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The Corner Hardcover – September 2, 1997
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This startling look at desperate, drug-addled inner-city lives ranks as one of the grittiest--and best--examinations of underclass America available. Like Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here and Leon Dash's Rosa Lee, The Corner shines light on a horrific subculture of addiction, crime, dependency, and violence. Authors David Simon (who wrote Homicide, the book that inspired the TV series of the same name) and Edward Burns (a former cop) are muckraking reporters who operate in the finest tradition of American journalism. They spent an entire year on the corner of Fayette and Monroe in West Baltimore, getting to know its open-air drug market and its people. Although the authors present strong evidence that the so-called war on drugs cannot be won, The Corner has no political agenda. It is simply a powerful testament to the bleak situation confronting many urban neighborhoods. At once deeply unsettling and extremely rewarding, this humane book deserves a wide audience.
From Library Journal
This portrayal of a year in drug-crazed west Baltimore will satisfy neither readers looking for a perceptive witness to the urban crisis nor those in search of social analysis. Simon (Homicide, LJ 6/1/91), a crime reporter, and Burns, a Baltimore police veteran and public school teacher, mask their presence in the scene with an omniscient style that strains credibility, and the chronological framework blunts the impact of their most compelling themes. The authors salute the courageous but futile efforts of individual parents, educators, and police officers but deny the possibility of a social solution to the devastation they acknowledge is rooted in social policy. A more compelling account is Our America: Life and Death (LJ 6/1/97) on the South Side of Chicago, based on interviews conducted by 13-year-old public housing residents LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman in 1993. For larger public libraries. (Photos not seen..
-?Paula Dempsey, Loyola Univ., Chicago
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Corner" is kind of a 30 year sequel to the well received "Talley's Corner". The problem is, this current version of the urban street corner makes Talley's hangout seem downright utopia.
"The Corner" is an ambitious project that took several years to write. Roughly half the book is spent in the trenches, that is, on urban Baltimore's drug and poverty infested streets where drugs infiltrate every facet of life. One particular family is loosely followed over a number of years and, I guess, possible spoiler alert, nothing ends well for them. There is no happy ending, no salvation, no hope. On the slightest of bright sides, the concern, compassion, and empathy the writers feel for their subjects is apparent. But, as a famous person once said, or maybe I said it, what can one (or in this case two) person do? Trillions of dollars have been spent on improving our urban slums and the reality is that nothing works.
The other portion of the book is a detailed account of what historically happened or 'went wrong'. This portion of the book is a history of the failed infrastructure of decaying urban America. Different sections of the book critically examine the various structures that are supposed to support and enhance the lives of citizens: the police force, economic development, health care, public education, etc., etc. If this sounds familiar, well it is. This book, and its writers, provided the impetus for the wildly successful television show "The Wire".
Yes, I finished the book. And after reading the book I immersed myself in the television show. Ultimately though, I was left with a feeling that seldom occurs on my various reading endeavors.
A total absence of hope.
David Simon and Edward Burns portray a year in the life of a drug-ravaged West Baltimore neighborhood -- "the corner" -- represented primarily by Fayette and Monroe streets, the site of one of numerous open-air drug markets in the area. But "the corner" is also an entity, in Simons' and Burns' telling, a being that draws residents to it, demands their money and daily commitment and ultimately consumes them in their daily quest for a "blast."
A clutch of characters the two reporters followed live at the heart of this big, vital book. Fran Boyd and Gary McCullough, each addicts, are parents to DeAndre McCullough, a teenager slipping toward the corner. In the course of the year DeAndre fathers a child with 14-year-old Tyreeka Freamon, ultimately all but abandoning them. Various members of DeAndre's crew and "touts" for the dealers slide in and out of the narrative, many of them drifting toward death or prison.
There is also a moving portrayal of Ella Thompson, a stubborn organizer of community resources who struggles mightily to wrest the underlying humanity she still sees in her neighborhood to the surface.
Throughout the book the authors keep the reader teetering on a razor's edge of fear and very slim hope. The people who inhabit "The Corner" are damaged people. As a middle-class person I found myself disappointed and angry when DeAndre blows off a job for no good reason or Fran struggles bravely toward kicking her habit but falls back or the tout "Fat Curt," gravely ill, fails to adhere to the medical care he so desperately needs. And we wonder why Gary, one of many members of a solid, hardworking family and a man who had gained a large measure of success and security in his life slid into an abyss of addiction.
"The Corner" is not without a point of view on this subject. The book is an indictment of the futility of the war on drugs, the ineptitude of the public school system and the frankly uncaring attitude of governments at all level toward people they view as expendable in the grand scheme of American life.
This book is painstakingly detailed, a masterpiece of sociological observation, but it is not a old, clinical report of a crumbling neighborhood. The authors look at what they see clearly and unflinchingly and allow the voices of their subjects to shine through. Those voices may make you uncomfortable, they may make you angry, they may make you nod in agreement, they may make you laugh. They are always real, and the authors' connection to them is obvious.
I am afraid that books like the "Corner," which portray urban life in the early and mid-90s, will more than ever be consigned to dusty library corners or the shelves of private collections like my own. Listen to the rhetoric of the 2012 presidential race and it's clear how completely the descendants of the characters on "The Corner" have been marginalized. While we wring our hands about "the middle class," another class continues to struggle, as it has for years, outside our view.
I was grateful for the small ray of hope that emerged at the end of "The Corner." Grateful because it had to fight its way through so many layers of the sadness that is at the heart of this unforgettable book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When I read this the first time, I thought it was one of the most powerful, important books I had read.Read more