Book Review: Rust: The Longest War.

At the library, I saw this book on an endcap, calling to me like a rusty tractor implement in the weeds. I couldn’t believe it: someone actually wrote a book, a whole full-length book, about rust–and a legit publisher, like Simon and Schuster, actually published it. I’m glad they did because Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman was an interesting read, though, full disclosure, I’ve invested a lot in rusty farm equipment over the years so I might be a little biased.

Apparently, rust is considered bad by most people who don’t enjoy working on broke-down farm machinery or getting tetanus shots. Also, from reading this book, I learned that most people don’t like rust-flavored drinks, which is why the formulas for aluminum can coatings are guarded like state secrets–that, and most can coatings contain BPA (a factoid that can companies want to keep under wraps). BPA is that pesky chemical that is probably doing bad things to my body right now because I drink entirely too many Diet Cokes straight from the can.

Anyway, this book has lots of rust-related stories. The author actually infiltrated Ball’s Can School (the company that makes Ball canning jars also makes most of the aluminum cans for drink companies, who woulda thunk?) in which drink industry people, most of whom are mustachioed, get together and learn about the complexities of aluminum cans.

The author also tells the story of the eccentric guy who created stainless steel and details a group of brave Department of Defense employees who saved taxpayers a lot of money by promoting rust prevention over rust repair. The author calls this group the “Rusketeers.” Kudos to Jonathan Waldman for thinking of rusketeers and writing a good read on rust.

“On a quiet night, you can hear a Ford rust.”

From Rust: the Longest War

My rusty Ford 4610.

Book Review: Flat Broke with Two Goats

At the library, I stumbled upon Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer Mcgaha. I thought the title indicated something in the agrarian humor genre. I thought wrong. This book is a bluntly honest memoir, recipes included–think Ron Rash’s Appalachian grittiness sprinkled into Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The setting is rural western North Carolina. At times, the subject matter, which includes a vivid description of domestic abuse, is intense and heart-rending. But once chickens and goats arrive on the premises, the story takes an uplifting turn. The writing is top-notch, with a poetic rhythm; here’s a passage:  

“My grandmother grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina, and in her recollections, farm life was never idyllic. The work was backbreaking and constant, food hard to come by. On frigid winter mornings, she woke covered with snow that had drifted through the slats  in the bedroom walls. Still, her stories made me dream of the three-room log cabin in which she was raised, of her nine brothers and sisters, of the mother who cooked dinner for twelve on a woodstove, of the father who spent his days plowing fields and hoeing potatoes, tending cows and hogs and chickens.”