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Book Review March 6, 2002
How I Harrassed The Working Class
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 6 of 6
Daniels' first three volumes of chopped prose memoirs were "daring" and "raw." That is, he put in things that pass for daring among Quakers: he titled his first collection M-80 and writes poems with titles like "4th of July in the Factory" -- geddit? Patriotism vs. grim working-class scene? Whooo! Just as daring as it would've been in 1902! And "Union Man" -- the kind of titles that gets you blurbs from John Sayles! And "the Foreman's Booth"! It's like you were back in some heartwarming American industrial slum -- a landscape which has become more comforting and pleasant with every decade, as it recedes into myth.

And after three "raw" and "daring" books, Daniel did the perfectly-timed blissout. "Blissout" as in "sellout to bliss." Why not? By this time he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University -- named after a couple of certified working-class guys and funded to match. And that's how we get his latest book with its odes to calmness and babies and blue sky. You gotta time the sellout: Judge did it, making the loathsome King of the Hill as atonement for his one decent moment in Beavis and Butthead; and now, for an audience far tinier and dumber than Judge's, this fake Union Man does the same move, discovering that once you have tenure and a baby and a's kinda OK. And he sees that as a revelation, a spiritual epiphany.

It wears me out. There are millions of them, and they will never stop. All you can do is fire useless rubber bands at them.

So I did. I sent this email to the organizer of the "Jim Daniel, Working-Class Poet" conference:

The key things to remember about Jim Daniels are

  1. 1. He can't write.
  2. 2. Most of his poems were featured on SNL's "Deep Thoughts" years ago.
  3. 3. "working class" functions as permission for sentimentality.

There -- and in MUCH less than 500 words!

John Dolan English Department
University of Otago
New Zealand

There were two email addresses given, so I sent that message to both. And got two very interesting replies, which I append here in the interests of science:

Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 18:18:23 -0500 (EST)
To: John Dolan <>
Subject: Re: CFP: Working Class poet Jim Daniels (1/20/02; ALA,
From: "Sean Thomas Dougherty" <>
X-scanner: scanned by Inflex 1.0.9 - (
MIME-Version: 1.0
you obviously have nothing better to do,
On Wed, 16 Jan 2002 11:51:35 +1300, John Dolan wrote:
> The key things to remember about Jim Daniels are
> 1. He can't write.
> 2. Most of his poems were featured on SNL's "Deep Thoughts" years ago.
> 3. "working class" functions as permission for sentimentality.
> There -- and in MUCH less than 500 words!
> John Dolan
> English Department
> University of Otago
> Dunedin
> New Zealand
Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 17:39:51 -0800
To: John Dolan <>
From: Renny Christopher <>
Subject: Re: Jim Daniels
X-scanner: scanned by Inflex 1.0.9 - (
My mama taught me if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say
anything. Saying nothing, in your case, would have been far
preferable. The cfp was a serious call for submissions for a
scholarly conference, not a call for snide abuse of the poet, of me,
or of anything else. I don't give a good goddamn who you do think can
write, but I doubt you and I will agree on anything except, I hope,
this one request I make of you -- leave me the hell alone now and
Renny Christopher
>The key things to remember about Jim Daniels are

>1. He can't write.
>2. Most of his poems were featured on SNL's "Deep Thoughts" years ago.
>3. "working class" functions as permission for sentimentality.

>There -- and in MUCH less than 500 words!

>John Dolan
>English Department
>University of Otago
>New Zealand

If only I had time to tell you about my two interlocutors, Renny "Carpenter's Daughter" Christopher and Sean "The Stepson" Geraghty! Alas, their working-class credentials are rather wordy.

Since a colleague of mine at this off-world university likes Flann O'Brien, I sent him some of Daniel's work with an allusion to Jem Casey, "Poet of the Pick and Bard of Booterstown." (If you don't get the allusion you haven't read At Swim-Two-Birds; and if you haven't read that, get lost.)

Well, that was it. Harassment proceedings were in session. I had pissed off the working class but good. And as you'd expect from these hard, simple men, retaliation was swift. But not quite in the form you might expect. Did they challenge me to fists'n'boots on the fact'ry floor? Nah. Did they offer to shove an M-80 up my ass and make me into a performance piece titled "4th of July on the Eastern Front"? Alas, no. Did they pitch in for a ticket to New Zealand to do Riverdance in hobnails on me mug? (fer y'see we're all Oirish-American heeere, we be, O aye! As Oirish as Bugs Bunny, or perhaps not quite so much.)

Alas no. Remember the key rule: if you can deploy the term "working class" to your own career advantage, you are no longer covered by the term. And these boyos -- more Oirish stuff, y'see? "boyos" is an Oirish workin'-class term of a thing, an' roight off the mean streets of the Oirish quarter o'Pleasant Hill, CA I be, aye and begorrah! -- these boyos, as I were sayin', they have washed the wuurkin' class roight off of'em!

In other words, they did the last thing any working class person would do, and the first thing a sleazy academic snitch would do: they got on Netscape, looked me up, found out the name of my superior, and sent him a formal complaint accusing me of harassment. Here 'tis now in all its glory:

Dear Professor Alistair Fox (Assistant Vice-Chancellor),

This is an official complaint against one of your faculty, one John Dolan. A few days ago a colleage of mine Prof Renny Christopher, issued a call for papers on the Working Class Studies email list. Since then I have received a number of harassing and taunting emails from your faculty member.
I would like them to stop immediately. Could you please take care of this matter.
In the United States we have very specific harassment laws regarding email. These laws are based on the laws against unwanted and harassing phone calls.
Thank you for your action to resolve this matter before it goes any further.

Sean Thomas Dougherty
English Dept
501 Station Road
Penn State Erie
Erie, PA 16563-1501
W# (814) 898-6069

Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 12:55:52 +1300
To: "Sean Thomas Dougherty" <> (by way of Rachael Cameron Humanities)
From: Alistair Fox <>
Subject: Re: Harassment Complaint against your faculty: John Dolan

Dear Mr Dougherty,
I have forwarded your complaint to the Head of the Department of English, Associate Professor Chris Ackerley, with a request for him to take the matter up with Dr Dolan.
Without having seen the content of the emails that have occasioned your complaint, together with Dr Dolan's comments on them, it is impossible for me to ascertain the validity of the complaint. The most I can say is that the University of Otago expects its staff to observe the same standards of professional conduct in their dealings with members of the wider international academic community as those required in their dealing with colleagues on this campus. These standards are outlined in the University of Otago's Ethical Behaviour Policy, which may be found on the web at

Yours sincerely
Alistair Fox
Assistant Vice-Chancellor
Division of Humanities
P.O. Box 56
University of Otago
Dunedin, New Zealand
Phone: 64 3 479-8672
Fax: 64 3 479-5024

And that, boyo, is how I came to be the pitiful figure you see before ye, a convicted harasser of the wuurkin' classes and a tormentor o'the labuurin' masses, black wi'sin as Mary in a coal mine an' damned ta Hell fur all the masses a wuurkin' class priest could sing fer me puuuur benighted sowl.

And proud of it.

[Editor's note: The eXile contacted "working class poet" Jim Daniels by telephone to ask him if he felt that Doughtery's outrageous attempt to destroy Dr. Dolan's academic career was justified, and how did he feel about being the catalyst for Doughtery's sleaze? Daniels, in a slow, harmless, NPR-type voice, very cautiously asked to see the contents of Dr. Dolan's slight against him and Doughtery's subsequent snitching to Dr. Dolan's superiors. When asked if he thought it was right to ruin someone's career simply because he'd belittled a conference paper's subject, he did admit that "it seems a little too much" on Dougherty's part. After we emailed Daniels the string of emails between Dolan, Dougherty et al, along with a request for comment, "working class poet" Daniels sent us this bloody-knuckled, axle-grease stained reply:

-- -- -Original Message -- -- -
From: Jim Daniels <>
To: Editor <>
Date: Sunday, February 03, 2002 12:51 AM
Subject: Re: interview request

Dear Mr. Ames,

While I appreciate you taking the time to send these messages to me, after reading them, I still find that my only response is: "No comment."

Jim Daniels

Our response to that Mack-truck-and-meatloaf-powered email:


I expected something a little rougher from a working-class poet and author of "M-80". This "no-comment" sounds more like an Enron thing.

Mark Ames

Daniels may claim to give voice to the voiceless, but when it comes to something as offering a simple comment on sleazy snitches like Dougherty, calling them for the loathsome pieces of shit that they are, Daniels finds himself utterly voiceless. Daniels has found solidarity with his new class -- thin-skinned, tenured academics at third-rate institutions. They may not be voiceless, but they are spineless.

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