Paul Clemens: Punching Out



This was an unexpected delight I came across this after a family trip to DetroitClemens has an ear for dialogue and the way people talk and I loved hearing that the stories of working people that don t usually etHis turns of phrase and uotations of those of others were often Catwoman gorgeous and sharpThe arty delectation of Detroit s destruction ruin porn as it s called I hadn t heard the phrase ruin porn before but it s perfect one of the things I found most mesmerizing on a delightful Urban Adventures tour of Detroito with Bob he s fabulous was his photos of the insides of some of the abandoned buildings we were seeing especially of a sumptuously Baby Legacy (So Many Babies gold leaf decorated arched ceiling inside an abandoned building which had been converted into a parkingarage Bob shared those photos but what he really wanted to talk about was the revitalization of downtown the art scene the young people moving back He was impatient with uestions about decay and for ood reasons I see now Clemens uotes an article by Nick Paumgarten on the moral calculus of arty enthusiasm for urban obsolescence there is something decadent about the forma curation of rust and the fetishizing of decay 35Although Clemens hilariously claimed on The Daily Show that the book was a description without a thesis he does touch on deeper political choices and shibboleths one of them being the idea though he doesn t flesh it out that the ideal of home ownership has not done working people any favors It s worth trying to describe the isolation surrounding the plant he writes In the neighborhoods just north of the Budd plant 23 to 34 of the land is occupied by vacant lots or vacant houses Enjoyed the idea of this book and still do but it really should be one year in a closed auto supply plant Having rown up in Janesville WI home of the GM Suburban Tahoe Yukon I am well acuainted with what it an automobile plant can mean to a town Having left just a few years before it closed I was looking forward to a story of the plant employees on the way out what they would miss what they wouldn t what they re doing next and how they feel about itThis book actually deals with the next step what happens after it closes It was interesting to learn all that Langlais correct pour les Nuls goes on with clearing out the facility from security personnel to riggers moving the actual euipment I wish the characters had been explored to areater extent but they still Constantly Craving gave you a sense of who these people are and where they come from The trip to Mexico at the end to see some of the euipment was insightful and I couldn t have certainly went for of that as wellI enjoyed the book learned uite a bit but it wasn t uite what the title sold it as The first half of the book is reallyood You follow the author around while he ives you a history of the automotive industry in Detroit The second half ets a bit monotonous Chapter after chapter of how a plant Aryan Idols gets stripped and sold off He does his best to make the limited cast of characters sound like outlaws and misfits but it onlyoes so far Decent read if you re into history or from the area but not something I d recommend for pleasure Really this is probably only a 3 on the enjoyment scale for me but it ets an extra star for being a really ood concept for a book Clemens Bourdieus Secret Admirer in the Caucasus gives an account not of the last operating days of the plant but of the aftermath the dismantling and shipping off of the plant to Asia Mexico or South America where the machinery will be put back into service again often for the same companies who used it in its original home in Detroit He spends time with the people who performs this work andoes to Something in Return great pains to understand and humanize themI ll confess to being one of those artsy types Clemens makes fun of in the early part of the book who from time to time sneak into old abandoned factories and warehouses taking photographs and wondering at what once went on inside But this experience for me in my case the old railyard buildings in Albuuerue back when they were abandoned also added to an understanding of the sort of vast spaces massive machinery and wooden floors similar to the ones in this book that he s talking about It s hard to reallyrasp the scale unless you ve see them yourself but I definitely understand first hand something of the awe he tries to create when writing about the auto plantsClemens account Byzantium goes beyond this one plant to cover some of the deconstruction of the American auto industry Thankfully it avoids a lot of the political and emotional overtones and instead keeps a fairly solid documentarian tone If you re looking for a story there isn t too much of a narrative but there are characters and historyalore Just the history of the Budd auto plant and the innovation behind An elegy angry funny and powerfully detailed about the slow death of a Detroit auto plant and an American way of life How does a country dismantle a century’s worth of its industrial heritage To answer that uestion Paul Clemens investigates the 2006 closing of one of America’s most potent symbols a Detroit auto plant Prior to its closing th.

