetition of working the line.

Ben Hamper is brutally honest not only about his personal life, lots of booze and serious bouts with depression at the end of his c
This book is definitely not what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting more of a social/political commentary on the American auto-industry, where I found after reading this book it is more of a personal memoir from a man working on a GM line. Hamper can be funny at times, but I feel like I was reading the same story over and over. He does not really let us into his personal life beyond the job, which is a bit frustrating when you come to the end... I will not spoil it for those who have ...more
I had to read this book for a college class about Michigan. I honestly found it rather boring until like maybe the last three chapters.
We've had this book for awhile now, but I finally got around to reading it. I thought it was appropriate considering the current state of GM and Michigan's auto industry.

Ben Hamper writes about his experience working the rivet line at the GM assembly plant in Flint, Michigan. He has an excellent story-telling ability and really allows you to get a good glimpse of what life is like for those on the line.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to hear a behind the scenes account of someone who
This is a really great book written by a guy from Flint Michigan. His goal growing up was not to be a factory worker, but in that town, there weren't a whole lot of other options. This book is a pretty stark look at the blue-collar working class industrial life.

He tells what it is like to work in the GM factory while hating it all the while. This guy is also into beerdrinking and punk rock music which wins him some major points with me as well. After reading this book, I liked it so much I sent
I have a union buddy living down the street. I really like the guy. I can't bear to tell him, though, why i am so reluctant to buy an American automobile. All I can tell him is, you have to read this. Why is it that we seek a comfortable existence and when we find it, we need to screw it up with drugs and alcohol. Is it that we can't live without a sufficient quantity of suffering? Or do we just have our ladder on the wrong wall? Also, if Michael Moore wants to know why no one makes cars in Flyn ...more
Doug Pfeffer
Got this at a restaurant's book lending exchange thing.
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