Rust Belt?

I just noticed that Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the New Republic, has a book review posted at TNR Online: Rust Proof. Peretz recommends Growing Up Fast, the first book from documentary film maker Joanna Lipper:

In nearly 400 fast-paced pages of wonderfully evocative prose, much of it in the words of her six subjects, all teen mothers, Lipper has actually conveyed the social and personal history of a growing class of Americans for whom there is little help and less hope. But this class of people has inner lives, and this is what Lipper is so deft at communicating.

Must have made quite an impression for Peretz to review it himself. What is also interesting are the little digs he drops along the way. In describing the rust belt town of Pittsfield, for example, he remarks: “Let’s call contemporary Pittsfield clear evidence of Jack Welch’s industrial statesmanship.” Further along he describes the character’s world and Lipper’s capturing of it:

But in Pittsfield, Kentucky Fried Chicken, with the equivalent of Third World wages and no health care benefits, is an optimal ambition for many. Lipper does not hedge or bow to convention. She tells us what she sees, knows, understands. She follows no party line. She is neither politically correct nor conservatively callous. She tells us the truth as she hears it and grasps it.

A couple things struck me in that paragraph. Are wages at KFC really the equivalent of “third world” wages? If so why is it an optimal goal? I found the assertion that she is “neither politically correct nor conservatively callous” interesting too. Isn’t this a rather unfair stereotype? Are liberals generally PC and conservatives callous, as the sentences seems to imply? I realize it doesn’t have to be read that way but it does sort of hint at it. It read like the middle is the place between overly-sensitive liberals and overly-harsh conservatives.

Perhaps when I read reviews in a political magazine I am overly sensitive to harsh political ideas . . .

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).