A labor strike at a lumber mill divides a town based on the author's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. "The Land of Plenty" portrays the blue-collar workers' struggle for existence and depicts, with sensitivity and compassion, workers and owners alike in their poverty, depravity, and their ultimate goodness. "The Land of Plenty" created a political firestorm when it was puA labor strike at a lumber mill divides a town based on the author's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. "The Land of Plenty" portrays the blue-collar workers' struggle for existence and depicts, with sensitivity and compassion, workers and owners alike in their poverty, depravity, and their ultimate goodness. "The Land of Plenty" created a political firestorm when it was published to great success in 1935. Long out -of-print it remains one of the most graphically exciting novels of the Thirties, a lost American classic....
|Title||:||The Land of Plenty|
|Number of Pages||:||360 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Land of Plenty Reviews
I don't normally write reviews, however the only other review of this book is written in a way that might lead most people to avoid reading this book, which would be a shame. The prose can be difficult. A lot of conversations, which is sometimes difficult to keep up with, and isn't the easiest read. It is repetitive--but that's something I highly enjoyed about the book. Each chapter tends to overlap the last--but from a different perspective, so it fills in the gaps as to what may be happening elsewhere in this world (the world is quite small--the majority of the novel takes place over the course of 48 hours and is set in a mill town--the main focus being the mill).It's a bleak, dark novel. The introduction makes references to the 'lights going out'--which is exactly how the book begins. The novel reminds me of some of my favorite southern authors--and while it was written in the 1930s, besides a few changes in slang, could be written today--given our heated political and social environment.For a simple review--the book tells the tale of a town in Washington state during the 1930s. The mill is the most important part of the town, and a new man has been introduced as the foreman--he's tasked with leaning up the mill and it has resulted in firing, replacing, and steep pay cuts. The mill workers are fed up, and bolstered by other mills and factories nearby in striking, they consider a strike themselves. The interesting part of the novel is how organic the talk of strike is--these are not organized men and women. A few of them have communist and union leaning notions (one even boasts of carrying a red card--small details like this really make the novel a good history lesson as well as enjoyable read), but the majority are poor, hard working people just trying to make enough money to pay their measly electricity bills. They're also burdened by family and friends who have left the southwest where the jobs have gone and have ventured north to find work. Their frustration leads to a feeling of recklessness that sparks the strike, and sadly, erupts in violence. I found the climax to be riveting--until the last page i felt my heart pounding; while the prose can get bogged down in the conversation as a reader i learned to grasp the writing and after a few days struggling to get into the book, blew through it. In other words, if you read both these reviews--do give this important novel a chance. Two different people reading the same book with different experiences. It is a bleak novel, but that's the point--and i think it's important to read these novels, bleak or not, especially when they do such a good job of explaining their place in history.
Last Sunday I was reading the Seattle Times and came across an article about a local publishing imprint that employed authors to scrounge up good books that are long out of print. What caught my eye was the description for the first book that they had reprinted five years ago, Robert Cantwell's The Land of Plenty (originally published in 1934): "This stark, hard-boiled tale of mounting tensions boiling over into a violent strike in a Washington mill town was inspired by Cantwell's own experiences in Hoquiam, and is arguably the first great novel of the Northwest. Somewhere between John Steinbeck and the leftist noir of James M. Cain, the book points the way to Ken Kesey's rainy, rough-hewed labor and logging saga "Sometimes a Great Notion" published 30 years later."Since both Cain and Steinbeck give me big book boners and given that Sometimes a Great Notion is one of my favorite novels, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of The Land of Plenty. After learning that Ernest Hemingway had considered Cantwell "his best bet" in American fiction, I was beyond excited.So, did it live up to all that hype? Pretty much. I could see notes of Cain's shock-and-raw style, the humanity of Steinbeck and the story-line certainly was reminiscent of Kesey's Stamper family saga. There was even a bit about the wobblies (wobblies never die! kind of like the goonies?). And since Cain and Steinbeck are California centric and Kesey was putting it down for Oregon, it was satisfying to add a Washington author to the 'Best of West Coast Fiction' shelf. While it didn't make the elusive five star rating for me, it was an easy four stars as the writing was solid throughout and I found the story both memorable and thought provoking. I think it's pretty awesome that someone (mainly Spokane writer Jess Walter) cared enough about this book to bring it back to life, and then it somehow found its way to me.Set just before the dawn of the depressing dirty-thirties, over half of the book takes place on the night of the Fourth of July, 1929 when a power outage at the sawmill sets off a chain of discontent among the men and women working there. Each chapter provides a different p.o.v. and often overlaps with the activities of the last chapter, therefore giving the reader a new perspective of events. Cantwell deals with more issues than your standard proletarian novel and I was surprised when both rape and abortion factored into the story-line. The last third of the novel focuses on the picket-line strike that eventually devolves into violence and a not-so-happy ending.The range of characters and the fact that Cantwell didn't dive too deep into the politics were both strong points in the novel. At the heart, it's a story about people trying to survive. From the electrician who has two grown daughters living at home because their husbands can't find work and a teenage son who now has to work at the mill as well, to the head honcho who has a neurotic wife, a depressed daughter and an unhappy home, to the native American worker who has a wife dying in the hospital and a dead child to think about, to the young and tough immigrant sisters who live on the wrong side of the tracks and work to support their mother, the reader can manage to empathize with almost every character that crosses the page.
