Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Hard Times

December 9th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Not to tease too much, but I’m getting really excited ’bout this secret project I’m wrapping up. Details to come shortly, I promise—all should be public right after the New Year, if not a little sooner. In the meantime, though, I can only hint at the nature of the yarn: It involves a son of Appalachia who started off life as a child coal miner, and ended up a much-revered musical legend.

Given how my protagonist spent his formative years, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the hardships faced by coal miners in the early twentieth century. That line of inquiry alerted me to the existence of Misère au Borinage, a silent 1933 documentary often touted as the best coal-mining film of all time. Not sure I agree with that assessment, but it is fascinating to see how Wallonian miners operated during the Great Depression. Suffice to say that ever since seeing clips of this movie, I have felt super-guilty about the relative luxury of my own working life. I’m sure these miners would have killed for paying gigs that entailed sitting in padded chairs and lifting nothing heavier than a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

A comprehensive list of coal-mining films can be found here. Not many comedies on that list.


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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    Nice maps!
    Actually the upper tip of Minnesota is further North than Washington.
    I am often thrown by how far North most of Europe is. The British Isles are North of Minnesota and Florida’s Peninsula is south of Morocco.
    Asia can through me off too, Southern Sri Lanka is the same latitude as northern Sumatra but I always imagine it as further north

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Ah, thanks for the correction. Making the fix now.

  • Captured Shadow

    Oops, commented on the wrong post, sorry Brendan

  • growler

    Hey, did ya ever make it to the coal mine tour in Scranton?

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @growler: Alas, I never did make that happen. Too bad, as I’ve since become ever-more immersed in the history of coal mining. Maybe next spring–the Grand Empress does business out in Reading on occasion, so next time we should make it a family trip.

    Hoping to make it down to Coal Heritage Day in Pocahontas, Va., one of these days, too. Judging by these pictures, looks like I should have no problem finding a seat: