(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ben Hamper assembled GM cars and trucks in Flint, Michigan for many years and comes from a long line of auto workers dating back almost to the time of the Model-T. He is well qualified to tell the true facts. He does so in a who-gives-a-damn style so closely resembling that of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson that RIVETHEAD might have been subtitled “Fear and Loathing in Flint, Michigan.”

Hamper was an underachiever in high school and had little choice after graduation but to go to work for GM, along with the majority of the men in his hometown. He quickly learned how to goldbrick, how to malinger, and how to get assigned to the so-called “pussy jobs.” He complains about the monotony of the work, but his many vivid descriptions of life on the assembly line certainly do not evoke anything approaching the horror that was elicited by Upton Sinclair’s expose of factory conditions in his novel THE JUNGLE (1906). Hamper found the work so easy that either he or his partner could handle both their jobs at once, so that one could spend the entire shift in a bar while receiving full pay and even time and a half for overtime.

The amount of drinking and drug use during working hours helps to explain why American automobiles acquired such a bad reputation for shoddy workmanship that the manufacturers are still trying to live it down. Hamper has virtually nothing to say on this subject but seems to take it for granted that the workers...

(The entire section is 422 words.)