Friday, January 31, 2014

Complaint Week // Complaint #5 of 5: INDUSTRIAL DECAY.

True in 1980; true today. 


In Theodore Dreiser’s turn-of-the-century novel, Sister Carrie, Carrie’s sister, Minnie, muses that, unless Carrie, a recent arrival to her modest household in Chicago, “submitted to a solemn round of industry . . . how was her coming to the city going to profit [Minnie and her husband]?” This selfish outlook on Minnie’s part accidentally unleashes one of the greatest phrases in American literature: “a solemn round of industry.” The phrase needn’t refer to gloomy industrial tasks per se, as it might refer to the incomplete “industriousness” of Sister Carrie, notably her unwillingness to conform, as Minnie contends, to the laborious traditions inherent in the City of the Big Shoulders, circa 1900. Ah, the good old days! What America wouldn’t give for a little more Industry, now, more than 100 years after Sister Carrie fled with the manager, Hurstwood, who helped himself to a sack of loot, to boot. People would probably submit to Industry, if Industry would open a few hundred factories; okay, even five or six. Instead of Industry, Americans must submit to other forces, such as DNA paternity tests. It’s a flawed principle, you’ll grant me, to rely upon the confusing haze of promiscuity in order to “grow the economy.” The Hookup Economy, at best, allows a laboratory to hire a ‘Night Guy’ for the newly-minted graveyard shift, and nobody really knows what goes on then, except the cleaning crew, who dance with the ‘Night Guy’ to “Heart of Glass.” On the other hand, Google Girth now tracks the whereabouts and deeds of Chris Christie, the embattled New Jersey Governor whose accumulation of scandals rivals Imelda Marcos’ accumulation of sandals. Still, the Chris Christie economy doesn’t add many people (but his cronies) to the payroll, and Google Girth, for its part, hired the chap who’d been rotating the egg camera at the Great Blue Heron nest. That’s an albatross for the labor force, who yearn, aloud, to submit. “Let us submit,” they cry, amid googling. The gurgling you hear isn’t the gargling of a desperate labor force, but the water in the hookah pipe, it turns out. The toiler submits to a solemn round of hookah. The toiler sits in armchairs, in divans, in minivans, in situ; the toiler sits in hot tubs, in dance clubs, for back rubs, for medicinal shrubberies; wherever can be found a sitter can be found a googling hookah, the apple jack tabac, Jack. Lo, the American Dude sits on the couch, and considers the sport that destroys the athlete. I am an American Dude, I too consider the sport that destroys the athlete. There follows a solemn round of touchdowns, a solemn round of advertisement, and a solemn round of indigestion. Both oceans batter our shores. Across them, in exotic lands, can be heard the faint sounds of Industry, the pile driven into the soil, the pain of the soil, the dumb might of the mechanical driver. 

Complaint #1: Doctors & Pre-illness.
Complaint #2: Gravitational Pull.
Complaint #3: Washington Metrorail.
Complaint #4: Beer Prices.


3 comments:

DAN / DANIEL GUTSTEIN said...

Photo by John Fekner (1980).

Heather Fuller said...

"Where the earth is most torn / And the wounds untended and the voices confused, / There is the head of the moving column // Who if they cannot find / Their generation / Wither in the infirmaries // And the supply depots, supplying / Irrelevant objects ..." - George Oppen, from "Of Being Numerous" ... Yr post (hybrid prose poemtorial) made me remember this Oppen. Cheers.

DAN / DANIEL GUTSTEIN said...

Such a great quote. From such a great book. Thanks for posting & cheers to you, Hthr Fllr. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------BA