One Year in a Closing Auto Plant
By Paul Clemens
Anchor Books, Paperback, 9780767926935, 271pp.
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
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 question, Paul Clemens investigates the 2006 closing of one of America’s most potent symbols: a Detroit auto plant. Prior to its closing, the 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 apart 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 extinction.
“Rewarding. . . . [Clemens] is a lovely, mournful observer of Detroit’s people. . . . [Punching Out] is a lament for a dying city and a dying way of being a man in America.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Clemens . . . paints the definitive portrait of a strange, resonant feature of the contemporary American landscape: the defunct factory . . . [this book] is an elegiac reminder of a scary truth lurking behind those abstract-sounding business headlines.” —Carlo Rotella, The Boston Globe
“Out of the painstaking job of dismantling industrial America, a story emerges. Clemens closes the book on one venerable factory, but leaves us wondering about the future of American work.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Clemens has the street cred and old-school journalism chops to deliver a first-rate piece of deep reportage.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Superb practitioners of immersion journalism older than Clemens include John McPhee, Gay Talese, Madeleine Blais, Susan Orlean, Walt Harrington, Mike Sager, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and Tracy Kidder. Based on Punching Out, Clemens is a worthy addition to the list and an example for journalists not just in the United States, but around the globe. His story of another closed auto factory is sadly familiar. But it has never been told this well.” —Steve Weinberg, author of Taking on The Trust