Waiting for Nothing and Other Writings
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Waiting for Nothing and Other Writings

Title Details

Pages: 312

Illustrations: 2 b&w photos, 6 illus.

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.250in



Pub Date: 08/05/2004

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2368-8

List Price: $34.95

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FICTION / Literary

Waiting for Nothing and Other Writings

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  • Description
  • Reviews

In "Waiting for Nothing" and Other Writings, the works of the depression-era writer Tom Kromer are collected for the first time into a volume that depicts with searing realism life on the bum in the 1930s and, with greater detachment, the powerless frustration of working-class people often too locked in to know their predicament.Waiting for Nothing, Kromer's only completed novel, is largely autobiographical and was written at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in California. It tells the story of one man drifting through America, east coast to west, main stem to side street, endlessly searching for "three hots and a flop"—food and a place to sleep. Kromer scans, in first-person voice, the scattered events, the stultifying sameness, of "life on the vag"—the encounters with cops, the window panes that separate hunger and a "feed," the bartering with prostitutes and homosexuals.

In "Michael Kohler," Kromer's unfinished novel, the harsh existence of coal miners in Pennsylvania is told in a committed, political voice that reveals Kromer's developing affinity with leftist writers including Lincoln Steffens and Theodore Dreiser. An exploration of Kromer's proletarian roots, "Michael Kohler" was to be a political novel, a story of labor unions and the injustices of big management. Kromer's other work ranges from his college days, when he wrote a sarcastic expose of the bums in his hometown titled "Pity the Poor Panhandler: $2 an Hour Is All He Gets," to the sensitive pieces of his later life—short stories, articles, and book reviews written more out of an aching understanding of suffering than from the slick formulas of politics.

Waiting for Nothing remains, however, Kromer's most powerful achievement, a work Steffens called "realism to the nth degree." Collected here as the major part of Kromer's oeuvre, Waiting for Nothing traces the author's personal struggle to preserve human virtues and emotions in the face of a brutal and dehumanizing society.

A vagrant during the worst years of the Great Depression, Kromer here depicts with intense realism the lives of the era's utterly disenfranchised. In his episodic, autobiographical novel about 'life on the vag,' the protagonist rides the boxcars from one end of the country to the other in search of 'three hots and a flop.' . . . Although Kromer's tone is restrained, his spare portrayals of the era and its people are affecting.

Publishers Weekly

About the Author/Editor

TOM KROMER (1906-1969), the son of an immigrant coal miner and a glass-factory worker, was born in Huntington, West Virginia. Forced by lack of funds to cut his college career short, Kromer headed west in a fruitless search for work in 1929. He spent the subsequent five years roaming America by rail, living the tenuous life of a bum. The ordeal ruined Kromer's health. He struggled with tuberculosis for the rest of his life, growing steadily more reclusive until his death.