“He may be an asshole, but when he’s your asshole, that’s a very good thing.” Garet Bosiger. A wonderful book that is about the past, the present and the possibilities of the future. It’s a reality check for the global economic theories of the 21st century that look good on paper, and even make sense intellectually, but don’t really factor in the consequences on real people living in communities built on a single manufacturing industry.
As a lifelong Virginian, born in Galax and raised in Southwest Virginia, I savored every detail that author Beth Macy brought to this story. It is a portrait of a strong man, John D. Bassett III, who inherited both the privilege and the responsibility of a family owned furniture business. His analogy of being the only girl left on a deserted island with 12 men crops up several times in the book and illustrates his focus on making certain that Vaughan-Bassett was the furniture manufacturer left standing at the end of the day.
I can’t say enough about the skilled research and writing that went into this book. Beth Macy comes from a manufacturing community in Ohio where her mother worked in a factory making lights for airplanes. She made her home, geographically and journalistically, in Roanoke, Virginia, working for the Roanoke Times. The book grew out of a series of articles she did for the Roanoke Times on the plant closings throughout Southwest Virginia – which was once the economic engine of the Commonwealth in the early to mid 20th century. She credits the photos of freelance photographer Jared Soares for inspiring that series of articles. It was his images of Martinsville and the people living there that made Beth Macy go searching for the answers to what happened there and why.