Industrial Worker Book Reveiw: 8 Hours to Work, 8 Hours to Sleep, 8 Hours to Read

Michael GillsWhiskey for Breakfast

By Michael Gills

Summer Faye arrived like a freight train from the heart. I'd dropped out and was living at the end of my rope, eyeing the scoped .30 ought-six that leaned beside the bedroom window, out of which you could see the Arkansas Ozarks, a wide swath of new-green climbing to Old Main where a mile of sidewalk was imprinted with the names and degrees of graduates from across the ages. The Shuttle Challenger had blown up that January on national television, so pretty space-teacher Christa McAuliffe had exploded in front of her homeroom fifth graders on a t.v. somewhere…

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Patrick Michael FinnSmokestack Polka

By Patrick Michael Finn

My older cousin Irene—we called her Reenie for short—got married six months after my father died.

The three of us—me, my mother, my older brother Jimmy—were still living on Landau Street then, two blocks from the Joliet railyards where my father had worked, and where, many years later, my brother and I got jobs when we finished high school. I know things could have been much worse for us. There hadn't been any agonizing months or even weeks of a gray, thinning illness with my father, but a stiff heart attack that kicked him flat as he walked home from work one night two weeks before…

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Larry FoundationLittle Joy

By Larry Foundation

Little Joy is a chapter from Larry Fondation's forthcoming novel, "Martyrs and Holy Men." Larry Fondation lives in Los Angeles. He has worked for nearly 20 years as an organizer in South Los Angeles, Compton and East Los Angeles. Fondation is the author of four books of fiction—two novels and two collections of short stories—all set in the underbelly of (or in inner city) LA. An extensive interview with him will appear with the Industrial Worker Book Review in the coming month.

We drove west on Sunset into Echo Park.

Against our will, we stopped at Little Joy for a PBR.

“Should we call it a night?”

“I'm up for one more.”

“One sounds good.”

We'd had dinner in Little Tokyo, talking rapidly, excitedly for hours, drinking hot sake.

For our nightcap, we parked on the side street, up from El Compadre.

A tricycle was padlocked to the street sign on the corner. We recalled men in space suits, spray painting light posts outside the Frolic Room, but that was years ago.

The place was packed. The pool players could…

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Eric Miles WilliamsonTwo-Up

By Eric Miles Williamson

Two-Up, By Eric Miles WilliamsonThis month, Eric Miles Williamson is in Oakland, city of his birth, accepting the PEN/Oakland Award. He is also stomping the grounds he once walked, taking pictures, gathering stories on the Occupy movement and riots. Excerpted below is a section of his novel "Two-Up" (Texas Review Press, $16.95). "Two-Up" is the story of gunite workers in Oakland and their attempts at survival in a world of hard labor. In the novel, as in his first book "East Bay Grease" and his most recent "Welcome to Oakland", Williamson shows that fiction is one of our best resources to look into labor, its problems and its effects on man.

Citizens sleep in the doorways of hotels. Porno tabloids with blacked-out organs. Flickering and buzzing streetlights that do not draw clouds of insects. Bums and whores and junkies and fat men in suits and teenagers wearing tye-dye teeshirts and listening to headphones. Old men in alleys drinking bottles of Scotch. Dildo candelabras arrayed in store windows. Carol Doda's blinking red neon nipples. Businessmen and silk secretaries. "A swollen liver," Broadstreet says.

A swollen liver filled with blood and bile and pus and gunite and ready to burst and splatter the world. It's a plugged-up…

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Paul RuffinPeaches

By Paul Ruffin

When at last she paused to take a breath and the words ceased tumbling from her face, red and angry as a blister, she stood stiff behind him picking at the front of her blouse, white as Easter, as if she kept finding tiny specks of something on it, though he could see nothing, close as he was. The only blemish he saw when he turned to look was the little half-moon spots of dampness at her armpits and streaks down from her neck where the heat had coaxed a sweat. Through the damp blouse he could see seams of the formidable brassiere she wore, rigid as armor and the color of bone. Just up from…

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Paul RuffinTHE POND

By Paul Ruffin

It was with no clear intent of malice that Gerald Roper trespassed across Mr. Earl Palmer's pasture that night and with bait balls formed of cheese and white bread and lined neatly on a piece of waxed paper sat crouched in the shadow of willows on the bank of the fishpond, an artesian-fed paradise where fishing was and always was forbidden, and flung out a line to the deep and purple part, where he knew lay the biggest bass and bream. He simply needed fish. And being afoot and quite along in years, back weak from years of heavy labor, feet perpetually weary from walking his fields, he chose…

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Christian BaumanA Third Lucky Dog

By Christian Bauman

Christian Bauman is the author of the novels In Hoboken, Voodoo Lounge, and The Ice Beneath You, and for three years was a regular contributor to NPR's All Things Considered. An archive of his short work can be found at

On the first Saturday in September, not long ago, Bernadette O'Keefe adopted another dog. A third dog. This dog was a pug, only nine weeks old, a small handful of warm fat and fur. In the puppy room at the SPCA, Bernadette raised the belly up for inspection and smelled it. She whispered in the dog's ear, "You're very cute." She held the puppy out at arm's length. The little pug yawned and tilted his head. And — as if it hadn't already been done — that did it. Bernadette pulled the puppy to her chest, went to find her two wandering daughters, and set about arranging the adoption.


