Matt Shake's Reviews > Joe Hill

Joe Hill by Wallace Stegner
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Mar 15, 10

This "fiction" about a real man deals with the plight of union songwriter/agitator Joe Hill in the 1910's. Joe was born Joseph Hillstrom--a Swedish immigrant who lost his naivete with the disappearance of the American dream right before his eyes. In real life he wrote songs for the Industrial Workers of the World calling for a Marxist revolution. He wrote protest songs long before Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Clash, or Rage Against the Machine. In real life, he was put on trial in Salt Lake City, Utah for the murder of an ex-cop who was working as a shopkeeper. This book fills in the major gaps in Hill's life with fictional details. The book was heavily researched, but there is so little known about this poor immigrant, that he takes on the aura of a myth more than a man although Stegner tries hard to humanize him. I liked the book and disliked it for the same reason: it leaves you thirsting for more concrete knowledge about the man himself. I guess that's why this man is a legend amongst the radical working class to this day.

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