With it came the geographic isolation of the old factory lands from national prosperity, and the alienation of the former factory classes from the mainstream of British and American life. Furnaces lost their fires and smokestacks crashed to the ground. Industrial towns and cities grew ruinous — far too grand for the little business they now contained. The US lost roughly 5m manufacturing jobs between and , while the UK lost , from to — adding in each country to the millions that had vanished in the previous three or four decades.
An idea of the future also disappeared. And yet ever since the Lombe brothers opened their silk mill in Derby in , a brighter view of the factory has always persisted. Daniel Defoe saw this mill as a modern marvel, reacting to a visit there with a great explosion of facts the machinery had 26, wheels and could produce ,, yards of silk thread every 24 hours , starting a tradition of awe-inspiring numbers that continues to this day in China, where it can take an hour to walk from one side of a factory to the other, and where in , at peaks of production, , workers were employed to make iPhones in a factory complex in Zhengzhou.
But the truth was that factories produced a kind of dualism — a love-hate relationship — in the public mind, especially after they switched their power source from waterwheels to steam engines, and coal smoke began to blacken the swelling industrial towns.
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Other writers, however, saw well regulated factories as agents of social progress. It was the factory worker, after all, who drew the concern of politicians — parliament passed five Factory Acts between and — while the often harsher conditions of agricultural labourers, domestic servants and coal miners went ignored.
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Of course, British industrial production continued to develop long after those inventions, but the main thrust of factory history moved elsewhere — beyond Europe, to the US and the Soviet Union before its most recent incarnation in China, which, with the increased use of robotics, may be the last society shaped by the factory as a mass employer. Women have a prominent place in this story, most notably after the factory crossed the Atlantic to New England, where cotton mills were set up on riverbanks that were often far from any large settlement.
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Separated from urban temptation and powered by water until after the civil war — coal deposits were inconveniently located — they enjoyed a more wholesome reputation than their smoky British ancestors. Like British textile factories, they depended on female labour to operate the machinery, while men took the better paid jobs in management and maintenance.
Paternalistic mill owners did their best to create a moral and improving atmosphere; the Lowell mills in Massachusetts even published a magazine of poetry and fiction for its workers. If this first installment is anything to go by, it has all the hallmarks of a promising new project.
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Prepare to be transported. He believes in the stories they tell. While the roster of writers included in the first issue is impressive—in addition to Mr. Keret, Ms. Carson, Mr. McCann and Mr. Freeman has assembled a thoughtful and profoundly accessible collection of work that connects our vulnerabilities, our expectations and our hopes. Perfect reading for our ever-accelerating times. Every piece in this collection has the potential to make jaded readers happy.
You need very little time to read each piece but they linger exactly as Freeman intended they should. The first issue takes up the theme of arrival, with short nonfiction, fiction and poetry by Louise Erdrich, Haruki Murakami, Dave Eggers, Lydia Davis and Aleksandar Hemon, who contributes a funny and touching piece about his Bosnian immigrant parents making a home in Canada.
This essay deserves as much exposure as anything published on black life in America this year. Listening for its pulse from one page to the next encourages dual enjoyment, first with each individual piece, and then the pieces in conversation. Reading Arrival feels like sitting in an airport cafe eavesdropping on the conversations of fellow travellers—journeys beginning and ending, lives intersecting and diverging; a group of people brought together by transit, but united through storytelling: that most human of impulses. The result is a fascinating read.
The ordering of material is carefully and artfully handled.
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Kafuku had been looking out the window at the passing scenery, lost in thought. He turned to her in surprise. They had been driving around together for two months, and rarely had she initiated a conversation. I wanted to play baseball. So I figured, what the heck, l might as well take a stab at something new.
I wanted to spend more time with that girl, too. Performing allowed me to be someone other than myself. And I could revert back when the performance ended.
I really loved that. Kafuku thought for a moment. No one had asked him that before. They were heading for the Takebashi exit on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, and the road was jammed. They were silent for a while.