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Barry GrahamThe Work Ethic

By Barry Graham

Barry Graham is an author, screenwriter, poet, journalist and blogger whose dark and gritty urban novels have received international acclaim. His nonfiction has been published in a diversity of magazines and newspapers, including Harper's, FlauntParabolaLas Vegas LifeThe Arizona Republic and Scotland on Sunday. His blog, Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky, contains reporting and commentary on politics, critical theory, the death penalty, urbanism, sustainability, books, films and Zen practice.

He is also a Zen monk, and  serves as the Abbot of The Sitting Frog Zen Center. His book of Zen teachings, Kill Your Self: Life After Ego, was published in 2011. His most recent novel, When It All Comes Down to Dust, was published in January 2012.

He has witnessed two executions in Florence, Arizona, at the invitation of the prisoners. His account of that experience won a FOLIO Silver Medal in the Best Single Article category, and is included in his nonfiction book Why I Watch People Die.

Barry Graham's other books include the novels The Wrong ThingThe Book of Man (chosen by the American Library Association as one of the best books of 1995), How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? and Of Darkness and Light, the story collections Scumbo and Before, and a poetry collection, Traffic and Murder. His stories have been published in the anthologies Phoenix NoirSend My Love and a Molotov CocktailSuspect Device and Intoxication. His short screenplay Holding Back the Dawn was produced in 2001.

In 2009, the French magazine Transfuge named Barry Graham one of the great "post-realist" authors. A collection of his fiction and nonfiction, Regarde Les Hommes Mourir, is published in French by Treizième Note Editions.

for Hal Sirowitz


She'd been working there for about three weeks before my visit. I didn't want to go there. I wanted to meet her in a cafe, but she'd lost her driver's license, and the bus took too long to get to the center of town. She'd have had barely any time to eat and talk with me before she had to head back there.

I arrived just after one. I was nervous. I didn't know how to act in a place like that. I think I probably acted so nonchalant that it was obvious that I was agitated.

It was a big, detached house. It looked a bit like an old hotel,…

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Michael GillsLast Words on Lonoke

By Michael Gills

Michael Gills has published more than forty short stories and received twenty-five Pushcart nominations.  His first collection of short fiction, Why I Lie, was published by U. of Nevada Press in 2002.  A second collection, The Death of Bonnie and Clyde came out with Texas Review Press in October 2011.  A third collection of stories, Eternally Yours, which contains the above story, is currently on the market.  His first novel, Go Love, came out this year with Raw Dog Screaming Press.  Gills is currently Associate Professor/Lecturer of writing and core faculty for the Honors College at the University of Utah.

for Fred Chappell

O.W. bought me a .30-ought six the Christmas I turned thirteen, said, "Don't point at anything you don't want to kill," and that was pretty much it for my gun safety lessons.  By Arkansas spring time, when gold light flitted down through the new-leaf within view of the oak where we'd slung foundering Shawnee up so he couldn't lay down and die, I unloaded on one of the cargo planes that ever circled us from the base over to J-ville, and the son-of-a-bitch crashed.   The woods beyond the railroad track blazed.  It looked for all the world like God and Jesus and…

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Larry FondationTear Down

By Larry Fondation

Larry Fondation is the author of the novels Angry Nights, and Fish, Soap and Bonds and the story collections Common Criminals and Unintended Consequences.  His fiction focuses on the Los Angeles underbelly.  His two most recent books feature collaborations with artist Kate Ruth.  Fondation has lived in LA since the 1980s and worked for fifteen years as an organizer in South Central Los Angeles, Compton and East L.A.  His fiction and non-fiction pieces have appeared in a range of diverse publications including Flaunt (where he is Writer-at-Large), Plastique, West, Fiction International, Night Train, Quarterly West, The Industrial Worker Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and The Harvard Business Review.  He is a recipient of a 2008-09 Christopher Isherwood Fellowship in Fiction Writing.Tear Down is an excerpt from his novel A Home No More . His website is:

Jackhammers struck;
The building came down –
In bits and pieces,
Then all at once.
Our candles and lights,
Crushed all at once –
Piles of stuff,
Gathered then scattered,
All gone, but no matter—
Here and there,
All over —

She and I,
She and I.


I think they think it's good
When they raze the building we live in,
Brick by brick,
Board by board,
But we have nowhere, nowhere…

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Anis ShivaniThe Fifth Lash

By Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani's story is the title story of his collection, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, which will be released by C&R Press later in the year. His other books include My Tranquil War and Other Poems (forthcoming August 2012, New York Quarterly Books), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (Texas Review Press, 2011), and Anatolia and Other Stories (2009). He has just finished a novel called Karachi Raj, and is at work on another called Abruzzi, 1936.

