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Howard and Charles at the Factory

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In this darkly funny novella, two aging men arrive at their old factory to wait for their jobs to come back, believing the promises of Donald Trump's campaign. In a pair of lawn chairs, they keep watch over the abandoned site, echoing the president's words and weathering the disorientation that follows, from visions of a dinosaur and a hovering UFO to the opportunistic violence of a white nationalist influencer. A swift meditation on the brute force of words, with all the comedy and urgency of Dave Housley's expert wit.

94 pages, Paperback

Published January 1, 2020

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About the author

Dave Housley

19 books37 followers
Dave Housley's fourth collection of short fiction, Massive, Cleansing Fire, a series of linked stories that all end in a massive, cleansing fire, will be published by Outpost 19 Press in Spring 2017. He is the author of If I Knew the Way, I Would Take You Home (Dzanc Books), Commercial Fiction (Outpost 19), and Ryan Seacrest is Famous (Impetus Press, Dzanc Books eBook Reprint). His work has appeared in Hobart, Mid-American Review, Quarterly West, Wigleaf and some other places. He is one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse magazine, and a co-founder of the Conversations and Connections writer’s conference. Sometimes he drinks boxed wine and tweets about the things on his television at @housleydave.

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
794 reviews838 followers
January 18, 2020
I read the acknowledgments at the end before starting the story wherein the author thanks his wife for bearing with him as he fumed etc after the 2016 election. Turning to the first page, these characters and the situation seemed to naturally evolve from an experiment in empathy, trying to write from the perspective of two old white male western PA Trump supporters. It's a deep third-person POV, accessing an unreliable and possibly age-afflicted mind, but I preferred to read it as a really slant autobiography, focused solely on a dream the author had, one that naturally includes dinosaurs and UFOs, the way How to Be Safe, another topical novel by the author's Barrelhouse colleague Tom McAllister, includes surreal elements (sun fallen into lake and extinguished) to underscore/emphasize the irrational alt-reality of the contemporary political era. In this case, fidelity to Trump as the smart New York big man coming to save the day amounts to a sort of otherworldliness. That of course we all know they've been duped by a con man no better than an e-mailing Nigerian prince, that their Godot, their prince, their ship, their dream of B&W 1950s TV USA will never come, adds serious poignancy to this, which is exactly how the book succeeds. If I wrote this thing, I would have not been able to present their racism as tragic, not been able to help readers see around their Mike Tomlin commentary -- that is, I doubt I would've been able to disguise my contempt as compassion. Housley, however, manages that magic trick. This reader, reading their consistent side-comments and mumbles early on about the "Mexican" with the surely fake Yinz accent, said aloud, while reading on the train home, fuck these guys, but when there's the recollected scene describing the increasingly exaggerated attendance at a Trump rally, the chanting and connection and sense that they're all saying everything they've wanted to say forever, exclaiming it in full voice all together, finally true to themselves etc, releasing their frustration into the crowd, feeling important again and maybe even for once, the author's dream achieves its goal of transporting the reader into that irrational alt-reality, setting everyone up for inevitable knock down when metaphorical dawn comes and nothing's changed for the better other than memory of immersion in that cultish delusion. As a Housley near-completist (I actually don't think I read his first, Ryan Seacrest Is Famous), I have to admit that I was a little disappointed not to notice at least one other Housley title hidden somewhere in the text, something I've noticed in his past few publications and always love to see. I didn't check for acrostics or anything like that, however.
Profile Image for Steve.
Author 10 books243 followers
November 27, 2019
Some of the best fiction — or writing in general — I've read in response to the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath. The two main characters, Howard and Charles, are a bit like the cast of Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster, i.e., working class people trying to maintain some dignity while watching the options for their futures closing before them. But they're also selfish and absurd in the manner of Magnus Mills' The Restraint of Beasts, and I really appreciated and enjoyed that Housley managed to depict his characters with empathy without letting them off the hook for racism, sexism, and all the other cruelty wrapped up in the awful 2016 euphemism "economic anxiety." There's a real effort at understanding where men like Howard and Charles are coming from and how they make their political choices — the description of Howard arriving, like a pilgrim, at a Trump campaign rally is a standout passage — but the hollowness of those choices is never out of sight. And the deceptively straightforward style of the prose (again reminiscent of Mills), often relying on repetitions that become mantras in the manner of political slogans, serves the story well. I hope this novella gets the notice it deserves because it's worth dozens of cliché journalistic trips to "the heartland" to interview voters.
Profile Image for Robert Wechsler.
Author 9 books125 followers
March 1, 2020
Other than its surreal touches, this novella didn’t go far enough away from the expected to make this Waiting for Trumpot as good as it could have been, and the surreal touches didn’t work for me. The book felt too much like a getting off one’s chest, saved by a few clever ideas, good writing, and short length.
Profile Image for Nick Mehalick.
Author 1 book6 followers
August 10, 2020
Incredible work from Housley here. The darkest truth present in this work is surely the one we are left with: that they will die for their hatred and resentment. It will kill them, surely, but they’ll also die for it. There is an overwhelming sadness that comes from this truth and realization and one that Housley expertly conveys through both the characters of Howard and Charles. There is something about change and evolution, about the need for introspection and reflection, about admitting that one is flawed, that their belief system, every system they’ve believing in might be deeply flawed. At a certain age this seems to be too much to handle so it is replaced by blind hatred and ignorance, resentment rather than the simple ask of “What have I done? What could I have done to make this not so?” Howard and Charles are certainly men of a certain age and unfortunately those men and women are the ones that vote.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews

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