• New Review of Ghosts of Tom Joad: “He makes it real”

    September 30, 2014

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Democracy, Economy, Minimum Wage

    Fire Dog Lake blogger Ohio Barbarian posted this review of Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent (emphasis added).

    Yes, I know this book was featured on the FDL Book Salon back in May. I didn’t read that live; only skimmed it after the comments were closed, and I probably wouldn’t have commented on it anyway, but when I saw Ghosts of Tom Joad, a Story of the #99Percent at my local public library, I thought I’d check it out.

    I’m glad I did. It’s a great book and, in my ever so humble opinion, it is every bit as powerful as the classic John Steinbeck novel to which it refers.

    Set in a fictional small town in Ohio, home of a shuttered glass factory and a shattered American Dream, the protagonist, Earl, is a high school football player who graduated around 1977. He’s not exactly a sympathetic character, at least not to me. He’s basically an ignorant jock who did as little school work as possible, then dropped out after he got hurt in the middle of dumb teenage jock roughhousing, couldn’t play anymore, and went to work in the same factory where his World War II vet grandpa and his Korean War vet dad had worked before him.

    He starts out, at least, as the prototypical “small town small mind” my mother and then later myself always despised. By that I mean someone whose whole world is his little town, who never really wanted to go anywhere else, and was mostly incurious about the rest of the planet. Someone who just assumed if he didn’t get some miraculous football scholarship, he’d spend his life working at the factory, get married, and raise kids in the same little town just like his recent ancestors, and that was fine by him.

    In other words, he’s who Nixon’s cabinet secretary Earl Butz was referring to when the latter said, “All the average American wants is cold beer in the fridge and a warm place to shit.”

    Of course, being in a Rust Belt midwestern town, our Earl is laid off after just a few months, and quickly spirals down from one McJob to the next to Bullseye, a retail store clearly modeled by the author on Wal-Mart, to more McJobs to temp work to day labor to homelessness and despair.

    Van Buren takes an interesting approach, making the whole story a series of flashbacks while Earl is riding on the city bus, which is sometimes real and sometimes metaphysical, or at least metaphorical.

    I didn’t find most of the characters all that sympathetic or even likable, but that’s not necessary in order to empathize with them, at least not for me. Like Steinbeck did with The Grapes of Wrath 74 years ago, Van Buren creates a world where selfishness and greed on the part of a few has caused despair and sometimes sheer hopelessness on the part of the many, and he makes it real. I think it’s quite an accomplishment.

    My favorite parts of the book are astute observations by various characters about the deliberate destruction of America’s social, economic, and even moral sustainability by the top 1% for fun and profit, and the often subconscious collusion they get from most of the rest of us because of how we’ve been told to think since birth. My very favorite is, “It ain’t about left and right anymore, it’s about up and down.” A close second is “This was no accident, no invisible hand…we changed from a place that made things…into a place that just makes deals. Making things creates jobs, and jobs create prosperity. Making deals just creates wealth for the dealers.”

    Indeed. There’s more, much more, and the book is well-written and an easy read. I highly recommend it. In fact, it should be mandatory reading in public high schools and universities.

    Note: Though I also write for the site Fire Dog Lake, I do not know the author of the review, and have never met him/her.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...



      For your next story about the greedy shits who are crushing the middle class, may I suggest a bigger ending than a Bullet to the brain: a Walmart semi.


      09/30/14 9:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” – Honoré de Balzac.

      09/30/14 9:45 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Great review Peter. Congrats. Still haven’t had time to read it myself, although, Nov 2 is slated for our first snow dump. A nice fire, slippers and time. Can’t wait. Seems like the entire summer slipped through my fingers. gak.

      quote“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” – unquote

      ….that went unpunished by those powers that repeat the cycle themself.

      There..fixed it. Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer are living proof..
      “Friends and former colleagues say Holder has made no decisions about his next professional perch,” NPR writes, “but they say it would be no surprise if he returned to the law firm Covington & Burling, where he spent years representing corporate clients.”

      A large chunk of Covington & Burling’s corporate clients are mega-banks like JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America. Lanny Breuer, who ran the criminal division for Holder’s Justice Department, already returned to work there.

      In March, Covington highlighted in marketing materials their award from the trade publication American Lawyer as “Litigation Department of the Year,” touting the law firm’s work in getting clients accused of financial fraud off with slap-on-the-wrist fines.”unquote


      These “under the color of law” criminals redefine the word hubris.

      Meanwhile, their boss gets pinned down too…


      10/1/14 9:49 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Meanwhile, another ghost terrorizes the planet…


      Too bad Hinckley failed.

      Speaking of assassination..that DIDN’T fail..this scumbag murderer is living proof why cops are halfwitted morons..


      10/1/14 10:10 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Hey..speaking of the posterchild of SCUMBAGS-R-US, prior to becoming AG, Holder worked for Covington & Burling, who’s corporate clients weren’t just Banks. Holder was personally responsible for getting one of the most criminal Corporations in history, formally known as The United Fruit Co, Chiquitta, off the hook for a multitude of corporate crimes. The granddaddy of Corporations..


      If this isn’t living proof of Honoré de Balzac’s proverb, I don’t know what is. One only need read the history of United Fruit, and all the scumbags in the US government who were connected, like the Dulles brothers(State Dept./CIA, and you will see
      the living proof of another familiar proverb..
      Power corrups..absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      (CIA Director Allen Dulles sat on United Fruit Board of Directors, and John Foster Dulles served as United Fruit’s legal counsel.)

      However, the United Fruit story is only part of the history of DEEP STATE. For the real story, look no further than a former CIA insider..Ronald Thomas West. He comments regularly at the Intercept. His site has so many links(like Col. Fletcher Proudy who I’ve mentioned here before)I’ve barely scratched the surface…


      (note the text in that link. Notwithstanding his documentation of attempts of assassinating him, omeone is seriously trying to keep him off the net.)

      Ok Peter. I know. I’m sorry. As usual, I’ve taken liberties with your blog. I can’t help myself.

      10/1/14 10:45 AM | Comment Link

    • Ronald Thomas West said...


      @bloodypitchfork: I was not a CIA insider, but did work with Special Forces veterans of CIA paramilitary operations 1974-75. That said, I appreciate your interest in my work and thank you for bringing my work to the attention of others-

      My kindest greetings

      Ron West

      10/1/14 6:37 PM | Comment Link

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