The next lash almost finishes him off.  He's taken the first four without falling, his eyes looking straight ahead.  No more than a tiny squeak, like that of an underfed rat stepped on by a lion, has come from him.  But with the next one, a lifetime's anger, frustration, sadness, and misery seem to break loose.  When I hear this cry, I can only wonder what kind of reproach must have been uttered at the moment of final indignity by my patron and murshid, my benefactor and master, who dragged me out of the filth of fatalism to believe in the power of a single man to change all of history.  What…

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Steve DavenportBomb, Reporting from Inwit

By Steve Davenport

Steve Davenport is the author of Uncontainable Noise, which won the 2006 Transcontinental Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks, Murder on Gasoline Lake (listed as Notable in Best American Essays 2007) and Nine Poems and Three Fictions (winner of The Literary Review’s Charles Angoff Award for best contribution).  Later this year The Massachusetts Review will publish three of his stories and a small press in Chicago (Arsenic Lobster/Misty Publications) will bring out his second book of poetry, OverpassBomb, Reporting from Inwit is from a novel-in-progress.

For the next two weeks, Bomb, as banged up as he’d ever been, nursed his wounds on a pile of dirty clothes in Mackey Rottler’s closet.  He mumbled, nodded off, sucked at a rubber teat attached to a ten-gallon bladder of table wine Mackey had bought for him at a discount liquor store.  Mackey supposed that Bomb had been going out on his own, freelancing a job here and there.  What else was there to think?  They hadn’t done anything together except drink and talk since the night they blew up part of All Books & Lifestyles Emporium,…

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Ron CooperThe Razor's Blunt Edge

By Ron Cooper

Ron Cooper is a native of the South Carolina swamps, has taught at the College of Central Florida for seventeen years. His novel Purple Jesus (Bancroft Press), from which this excerpt was taken, was described by Eric Miles Williamson in the Washington Post as "so perfectly written, it's exhilarating to read" and "a literary event of the first magnitude." He is also the author of the novel Hume’s Fork (Bancroft Press) and the philosophical study Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience (Ohio University Press).  For Purple Jesus go to:

Purvis shoved an empty condensed milk can across the dinette table toward boney, bluish Armey Wright. "You got more room in here than I thought, old man," Purvis said. "I guess some things are bigger on the inside than they look from the outside. That's more work for me."

He slid another condensed milk can across the gray mica tabletop. It stopped on the edge, hovering over Armey's lap. "Touchdown!" Purvis said. "Now you supposed to make a goalpost with your fingers for me to kick the extra point, but we can skip that part."

Armey's head was tilted toward his left shoulder as…

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Patrick Michael FinnFor the Sake of His Sorrowful Passion

By Patrick Michael Finn

Patrick Michael Finn was the February Writer's Spotlight for The Industrial Worker Book Review. He is the author of A Martyr for Suzy Kosasovich and the short story collection From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet, from which this story was taken.  His stories have appeared in Plougshares, TriQuarterly, Third Coast, Quarterly West, The Clackamas Literary Review, The Yalobusha Review, Punk Planet, and Houghton Mifflin's The Best American Mystery Stories 2004.  He has received citations in the 2005 Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories 2008.  He lives in Arizona with his with, poet Valerie Bandura, and their son James.

The boy had camped wide-awake all night with his boat in the pocked concrete cavern formed where the canal wall met the abutment under the black railroad bridge that stretched over the thick river--an angular monster of rusted iron, where he'd stoked a garbage fire in a ring of crushed beer cans to light him a place to sit away from the clods he could smell but not otherwise see, left by squatting bums fallen from the slow train and tumbling painlessly to the earth in rubber-bodied fruit wine blackouts.  And so all the shit-smelling night the trash flames flickered dim flashes across the cavern…

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Eric Miles WilliamsonPay the Boy

By Eric Miles Williamson

Eric Miles Williamson's column Industrial Strength can be found every month with The Industrial Worker Book Review. He is the author of the novels Two-Up (Texas Review Press), East Bay Grease—a PEN/Hemingway finalist, and Welcome to Oakland, from which this story is an excerpt.  He is the author of the short story collection, 14 Fictional Positions (Raw Dog Screaming Press), which was a PEN/Oakland winner, and the essay collections, Say it Hot and Oakland, Jack London and Me (both Texas Review Press).  Called one of the "douze grands ecrivains du monde"---one of the twelve great writers of the world---by the French magazine Transfuge, he is on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle.  He still carries his union card and lives in the Rio Grande Valley, 15 miles from the drug wars of Mexico.

My first job was shoveling shit at the Mohawk station, Snookie the dog's. I didn't get my allowance, a buck a week, until I'd shoveled the Snookie Cookies. During the rainy season, I was all about following Snookie around with the shit-shovel in hand and waiting until he squatted. You ever tried shoveling rained-on shit off asphalt? It's damn near impossible, and the shit sticks to the shovel, and it gets down between the oiled gravel and you just shove the runny shit around the lot. Catch it fresh, and you can scoop it just like you'd scoop any other shit. The entire alley behind the Mohawk…

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Industrial Strength

Eric Miles WilliamsonA Night of the Longknives

By Eric Miles Williamson

What I've been hearing from literary types is a lot of whining. Literary authors published by small presses piss and moan about being underpublished (and we know who they are), victims of some vast…

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