Last week we finished Jamie Sayens’s You Had a Job for Life: Story of a Company Town at table. Those of you who have been following this blog for a few years know that there are certain genres of non-fiction that we read frequently for table reading. In addition to all manner of Catholic fare we do have a tradition of reading many histories, especially presidential biographies. A small genre that we occasionally read has to do with works about New Hampshire. We read a book about a German POW camp in Stark , NH [before I started blogging] and then another work more recently about the sweepstakes in NH. The Sayens book falls into this category.
The town of Groveton, NH had had a paper mill since the nineteenth century and Jamie Sayens, through both documentary and oral history, captures the life of that paper mill, and a plus-one-century old paper machine, and its employees until the plant’s closure in 2008. The narrative picks up steam as the author moves through the decades, especially as we get to know individual employees and their characters well when he, Sayens, moves into his conversations with living former employees of the mill.
While the book worked well for our table, I’m not sure how well it would transfer to monastic table reading for non-New Hampshire monasteries. It also would require a fair bit of editing, as some of the former employees use rather (ahem) colorful language in their descriptions of their time at the mill.
Also a candidate for heavy editing would be a gruesome section that dealt with industrial accidents at the mill where employees were maimed or even died on the job. One especially unnerving description of the death of an employee occurred at the end of our table reading one day. It was thus repeated at the beginning of the following meal (as per our custom). The employee describing it (p.50) said, “It was horrifying… I didn’t eat for a few days afterwards.” And yet we, the monks not the paper mill employees, all kept dining, though perhaps a bit paler, through this description!