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Left-Handed Monkey Wrench: Stories and…
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Left-Handed Monkey Wrench: Stories and Essays (1986)

by Richard McKenna

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One of my favorite books (and movies) is Richard McKenna’s ‘The Sand Pebbles.’ Unfortunately, McKenna died before he could complete any more novels. This book ‘The Left-Handed Monkey Wrench’ is a collection of McKenna’s short stories, essays, and chapters from his uncompleted second novel, ‘The Sons of Martha.’

The book consists of three parts. The first third consists of three short stories, each about life in the engine room of Navy ships stationed in or around China in the 1930s, and they each deal with the tension that comes when knowledge comes in conflict with rank and experience.

The second third consists of three essays. The third one is especially noteworthy. It is titled ‘The Wreck of Uncle Josephus’ and is a short biography of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels during the Woodrow Wilson administration. McKenna’s main interest in all his works is the triumph of the common man. In this article, he outlines the change in status that occurred with the common sailor during the tenure of Josephus Daniels, and he credits the change to Daniels.

The final third of the book consists of four chapters from ‘The Sons of Martha,’ his unfinished second novel. Similar to ‘The Sand Pebbles,’ this story concerns a young sailor working in the engineering department of a Navy ship. While the four chapters are not enough to figure out the overarching view of the story, each chapter stands alone in detailing the life of the young protagonist as he learns his trade and adjusts to Navy life.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read and liked ‘The Sand Pebbles.’ ( )
  ramon4 | Nov 18, 2016 |
anyone who has been to sea will understand the image of a lefthanded wrench. This book contains several short stories where the seeds of the "Sand Pebbles" can be seen. Also a lecture and several chapters of the book he was writing when he died. ( )
  usnmm2 | Mar 24, 2007 |
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