Steven Salaita's Reviews > Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
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Feb 09, 10

Read in February, 2010

This is a decent book, but the analysis is pretty simplistic and the portrayal of the "heartland" (Winchester, VA?) too homogenous. Bageant is funny at times and insightful at others. But a few things kept nagging at me as I read:

1) He keeps referring to the working class in Winchester as "my people." Brother, they quit being "your" people over thirty years ago, when you moved on over to the left coast. Class isn't quite like ethnicity in this sense. You can get rich and quit being working class. But you can't get rich and quit being black.

2) He often mentions (in passing) that "left leaning" people support policy moves that would help the working class. Bull-fucking-shit. Clinton, NAFTA. Obama, bank butt-pumper. Liberals, neoliberals. Bageant's insistence that the left could provide an antidote if only the working class would get educated to that reality is more than naive; it is patronizing.

3) Bageant pathologizes the working class. He's trying to be funny and he's trying to write a paean to the so-called redneck, but it doesn't work very well. I find his love song, as many love songs are, condescending, trite, and clueless.

Bageant works hard to convince readers that he's one of "them," the working poor. It seems to me the same impulse that compelled him to claim that he is a gonzo-journalist cult-hero on the back flap. In reality, both his writing and analysis are pretty conventional. He's exploiting the working class just like the other liberal writers who are arrogant enough to anthropologically translate it to the decent folk who pay good money to read this shit.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I like a review that kicks a little ass.

message 2: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I've never been to Winchester so I don't know how heartlandish it is, though I am familiar with the eastern part of that triangle bounded by 81, 66, and 270. I was recently in Charlottesville and stopped in a used bookstore to buy a couple things and the owner said, "Are you folks from the heartland?" which caused me to wonder how rubeish I looked. I mean, I try not to dress like a scarecrow, but it doesn't always work. I said, "We're from ____ and _____" - two large urban areas, trying to impress upon him that in fact I was from the Brainland.

I am reminded of the repugnant great Tim Russert who always used to insist "I'm just a blue collar guy from Buffalo..."

message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Loberstergirl, don't ruin my image of you as living near the sea.

message 4: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl My heart is always near the sea.

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