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Us I like his honesty and the way in which he situates himself in the narrative which helps readers situate themselves in the context of a closing factory I like the fact that Clemens doesn t altogether avoid Contacts Desired giving his personal opinion of certain matters and that he lets emotion in if uietly We use a lot of non attributional language to describe the economic changes taking place in the US which implies that no one is to blame so much as forces beyond our control The language in the Plant Closing News Clemens uotes is like this for example This language may remove or dull human agency but it cannot change the very real human effects of high unemployment and watching one s surrounds fall apart Clemens shows what it is like to be part of that experience vs staring at beautiful ruin photos chock full of nature and devoid of people There are still people in Detroit and other Rust Belt cities and none of us know what they are supposed to do next and so we d rather not think about themDon t do that Read this book instead It s beautiful and one of the few documents we have of what real people areoing through on the Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, ground in America s transition to post industrialism This book will I think become an increasingly important historical reference as timeoes on we have so much evidence of our build up to industrialization and so little of the decline Perhaps Greenfield Village can acuire Mr Budd s old plaster peeling office from the Budd Plant as its first historical showcase item of decline Detroit Dreams Disassembled Paul Clemens Punching OutI own a Say Nice Things About Detroit T shirt colored The Oracles Golem (The Oracle gray appropriately enough It plaintively asks us to remember please that the city needs our help The Motor City which once brought to mind Chevy muscle cars and Stevie Wonder now makes many think of rust racial animosity and murder when they think of it at all Paul Clemens the author of Punching Out One Year in a Closing Auto Plant would say that we can t afford to ignore his city much longer What s bad for GM is bad for the country and the deindustrialization that has been taking place in Detroit and elsewhere is beginning to have deep and unpleasant ramifications for tens of millions of peopleFor Clemens it s personal He had deep roots in the neighborhood around the now defunct Budd Company stamping plant a supplier of auto body parts to all the major car manufacturers When he read in 2006 that Budd s would close he set out to find out what that really meant After the pink slips he spent a year watching the massive steel presses be disassembled loaded onto trucks and shipped to China and Brazil or melted for scrap He follows one press which once produced parts for a nearby Chrysler plant as it is trucked and reassembled in Mexico where it now stamps parts for ChryslerClemens is a wonderful writer who shows rather than tells introducing us to the motley crew of riggers securityuards and truckers who empty the plant until it becomes one exhausted hulk on the Detroit skyline We taste the Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations gritty dust just as we feel the marshmallowy softness of the rubber boots propped too close to a steel barrel burning oil soaked floor tiles to keep out the Detroit winter It s clear that we are watching workers who are disassembling their own and others American dreamsRead the full review here I found this book to be areat account of what happens when an auto plant in Detroit closes Paul Clemens takes you inside the Budd Auto Plant right after its closing The first part of the book is a history of various Detroit plants and then a meeting with the UAW representative who represented the workers in the Budd Plant who describes what happens at that point to the workers He then moves on to hanging out with the riggers and the cleaning crew who take apart the machines and parts of the assembly lines to Let It Bree / Cant Buy Me Louie (Harlequin Duets, go to the people who won them in auctions who are coming from China Brazil Germany Canada and Mexico The interviews with members of the staff who come in to clean out the plant and liuidate the machines are very informative These are usually people with very little education or people who have a hard time finding regular employment who have negative views of union workers or have worked on the assembly lines themselves at one time One employee discussed how he wanted to work at Ford s and managed to do so Anotherives an interesting take that he worked to put the assembly lines together for a living and then it came to a point where he had to learn how to take assembly lines apart to earn a living A lot of reat insights and humoring moments in the book when it comes to our dying manufacturing industry in America and the fall of Detroit s auto plants for cheaper production and outsourcing. Part and sending it piece by piece to the countries that now have use for its machines Punching Out is an up close report at once tender and angry from the meanest sharpest edge of America’s deindustrializa­tion and a lament for a working class culture that once defined a prosperous America and that is now on the verge of eco­nomic extincti.

