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American Rust by Philipp Meyer

American Rust (2009)

by Philipp Meyer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,14814910,841 (3.67)165

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English (146)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
I finished reading American Rust just before the talking heads starting talking about the 'rust belt' and talking and talking and talking.

There are places in America that have been forgotten, thousands of towns that have lost the industry that was once at their heart - mills and factories went dark and with that loss of jobs many towns floundered as shops closed and municipalities struggled to maintain infrastruture. Its a difficult situation. Isaac English and Billy Poe are products of a failing town. Isaac has been trapped for four years taking care of his ailing father after his mother died and his sister escaped to college. Billy was a football star in high school and has failed to make anything of himself since.

Isaac decides to finally leave, Billy tags along, and everything that can go wrong goes wrong.

Billy's mother, the town sheriff, and Isaac's sister get involved in the narrative, adding their own tales of woe to an already bleak picture. Not that the novel shouldn't be bleak, but I felt it was missing something - Isaac's journey especially - that prevented it from being more than a frustrating series of events. Timely, but not my bag. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
"Depressing" but I didn't find he characters fleshed out enough to find it super effective. Also (unrelated), the third book I've read this year that involves coal mining. ( )
  Abbey_Harlow | Oct 5, 2017 |
Story of decline in the American Steel Mill in Pennsylvannia and the the families still hanging on. It is a family story and a story of friendship and a story of love. This was Philipp Meyer's debut novel published in 2009. I found the story entertaining though brutal with violence and excessive sexual details I didn't need to enjoy the story. There is some foreshadowing so it is possible to guess the ending though I didn't fully. One reviewer called it a perfect storm of tradgedy. The characters are well crafted but I also felt that the choices made didn't make a lot of sense because, well just because. I don't want to give anything away. It was good, readable, it was called a best novel of 2009 and making some lists like Newsweek and Times, but it really never won any awards and other than being included on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, it really has no other claim to fame.
Rating 3.43 ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Jul 15, 2017 |
this could have been half as long. got bogged down with their constant reflections and waffling thoughts of "should i be good or shouldn't i?" and "does my life or meaning or not?". he's a good story teller though - i kept wanting to find out how it was going to end.
i was also put off a bit by the switching from 3rd to 1st person - again getting inside their heads - especially when it was in the middle of a sentence! ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
Extraordinarily gripping. ( )
  rsb | Jun 20, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
Do people still think in terms of the Great American Novel – a work of fiction that exactly captures the contemporary spirit of the union? If so, American Rust has GAN stamped all over it. In racing terms it’s by Of Mice and Men, out of Huckleberry Finn, ridden by Cormac McCarthy, and trained by Salinger and Kerouac.
added by Widsith | editThe Telegraph, Roger Perkins (May 24, 2009)
[T]he plot is captivating without ever straying into the realm of folksy page-turner. The political message may be obvious - "We're treading backwards as a nation, probably for the first time in history," Bud's boss tells him - but it's a compelling one none the less.
added by Widsith | editThe Observer, Mary Fitzgerald (May 24, 2009)
There are awkward moments in this novel […] but these are fleeting lapses, steamrollered by Mr. Meyer’s instinctive storytelling powers and his ability to create characters who evolve from familiar types into flesh-and-blood human beings. “American Rust” announces the arrival of a gifted new writer — a writer who understands how place and personality and circumstance can converge to create the perfect storm of tragedy.
Meyer's tone is less polemic than John Steinbeck's, but he's working on the same broad scale, using the struggles of a few desperate people to portray the tragedy of life in a place that offers no employment, no chance for improvement.
This novel is in desperate need of an exceptional editor rather than a myth. Amidst all that rust, there’s a good story, a few good characters, and it’s the first book that I’ve read in a long while that deserves to have American in its title; Meyer’s take on what it means to be an average Joe-the-Plumber-American holds promise for his literary future. But a lot of what’s good about American Rust manages to get lost in a bog of unimaginative prose, stereotyped characters and dead-ended subplots.

