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The Harbor

harbor

Ernest Poole‘s The Harbor is tied for the most exciting book I’ve read this year (with The Count of Monte Cristo). Written in 1915, The Harbor tells the story of New York’s harbor from the late 19th century till WWI through the eyes of Bill, whose father has a lucrative business. The Harbor gripped me from page one when seven year old Bill shares how he hates the harbor. Though crude to a sheltered rich boy, this harbor is filled with sailing ships, exotic foreigners, spices, silks, and riches. Yeah, there’s plenty of spitting and cursing and the odd fist fight as Bill learns when he meets a Dickensian boy, Sam who’s something of a “harbor-urchin” leading a back of wildish boys who scare and fascinate Bill. He’s never the same after meeting Sam. The rich kids in their starched shirts with their gentle games lose whatever charm they had.

We follow Bill from his often adventurous childhood through college when he meets Joe Kramer, a worldly politically active man, whose family became destitute after his father unknowingly gave tainted medicine to children with small pox. Though the fault was with the drug company, Dr. Kramer and his family were driven out of town and had to move from town to town as rumors caught them. Joe is full of the straight dope. He sees through society’s shams and thinks most of college is a “tour through the graveyard.” Joe comes and goes always making Bill and his sister Sue question their views and life.

The Harbor has the tone of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that vivid, robust tone from the turn of the century. Poole’s not as polemic or biased as Upton Sinclair (whom I do like). The middle class and upper class views are presented honestly. It was amazing and sad to see how work and life on the harbor got harder when sailing ships were replaced by bigger steel ships.

Poole was the first writer to get a Pulitzer Prize, which he got for his second novel, The Family. From what I’ve read The Harbor‘s the better book and the new prize wanted the author of The Harbor to get credit for the fine writing in that book.

I’ve got that joy of discovering a new favorite writer whose every book I want to read. I’ll get to The Family after I finish his Giants Gone about “the men who made Chicago,” which I’m getting from the library this morning.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in American Lit, classic

 

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Gypsy Scholars, Migrant Teachers and the Global Academic Proletariat: Adjunct Labour in Higher Education

This is the first time I’m posting on a book I haven’t read. It’s edited by my friend Steffen. It costs $64. Otherwise I would buy it and review it. The topic is germane to those in higher education.

Once adjunct teaching was considered a temporary solution to faculty shortages in institutions of higher education. Now it is a permanent and indispensable feature of such institutions, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. This book takes stock of this new development, concentrating primarily on the situation in the humanities. It looks at its impact on the lives of the highly-educated scholars and teachers from many parts of the world; scholars waking up to the sobering fact that higher education presents them with a two-tiered labor market in which they themselves are permanently barred from moving up to the higher tier. To them, being an adjunct teacher means experiencing frustration and humiliation. All essays in this book offer personal accounts of adjuncts’ experiences together with critical reflections on institutional conditions and suggestions for their improvement. In turn defiant, poignant, analytical, exasperated, and sardonic, these essays are always incisive and revealing. Their inside view-a view from below-shows higher education as a world different from how it appears to tenured professors and university administrators, different from that presented in most college brochures. For all those who care about the current state and the future of higher education-no matter if they are teachers, scholars, students, parents, or administrators-this book will offer valuable insights into the working world of academic teaching.
I will get it, used or when the price comes down.

They should unionize . . . though in this anti-labor era it ain’t gonna happen.

I do think there are other ways to bring down the cost of education. High schools can pay most teachers more, so it seems that they can find a way to do so in college.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in non-fiction

 

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