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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Union Dues

Union Dues - John Sayles

John Sayles is so fabulous at capturing the history of a people and making its politics tangible. His most recent work, the epic A Moment in the Sun, pulled me in completely with its focus on the dawn of the 20th century. In this earlier work, Union Dues, Sayles captures so much of the time-specific visuals he rendered in A Moment…, but moves it nearly seventy years later, to the radical 1960s. 

Union Dues tackles labor and revolution. As someone who is deeply interested in the 1960s group known as the Weathermen, I enjoyed this book's nods to the group. Though Sayles used the fictitious Third Way, a group that aims to be less radical than other revolutionary groups (e.g. The Weathermen), he captures the inner workings and sentiments in a way that is convincing. Between the dialogue and the action, Sayles forms a story that is quite believable and breathes naturally.

Wrestling with politics, class, and generational issues, Union Dues asks some tough questions. It lacks the scope, the sheer brilliance of A Moment in the Sun, and perhaps some of its organic growth, but it is an excellent story on its own, particularly for those interested in the era.