Examines the life of Blackie, a hobo for sixty years, as he chooses to defend his life on the banks of the Sacramento and fight America's changing attitude toward the homeless. By the authors of And Their Children After Them. ...
|Title||:||The Last Great American Hobo|
|Number of Pages||:||278 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Last Great American Hobo Reviews
This book was a lucky find at www.booksale.org The book is reportage of a 10 year immersion journalism in the fast fading world of the railroad hobo. It centers around "Blackie," thought to be last of his breed of traveling people, and other characters in their camp along the Sacramento River at a time when big money development wanted everything necessary to rebuild the city.Dale Maharidge is listed as prime author, but the pictures by Micheal Williamson really deserve first billing. Both of these guys are real pros, (Pulitzer Prize 1990,) and this work a prime example of something we're lost in the conversion to the digital realm...the reporter/photographer team. Nowadays everyone expects one person to fulfill both roles and make their output in 140 characters and and a few second of lo-res video. Really look at Williamson's photos...100 frames...film...composed and cropped in the camera with superb timing and the picture building sense of how to tell the story. Maharidge's text pulls no punches and self examines in ways that both fit the story and tells on the professionals dilemma in a corporate medium. Both of them have personal empathy...not just with the plight of the campground people, but with the existential yearning for a valid life outside the white picket fence American dream.The jacket notes don't explicitly so state, but as a reporter/photographer team in Sacremento, CA, they probably drew paychecks from the Sacramento Bee, an old line pulp newspaper that regularly produced awards from the National Press Photographers Assc'n. They had to steer a fine course between real journalistic ethical standards and their human and personal involvement with their subjects. This work is a great example of what we were, as journalists and photographers, trying to do before the digital demolition. The only reasons I give only 4 of 5 stars are that I feel the text should have been interleaved with the pictures. The photo reproduction is sometimes not equal to the quality of the pictures. I hope I encounter these guys again.
This is as much a look at river people and hoboes in West Sacramento circa 1990 as it is a musing on how capitalism in a America affects its skeptics.
To start, I never really understood why this book was titled The Last Great American Hobo. It's a nice title, but I never felt it was the best title for the book. It's a rather romantic title, and the book tries to resist romanticizing and mythologizing the hobo life. So, I don't get it. Moving on now.This was an interesting read; Dale Maharidge writes a nice account of his interactions with Blackie and the other hobos and homeless River People. The story is an interesting one, though at times I felt that Maharidge was holding back and intentionally leaving some thoughts, feelings, details out. While I understand that sometimes some events and feelings just can't be written - at all, let alone accurately - in this case I thought there were moments when he was keeping me at a distance that mildly frustrated me. But maybe I was just not connecting with his point - I haven't read many books about hobos, the homeless, and/or poverty. His chapter on reality got a bit finger-pointing and accusatory in a way that made me feel like he was blaming me, which was also a bit annoying, but I also see his point - just the delivery felt off to me. The concluding chapter was the best and seemed to explain some of his personal tensions surrounding conventional life vs. the hobo life. Maharidge concludes by focusing more on Michael, the photographer, and it was really fabulous. Michael's story of poverty, isolation and eventual disappearance was really something and made the photographs that comprise the second half of the book even more poignant than they already were.Michael's photos were the real joy of this book. Several shots said vastly more about the lives of the people in this book than Dale Maharidge's essay was ever able to do. Actually seeing Blackie, Shorty, Luke, and the others was really fabulous and, I think, vital to the objectives of the project. Alone the pictures are good and the essay is nice, but combined the pictures and essay provide a good look at a subject often overlooked and misunderstood by general society. I probably still don't understand it, but this book helped me see things a little more clearly and think about things in new ways. I'm glad I read this.
This was my first read from the several Michael Williamson and Dale Maharidge collaborations and this book falls in the middle of their works. I liked the writing style of Maharidge as well as the photographs from Williamson. The first third of the book is text of their story of "Blackie" and his gradual defense against authorities of his hobo camp and lifestyle from around 1989-1992. The last two thirds includes black and white photographs by Williamson along with captions to describe the story, as well. Maharidge elaborates some on his and Williamson's struggle with what it meant to be a hobo and no longer accept living in typical society as most (all) of us know, versus living within society. It was a choice of sorts and towards the end it was revealed that the authors were surprised with just how seriously they were considering the same path for themselves after knowing these men and understanding the reasons for choosing the hobo (not homeless, rather hobo) way of life. The subjects became their friends and were treated with respect and dignity and as their friends, even for years after the breakup of the camp. I felt as if I trusted the authors as giving an honest representation of the story, perhaps because of what was shared of their own thoughts and struggles within the text.
Dry reading, sadly. The photos are cool, some of the writing just seems forced, but given the subject matter, I can see where getting "a story" would be tough. Still a great read...