He switch from wooden to steel automobile bodies made the book worthwhile for me in a historical context By the end of the book Clemens acknowledges that he doesn t know what he ll do when he doesn t have the plant to o to every day the routine the friends he has made there the simple regular act of work or in his case observing people work And that than anything I found touching I look forward to seeing what Clemens turns his hand to next I was expecting to read about an auto plant that was scheduled to close and about the impact on its employees After all the subtitle is One Year in a Closing Auto Plant But the plant Budd Company s Detroit stamping plant is already closed when most of the book takes place After the plant closed none of the workers were Budd employees although a couple were former employees The author connects with some of the workers but they come and The Ornaments of Life go without much explanation The author says Morale was low turnover was high and I kept my distance clear of the crew s internal dramas Wait Aren t you writing a book about What he s writing about is how an industrial plant is dismantled who does the work and what happens to the stuff inside In the bigger picture what the author sees is a hollowing out The Budd plant becomes a huge empty shell slowly imploding as the structure deteriorates It s in a city Detroit that has become an empty shell imploding as its population declines and its society deteriorates And it asks the uestion Asood paying middle class jobs disappear will America become an empty shellPretty serious stuff But not One Wish (Thunder Point, grim because of thoughtful writing and the character and humor of the workers They recognize the irony They make a living by eliminating the tools that enabled people like them to make a living But there s a job to do problems to be solved bills to be paid lives to be lived No one isoing to do it for them so they La santa anoressia. Digiuno e misticismo dal Medioevo a oggi go to work at the freezing cold Budd plantAs America segregates along a wideningap between upper class and lower class it s worth remembering that the lower class is than tattoos DUIs and child support It s what we used to call the working class I was Remembering and Repeating going toive this one an extra star just for covering a topic dear to my heart but this is no Monkey s Wrench or even Rivethead or Gulf Star 45 Punching Out isn t really about the closing of a factory at all it s Part Two of Paul Clemens mildly interesting How A Relatively Overachieving Lower Middle Class Catholic Boy Became A Nonfiction Writer saga We follow Paul the main character of the book as he drives around Detroit looks up old business directories at the library broods over the ruins and occasionally speaks with a security uard all the while making ham handed literary allusionsEven so I was willing to rate three stars until I reached this passage which concerns the Arkansas Boys a trio of hillbilly machinery movers whose stoicaltaciturn competence sort of symbolizes the lost manliness of the disappearing white working class to Clemens They re presented as the most interesting figures in the book and he s too shy to talk to them in a relaxed social settingBy the time the Arkansas Boys had walked into the bar and seated themselves at a table I d lost my nerve to approach them This was their habitat not mine and I was out of my depth sipping my Coke I continued to observe their work from a distance as I had for monthsAt this point I could only say Dude you re in the wrong line of work and de rate him one star He should put the ruins of Detroit behind him and just concentrate on meta memoir IF you re from Michigan or a Rust Belt state you re likely to find this book incredibly sad and wistfully funny It shows how complicated the forces are behind the crumbling of Michigan s manufacturing base and the inevitability of the emptying of it s cities It s an important read and you ll understand your neighbors and towns the better for itIf you re not from Michigan you ll probably just think it s too bad and you ll move on And you don t need to read it This book describes the disassembly of the Detroit Budd Plant part of the decades long disassembly of a city class skill set culture and language That does seem like something we at least ought to record doesn t it this shift from the America of 100 years much of the nation s lifetime as creator and producer of oods with a large middle class as a point of pride to something else to be determined But very few people are documenting and writing about it aside from ruin porn and even fewer are doing it as sympathetically thoughtfully and non judgmentally as Paul ClemensClemens is a keen observer and faithful recorder of the way people speak and thankfully uses hefty helpings of uotations to share with. E Budd Company stamping plant on Detroit’s East Side built in 1919 was one of the oldest active auto plants in America’s foremost industrial city one whose history includes the nation’s proudest moments and those of its working class Its closing also reflects the character of the country in a new era the sad brutal process of picking it