Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hooverville 2.0

In the wee small hours of this morning, police removed protesters from New York’s Zuccotti Park. This Hooverville conversation seems eerily relevant:

Tom asked, “Why would they push a fella like that aroun’?”

The young man stopped his work and looked in Tom’s eyes. “Chris’ knows,” he said. “You jus’ come. Maybe you can figger her out. Some fellas say one thing, an’ some says another thing. But you jus’ camp in one place a little while, an’ you see how quick a deputy sherriff shoves you along.”

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
[Hooverville: “a shantytown built by unemployed and destitute people during the Depression of the early 1930s. . . . named after H.C. Hoover, during whose presidency such accommodations were built” (New Oxford American Dictionary).]

Jim Koper’s photographs from Zuccotti Park
“I go to time out for cheating”
“Take the rich off welfare!”
Man with beard
Woman with sign
Man with flag

comments: 6

Anonymous said...

The comparison fails. Steinbeck's amazing writing details in fiction the truth of the migrant poor of the depression era. The modern myth of Zucotti Park details in fact the fiction of these people having no place to "camp." Most had homes to which to go, modern electronics and many comforts of the modern age. Apples do not compare well with oranges, except in sangria and Dutch still lifes. Steinbeck's story also ends in murder, which is probably not what the comparison meant to suggest, but one sees from the news that several rapes and killings have centered on this latest set of protests. Ergo the comparison reminds of the end of the story.

Michael Leddy said...

Anon., I’m well aware of the differences — note the “2.0” in the title. The people at Zuccotti Park are not, for the most part anyway, homeless. One of the photographs by my friend Jim Koper has a fellow holding an iPad2. My point in quoting Steinbeck is a pretty straightforward similarity: in times of economic peril, people gathering, perhaps illegally, and being made to move.

Michael Leddy said...

PS: I like your observation about sangria and still lifes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment in response. Using "2.0" suggests that a product's version is bettered, and I think Steinbeck's art trumps the written news of late. The ipad2 betters the original, as for example.

As to sangria, I prefer French reds. As to Dutch still life canvases, dead unskinned rabbits are never so interesting as in a lovely stew with olive oil, garlic and chocolate sauce. And a French red to wash it down.

Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat among the larger opus is a particular favorite of mine. His themes of some "low lifes" and average types having real lives and not-always-expected opinions just tickles my fancy. What a writer.

Michael Leddy said...

All I meant to suggest with “2.0” is next-generation, as in “Web 2.0.” I’m not sure how it’s possible that the Occupy movement is better than a Hooverville.

I’m with you on Steinbeck. I was raised on high modernism and never thought to read him until a few years ago. So-called regionalists (Willa Cather would be another example) can be extraordinary writers.

Anonymous said...

"Chuckling" is the verb to describe my reading your answer. High was a state of intoxication in my youth, and high modernism -- oddly now passing from the scene which makes one wonder about the naming of things with "modern" -- calls to mind some of my school daze....