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philipp Meyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nilsson, NiclasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Falls ein Mensch nicht im Besitz eines ewigen Bewußtseins wäre (…), falls sich unter allem eine bodenlose Leere, niemals gesättigt, verbärge, was wäre das Leben dann anders als Verzweiflung? (Søren Kierkegaard)
(…) was man in Plagen lernt, nämlich daß es an den Menschen mehr zu bewundern als zu verachten gibt. (Albert Camus)
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Für meine Familie
First words
Isaac's mother was dead five years but he hadn't stopped thinking about her.
Isaac overheard his sister tell someone from college: half the people went on welfare and the other half went back to hunting and gathering.
Sarà sempre peggio, amico mio. Le buone azioni non restano impunite.
Odds of you existing — one in ten trillion, no smaller. One to Avogadro's number. 6.022 times 1023. Meanwhile people throw it away.
At seventeen, you’d pick a school based on the nice architecture, or that a professor had smiled at you, or that your best friend was going there—you made choices based on feelings, which were bound, especially at that age, to be arbitrary and ill-formed and rooted mostly in insecurity
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
An Economist Book of the Year (2009), a Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009, a New York Times Notable Book, an Amazon Top 100 Book of 2009, a Kansas City Star Top 100 Book of 2009, and one of Newsweek's "Best. Books. Ever."
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385527519, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2009: Buell, Pennsylvania lies in ruins, a dying--if not already dead--steel town, where even the lush surrounding country seethes with concealed industrial toxins. When Isaac English and Billy Poe--a pair of high-school friends straight out of Steinbeck--embark on a starry-eyed cross-country escape to California, a violent encounter with a trio of transients leaves one dead, prying the lid off a rusted can of failed hope and small-town secrets. American Rust is Philipp Meyer's first novel, and his taut, direct prose strikes the perfect tone for this kaleidoscope of fractured dreams, elevating a book that otherwise might be relentlessly dour to the level of honest and unflinching storytelling. (Interestingly, Meyer has a fan in Patricia Cornwell, who name-checked American Rust in her latest novel, Scarpetta, even though Meyer's book hadn't been released yet.) --Jon Foro

Amazon Exclusive: Philipp Meyer on American Rust

In the late seventies, when I was five, my parents moved us to a blue-collar neighborhood in Baltimore. As was the case with most of the old cities of the northeast, Baltimore was in the throes of a serious social collapse. Any industry you could name was falling apart--steel, ship-building, textiles--not to mention the docks and the port. The middle class was evaporating. Even among the neighborhood kids, there was a sense that things were getting worse, not better.

That neighborhood was called Hampden, a place since immortalized in many of John Waters’s films. Back then, even in Baltimore’s often shoddy public schools, Hampden was not a place you wanted to admit you were from--my brother and I often lied when asked where we lived. There were police cars and ambulances on our street with some frequency, men passed out on the sidewalk. My father, a graduate student, once went outside with his pistol to check on a man whom he thought had been murdered near our house.

Even so, there was a strong community and the people who were able did their best to watch out for each other. These were good people, working people, but in the end that didn’t matter--their jobs had disappeared and they tumbled from the middle class into the ranks of what we now call the “working poor.” It was an early lesson into the way life worked for certain segments of our society.

Many years later, after a long and roundabout route to get into and eventually graduate from college, I ended up taking a job on Wall Street. I was proud of my new job, proud I’d gone from high school dropout to Cornell University graduate to Wall Street trader. Naturally, complications soon arose.

One surprising thing was that while in most of the country the closing of a factory was seen as tragic, on Wall Street it was nearly a cause for celebration. Whatever the company in question, closing an American factory caused their stock price to go up. The more jobs were outsourced, the more the company executives made on their stock options, the more investment bankers racked up multi-million dollar bonuses. Meanwhile, a short distance away, thousands of families were being devastated.

While I still have many close friends on Wall Street, after a few years there I knew it was the wrong path. I cared about people, I cared about their stories, I’d stopped caring about money. After leaving the bank I spent my time writing and working jobs in construction and as an EMT; I moved back in with my parents and lived in their basement. In 2005, I lucked into a writing scholarship at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas, where I wrote the majority of American Rust.

There are thousands of communities in which this book could have taken place, but Pittsburgh and the Monongahela Valley area, where I have many friends and family, seemed like the most natural setting. After thriving for a hundred years, helping to win our wars and build our great cities, the Mon Valley now offers a striking combination of rural beauty and industrial decay. Once the epitome of the American Dream--full of hard-working towns where you could make a name for yourself--the Valley today has the feel of a forgotten place.

This was the backdrop of the story I wanted to tell in American Rust--how events beyond our control can change the way we define our humanity. I think Americans are a tough people, but often our best doesn’t come out until we’re pushed our hardest. This is what I set out to do in the book. I wanted to examine the old American themes of the individual versus society, freedom versus determinism. I wanted to investigate what really makes us human.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Follows the lives of two young men bound by family, inertia, and the ties of home to a dying Pennsylvania steel town, who dream of escaping to California together until one of them accidentally kills a transient and attempts to cover up the crime.

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