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The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

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Overview

In The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels takes us on an insider’s journey through the wreckage and resurgence of America’s Rust Belt. A native who never knew the good times, yet never abandoned his hometown of Akron, Giffels plumbs the touchstones and idiosyncrasies of a region where industry has fallen, bowling is a legitimate profession, bizarre weather is the norm, rock ’n’ roll is desperate, thrift store culture thrives, and sports is heartbreak. Intelligent, humorous, and warm, Giffels’s linked essays are ...

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The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

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Overview

In The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels takes us on an insider’s journey through the wreckage and resurgence of America’s Rust Belt. A native who never knew the good times, yet never abandoned his hometown of Akron, Giffels plumbs the touchstones and idiosyncrasies of a region where industry has fallen, bowling is a legitimate profession, bizarre weather is the norm, rock ’n’ roll is desperate, thrift store culture thrives, and sports is heartbreak. Intelligent, humorous, and warm, Giffels’s linked essays are about coming of age in the Midwest and about the stubborn, optimistic, and resourceful people who prevail there.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Beth Macy
Though he revels in the foibles of his city, Giffels defends it vigorously, not unlike the way Carl Hiaasen lambastes Florida developers, Kevin Cullen rages against Boston gangsters or David Simon illuminates the scars of Baltimore. A region on the mend has found its voice…
Publishers Weekly
01/20/2014
A native Ohioan who’s always lived in his home town of Akron, Giffels—an English professor and author of three books—has a unique perspective on Midwestern history. His latest book is a collection of articles written on the distinctive culture of adversity and loss experienced by those in the Midwest who have seen everything taken from them, from their factory jobs to their rock bands and even their sports icons. Giffels treats all these things with equal gravitas, an approach that lends itself both to his signature dry humor and to a heartfelt analysis of what drives his neighbors to continue. We follow Giffels in a roughly chronological journey through his life, beginning with his school days and ending with his son’s first attempt at driving. Along the way Giffels riffs on varying subjects like the origin of hamburgers, his own poetry, and bowling’s vital importance to the Rust Belt, in abrupt asides that are sometimes in desperate need of segues. Regardless, the portrait painted here is an honest and revealing one, illuminating the cultural factors that have given a strange, shadowy sort of hope to millions of Americans. (Mar.)
Washington Independent Review of Books Eric Nuzum
"This collection of essays about life in Akron, Ohio, is so deep and inviting and surprising that I plan to carry a bunch in my trunk. Then, instead of mounting the Heartland defense, I’ll just throw the bigmouth fucknut in question a copy of Giffels’ masterwork and let it do the talking."
Scott Raab
“They still build souls in Akron. The Hard Way on Purpose is proof. David Giffels is a Rust Belt prophet, laughing—sometimes through his tears—in Doom’s face. You want to hear America singing? Buy this book.”
Patrick Carney
“David Giffels writes straight into the heart of Akron, Ohio, the place we both call home. It’s a hard place to be from, which is why it makes such a good story. What other place could have spawned Jim Jarmusch, LeBron James, Lux Interior and the Goodyear blimp? So it’s no accident that this book reads like the American soul—wicked and sincere and ingeniously weird. It is a great story, an authentic one about the way people protect the places they love, and The Hard Way on Purpose gets it exactly right.”
Rob Sheffield
“This amazing book will resonate with anyone who’s ever loved a hometown, wherever it might be—especially if it’s the kind of hometown people usually leave. Even if you’ve never been to Akron, Giffels brilliantly captures how it feels to love your city fiercely, even when it’s falling apart. He celebrates Akron as ‘the Paris of hard times.’ Giffels might be its Baudelaire.”
David Goodwillie
“Occasionally, an essayist so perfectly chronicles a specific place that he or she becomes synonymous with it. Joseph Mitchell and New York; Joan Didion and California; Adam Gopnik and Paris; John Jeremiah Sullivan and the American South. With The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels has pulled a chair up to this lofty literary table, and in so doing, provided the hardscrabble industrial Midwest with its own lyrical, learned, and very large-hearted champion.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Giffels’ voice is friendly.…his details so vibrant and fresh. . . . A region on the mend has found its voice.”
Los Angeles Times
"Let this heartfelt collection of essays by David Giffels reveal the wit and pride that are beyond all our preconceptions of Akron, Ohio."
Flavorwire
"[Giffels] gives you the Midwestern experience, from hoping your greatest sports star will choose his hometown over the bright lights, big city (in this case, LeBron James, who famously didn’t keep playing for his hometown) to the search for the perfect bowling shirt."
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-05
Appealing, original fusion of personal essay collection and Rust Belt post-mortem. Giffels (English/Univ. of Akron; All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House, 2008, etc.) takes an audacious approach to considering his 1970s adolescence in Akron, Ohio, and his life there ever since. He became aware of the hardscrabble region's ingrained traditions and civic pride as they were being blown away by its declining economic infrastructure. While his essays are funny and crisply rendered, there's an undertone of wonderment at the sheer loss of functionality and productive might in such places: "Generations knew this part of the country as the region that built modern America," writes the author. "I'm of the first generation that never saw any of that." The essays sketch a rough arc of Giffels' life as set against the rambling decay of postindustrial Akron and Cleveland (where his family rooted for the perpetually losing Browns and Cavaliers). As the author reached adolescence, caroused within the region's vibrant underground-rock scene and began a career at the Akron Beacon Journal, he realized that the physical entropy and economic marginalization of the region somehow fueled its survivors with a perverse vitality as they attempted to make art or music or simply survive. "Recognizing the value of forgotten or broken things seems, at least in my part of the country, to be the story of America in the twenty-first century," he writes. Standout essays include an account of watching the cavernous used bookstore that sparked his literary passion burn down, his hilarious season as a ball boy for the dispirited Cavaliers and youthful encounters with regional traditions: strong drink, bowling, thrift stores and punk rock. The author's tone is relaxed and approachable, yet he never loses sight of the social costs incurred by the alleged obsolescence of the blue-collar Midwest. These seasoned dispatches convey an important narrative of regional marginalization; Giffels' work deserves to avoid that fate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451692747
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 113,484
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Giffels is an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron, where he teaches creative nonfiction in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program. His most recent book, All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House, received widespread acclaim. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Grantland, Redbook, and many other publications. Giffels was a columnist and feature writer for the Akron Beacon Journal from 1994 to 2008. He was also a writer for MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head. Giffels’s recent awards include the Cleveland Arts Prize for literature, the Ohioana Book Award, and the AP’s “Best News Writer in Ohio” award. He lives in Akron, Ohio, with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 18, 2014

    Rust Belt Sunshine

    It is a very good book about living in a Rust Belt city. It shows how you don't need a lot to be happy. This is a must reading for our overly materialistic society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2014

    Fabulous on every level.

    Introspective without being navel gazing, and filled with poignant humor, The Hard Way captures our nature in an honest & endearing way. A must-read if you grew up in the industrial heartland or simply want to reconnect with the roots of our middle class culture. No doubt you will rediscover a part of yourself on nearly every page.

    David's writing is like hanging out in the driveway playing HORSE with your best buddies until your mom calls you for dinner. The best of times...most appreciated with several hard-earned years of adulthood under you belt.

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