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Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 Ratings  ·  129 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.
ebook, 0 pages
Published December 14th 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published July 1st 1991)
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Dr. Detroit
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bookish Jen
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic, rust-belt-lit
I read Rivethead from the perspective of someone for who lived through the time period this book was written in. Very little of this touches my direct experience except vicariously though the stories of people I've known who have lived a version of the life described herein. I mention this because, as in my reading of Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland, I do have a slightly stronger connection than someone reading this to get off on Rust B ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa Dunckley
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing! This book was recommended to me, and got fairly good Amazon reviews, and I can't see why. The author's writing is sooo self-congratulatory—the book is a mix of Ben Hamper describing all the ways in which he got out of doing any work while still getting paid, and remarks and vignettes that Ben clearly thinks are incredibly funny. I would have enjoyed it more if there was more information about the assembly line work, the way the plant operated, maybe stuff about the cars that they ...more
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this guy is a super unlikeable character, and i can't imagine how annoying he must have been to work with. however, his observations can be pretty sharp and funny and this book is a real page-turner. occasionally, he will come up with a great one-liner ("when they heard of the layoffs coming, the whole factory turned into one giant tremble-fest"). and i laughed aloud when he told the television reporter who wanted to film him on the assembly line that he was "more likely to get private footage o ...more
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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.
Parker McIntosh
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It rang incredibly true. I'm going to preface the rest of this with I have never worked in a factory like that, but I have done menial labor. And I have worked side by side with operators in many refining and food&beverage plants. Hamper's stories ring true. The daily battle with the clock, the games, the inept management. I've seen the nap chairs behind boilers and watched work grind to a halt at break time. The alcohol and drugs may be less present but the bulk of this ...more
David Hoppe
This was good again the second time, nearly 20 years later. Has more of an historical feel vs. the anecdotal feel it had "back then." And Michael Moore is so much more of a deal now! So if you're looking for easy entertainment with some near-history relevance this is a good way to go.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want a hilarious look at life in the American assembly line during the hey day of automaking or rather the decline of American automaking, the is it. Hamper fires humor at you with his remembrances of those things which allowed him to survive the challenges of being on the line.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely captures the feeling of doing industrial shift work. One of my all-time favorites.
T.B. Lutz
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most engaging and entertaining vocational memoir I've read since Kitchen Confidential. I blew through it in less than 24 hours because I just couldn't seem to put it down.
Maximilian Gerboc
Capitalism is horrible and will drive you to literal insanity. Reading this book will clarify that for you while also making you laugh and want to drink 50 beers.
Review: Rivethead by Ben Hamper.

I would have to say the book was enjoyable, creative, but not intellectual by far. There was a lot of dry humor which I didn 19t think was amusing and I thought it hindered the thought process of imagining the average blue collar worker. This book was written roughly about the 70 19s and 80 19s of a man who worked the assembly line for General Motor 19s in Flint, Michigan. They called him 1CRivethead 1D which suited his character.

I guess it 19s hard for me to thin
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
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.

Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Matthew by: Kara Astrouski
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
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
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
Dec 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libraryread
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
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Fred Oliver
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry Pelch
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too much reality for the car buyers out there.

I grew up in Flint until I graduated high school and left to avoid the fate of becoming a character in this book. Actually I was an eighty nine day temp at Fisher Body when there was such a thing. The money was great for a summer job but there was no way I could ever commit to it for real. Ben spells it out here. It sucks to have any creativity in your resume and do this time. I always think back to this kid who worked across from me on the endless
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure how I would feel going into this book because it was about working on an Assembly Line. The people I know that work at GM in Michigan always say it's just a boring job but it pays the bills. However, I had heard about Ben Hamper and how this was quite an easy read so I picked it up. Needless to say Ben Hamper did not disappoint. The way he tells the story is entertaining and he is a very funny man. I would recommend this to many people even those that aren't normally into "Memoirs" ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs
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
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, honest, depressing, Beat and full of the wry, combative, and simultaneously self-destructive and self-sustaining outlook that only an upbringing in Detroit or Flint seems able to create. Reading parts of this felt like hearing my skilled machinist dad speak. I can see why Hamper was, and remains, so popular: I know of no other writing that so sincerely captures the outlook, upbringing and experience of working in environments like these.

My enjoyment of this book was marred only by the hi
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“The truth was loose: I was the son of a son of a bitch, an ancestral prodigy born to clobber my way through loathsome dungheaps of idiot labor. My genes were cocked and loaded. I was a meteor, a gunslinger, a switchblade boomerang hurled from the pecker dribblets of my forefathers' untainted jalopy seed. I was Al Kaline peggin’ home a beebee from the right field corner. I was Picasso applyin’ the final masterstroke to his frenzied Guernica. I was Wilson Pickett stompin’ up the stairway of the Midnight Hour. I was one blazin’ tomahawk of m-fuggin’ eel snot. Graceful and indomitable. Methodical and brain-dead. The quintessential shoprat. The Rivethead.” 0 likes
“Flint, Michigan. Detroit as seen backwards through a telescope. The callus on the palm of the state shaped like a welder's mitt. A town where 66.5 percent of the working citizenship are in some way, shape or form linked to the shit-encrusted underbelly of a French buggy racer named Chevrolet and a floppy-eared Scotchman named Buick. A town where 23.5 percent of the population pimp everything from Elvis on velvet to horse tranquilizers to Halo Burgers to NRA bumper stickers. A town where the remaining 10 percent sit back and watch it all go by—sellin’ their blood, rollin’ convenience stores, puffin’ no-brand cigarettes while cursin’ their wives and kids and neighbors and the flies sneakin’ through the screens and the piss-warm quarts of Red White & Blue and the Skylark parked out back with the busted tranny.” 0 likes
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