A few weeks ago I attended a Town Hall event in Seattle. The occasion was the publication by local publishing house, Dark Horse Press, of four novels in their new Pharos Editions imprint. From the Pharos website: "Pharos Editions is dedicated to bringing to light out-of-print, lost or rare books of distinction. A carefully curated list of beautifully produced books, Pharos titles are hand-picked and introduced by some of today’s most exciting authors, creators, and artists."On this occasion three of the four Northwest writers recommending/curating the initial list titles were present in a forum-style event. The attendees were Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, All About Lulu; Jess Walter ( The Zero, Citizen Vince, Beautiful Ruins, We Live in Water, The Financial Lives of the Poets); and Sherman Alexie (Blasphemy, Indian Killer, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, etc.)The Land of Plenty was Jess Walter's selection. I actually found Walter's introduction to the book more interesting than the novel itself. He put Robert Cantwell's work in historical and literary perspective, praising the honest, naturalistic style, noting how Cantwell gained the admiration of Hemingway and other writers of the day, and making positive comparisons to Dos Passos and other writers who championed the workers and helped bring labor issues into the public.But for me the prose style was ponderous and repetitive. Each chapter is narrated from the point of view of a different character - and some of the characters voices were more readable than others: the sawmill foreman, several workers at the mill, the manager, the owner, etc. Certainly the conditions in the mill are rendered in a way that is realistic and appalling, from a worker/safety point of view. Everyone struggles to make ends meet on the low wages and long, hard workdays and nights. As the story unfolds you can feel that the frustrations and grievances of the workers is coming to a head. The strike - when it does come - seems almost an anticlimax, and it's obvious that it's success is anything but assured. The desperation of nearly all the characters hangs like a pall over the entire novel, and the sense of hopelessness never really dissipates. If you like gritty, hyper-realistic tales of downtrodden workers trying to survive and barely succeeding - you will probably like this book. I admire Cantwell for writing it - and wish he had stuck with novel writing to produce more and better books. Land of Plenty deserves to be brought out of the archive and reprinted. But I can't really recommend it as it was just too bleak for me to enjoy.
The graveyard shift at the plywood factory in Hoquium, Washington, was running at full tilt. The foreman and bookkeeper prowled the factory looking for workers who were slacking off, taking a smoke or toilet break, or doing anything but tending to their jobs. In the last several months more than 50 workers had been fired for one thing or another, and feelings were raw. Suddenly the lights went out and the factory was plunged into deep darkness. Saws quit running, conveyors ground to a halt, and the workers began to worry that this down time would be taken out of their pay. The foreman was certain the outage was the doings of the factory electrician.The Land of Plenty, originally published in 1935 and recently reissued (Pharos, 2013), is Robert Cantwell's best-known work, although both the book and the author have slipped into dim memory in the Pacific Northwest. Cantwell might be better remembered on the East coast for his articles in Time, Life and Fortune magazines, or as an editor at Time. When first published, the US was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the book was hailed as a classic tale of the era, with disillusioned workers, growing poverty, broken dreams, and the threat of Communism.Cantwell carries the reader into the hot, stuffy factory with its warped floors and open chutes, past the hot steam pipes, and to the great saws and stacks of plywood; the word pictures are striking. By following several individuals through the events that spin from the power outage and contrasting their perspectives in gritty and convincing ways, the author has created a very readable vehicle for discussing the social issues of the day. To the reader it might be obvious that a few simple changes would defuse the tension before it explodes, but the characters can see no further than their own needs: to feel superior, to send children to college, to pay the bills, or to be listened to and respected. It is not a cheery read but it is a compelling look at what happens when the needs of management and labor move so far apart that no communication exists.
Robert Cantwell, long forgotten, wrote in much the same milieu as John Steinbeck, the working class of the West Coast during the Depression. Cantwell wasn't the talent that Steinbeck was, but this is a distracting enough story of shingle mill workers trying to get their cut. The characters could have been sketched out a bit more distinctively, and the depiction of the "evil foreman" borders on cartoonish, but it wasn't an awful book, and the descriptions of factory life are indeed memorable. If you can track down a copy, it's worth reading.