Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value

When reading and discussing the effects of capitalism’s peaks and valleys, it is very rare that the actual effect on individual families is included in the conversation. Instead, most of what is published are rationales from capitalist economists that don’t hold up when critically examined and excuses from politicians who benefit from capitalism’s cruelty. Even rarer in contemporary times are fictional representations of working people struggling to survive the never-ending series of machinations at the top of capitalism’s collapsing pyramid.

Why does this seem to be the case? Is it because those fiction writers who get published are writers whose lives are too remote from those of the proletariat and therefore considered uninteresting? Is the circle of writers so closed that only those who have gone through the university and what sees like a never-ending series of writers’ workshops have the credentials that attract most agents and publishers? Perhaps publishers don’t think such fictions will sell. My guess is that it is all of the above.

Despite this, there are occasional working class fictions that break through the mass-produced material that most folks read today for fiction. The authors of such works that come most quickly to mind include Russell Banks, Walter Moseley, Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates. Of course, this writing spans genres, from crime novels to literary fiction and fantasy. Multiracial, across geographies and representing both conventional genders, this writing describes the humanness of those in whom capitalism sees only surplus value.

Into this dearth of such literature comes Beverly Gologorsky’s new novel, Every Body Has a Story. Set in the boroughs of New York in the time period defined by the 2007-2008 crash of the US housing market and the stock exchange, Gologorsky creates a story about four lifelong friends forever changed by the effects of that crash. Born in working-class neighborhoods into working-class lives, the four paired off and fought their way to establish their own version of the American Dream. It isn’t like they moved to Westchester County or the Hamptons, but they did have decent jobs and nice places to live. One couple had children and the other remained childless. Live was sometimes tedious and repetitious, but the bottom line is they considered themselves happy.

Then, the story takes a turn towards the realm where the Book of Job was composed. One couple’s house is foreclosed while the other’s marriage founders. One father–Zack– retreats to the basement of his foreclosed home while his wife and mother of his children Lena looks for work after being laid off. Stu, the other husband in the quartet begins to drink heavily and let his mind wander to other women. Meanwhile, his wife Dory realizes she has some kind of illness but is afraid to go to the doctor to discover what it is. As the eviction looms, the children in the family react each in their own way: the fifteen-year-old daughter runs away to live with a slightly older man while her younger brother retreats into cyberspace, plotting his own response.

All the while, the march of capitalism plods on to its logical end. The bank takes back the house despite every effort by Zack and Lena possible to prevent such an occurrence. Then it leaves the house empty since nobody who wants to buy the house can get a mortgage. Stu destroys his friendships (and any solidarity) at work when he bows to pressure from the bosses and takes the one job they still want one of the welders in his crew to perform. Everyone else in his crew is laid off. It seems fair to assume the reason for the layoffs at Stu’s job are related to the crash of the economy.

Just when it seems nothing can get worse, Dory discovers she has terminal cancer. Zack decides to move back into the foreclosed house and squat. He convinces his family and friends to join him. Unfortunately, the episode only lasts one day before the police give them seventy-two hours to leave. However, that one small act of rebellion, of assertiveness is enough to rekindle a spark of hope. Hope is never enough to provide a fairy tale ending, though.

As she did in her earlier novel The Things We Do to Make It Home, Gologorsky provides a glimpse into what it means to be working class and human in today’s USA. Always subject to the whims of bosses, politicians, bankers and the Pentagon, her characters till manage to maintain their basic belief in each other. The disgust with the fates handed to them by those forces is always present in her tales; indeed it often turns to a justified and righteous anger directed both at those fates and those whose actions cause them to happen. Every Body Has a Story is an emotionally taut tale that is also a specific, personal and unbending critique of the system of neoliberal capitalism.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Cesar Chelala
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail