THE LONG TUNNEL: A Coal Miner's Journal by Meade Arble

THE LONG TUNNEL: A Coal Miner's Journal

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Strapped for money, with a wife, two kids, and another child due, Arble, a doctor's college-educated son, returned to the small Pennsylvania mining town where he had grown up to take a job underground. The mines paid well; the family could save, get established. So began his year in the long tunnel. He worked alongside men who'd been underground 20 years and were eking out the time to a pension and black lung disability. He worked with kids just out of high school who deluded themselves into believing theirs would be a short stay. He recorded it all in this bleak bedrock journal: the wheezing and coughing in the airless heat; the cramps in his legs after a day spent kneeling in a foot of cold water, shoveling coal; the ""hoot owl"" shift that turned him into ""a maniac""; scuttling like a crab under a 42"" roof; battling the underground rats at lunch break; hitting the neon-lit bars afterward; the work stoppages, sick days and strikes that ate up the hypothetical savings. He talks to Clive, the arthritic miner with four missing front teeth; to Pam and Helen whose presence underground rattled the men. Proud and battered, he is full of barely-repressed anger, though not given to editorializing or bathos (""self-pity was a revolting indulgence""). His detailed, observant book on the country's most hazardous work rivals George Vecsey's One Sunset a Week (1974). Arble got the hell out after a year's time. A good thing too: he's a born journalist.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum