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Literature / The Pushcart War

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A satirical Young Adult novel, told in the style of a Faux Documentary, by Jean Merrill, about the "war" between trucking companies who want the streets of New York City to themselves, and the pushcart owners, who come up with a plan to shoot the trucks' tires with peashooters, proving who is really destroying traffic. Hilarity, involving a botched photography contest, a tax on tacks, a mediocre student in secretarial school, gangs of children, a bulletproof Italian car and a movie star named Wenda Gambling, ensues.


This book contains examples of:

  • Big Badass Rig: The truck companies have three sizes of trucks: the smallest (about the size of trucks today), all the way up to Mighty Mammoths, Ten-Ton Tigers and Leaping Lemas.
  • Cool Old Lady: General Anna, who pops the truck tires by hand and is remarkably successful, thanks to looking like a harmless granny who's just looking for something that fell on the ground.
  • Corrupt Politician: Mayor Emmett P. Cudd.
  • Creator Cameo: Jean Merrill is one of the people who wrote letters to the editor in the story.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Frank the Flower has a crocheted dartboard with pictures of trucks in his cell, with knitting needles substituting for darts.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Large corporations in New York City pushing small businesses out of work so they can become "too big to fail," met by ragtag resistance? Tony Kushner, the writer of Angels in America, claimed that the novel predicted the events of Occupy Wall Street several decades in advance.
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  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Played for laughs. After the pushcart vendors use their pea shooters to take out the tires of the large trucks, they listen to a news report which details the outcome. The report includes a woman claiming to have been hit by one of the pea shooters. Maxie asks the group "Who missed?" Harry the Hot Dog says indignantly that he didn't miss, but the lady had insulted his hot dogs, and he couldn't resist.
  • Five-Token Band: Justified — many of the pushcart owners are recent immigrants who would naturally have a bigger stake in the war.
  • Fruit Cart: Lots, given the setting, and lots of plowing through them, again given the setting. At the end of the book, about two hundred pushcarts of all varieties are blocking the street as a protest to try to end the titular "war". A truck driver who has a grudge against one of the vendors deliberately drives through the blockade. Then, for bonus points, a pushcart axle goes through his windshield and he loses control and plows into a cafeteria window.
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  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The Big Three concoct a plot to assassinate Maxie Hammerman, the Pushcart King. Maxie gets word of this, and brings the Police Commissioner to their secret poker and/or plotting meeting. At the meeting, he tells the Commissioner that while he and the Big Three have their differences, they still get together every so often for a friendly gambling match. The Big Three quickly figure out what he's doing, but they can't do anything with the Commissioner right there. Maxie ends up winning a lot of their money, as well as the bulletproof Italian car they were going to use for the job.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The mayor who's in the trucking companies' pocket tries convincing everyone not to oppose the trucks by stating that they stood for progress and also delivered a lot of good things like peanut butter. So if you were against the trucks, you were against progress. You might even be against peanut butter. And no decent person could be against peanut butter!
  • Pop the Tires: The pushcarters get revenge on trucks by using pea-shooters to shoot pins at their tires. Although they aim at parked/stuck-in-traffic trucks to keep them stopped; they avoid shooting at people or deliberately causing an accident.
  • Taking the Heat: Frank the Flower is caught shooting at tires, and in order to protect the rest of the pushcart owners claims he shot all 18,991 of the downed trucks himself because he's a crackpot. It actually works.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: After its initial press run, later editions have bumped up the date of the book from 1976 to 1986, 1998, and now 2029.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The book is a satirical interpretation of the Revolutionary War, with the pushcarts as the colonies and the trucks as the British.


Example of: