Shop Auto Winter Products Salon Beauty Magazine Deals Black Friday Deals Week nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Listen for a chance to win Electronics Gift Guide Starting at $39.99 Grocery Handmade Gift Shop Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon Prime member deal on Amazon Video: 50% off select Pixar movie rentals Prime member deal on Amazon Video: 50% off select Pixar movie rentals Prime member deal on Amazon Video: 50% off select Pixar movie rentals  Three new members of the Echo family Save $50 on All-New Fire HD 10. Limited-time offer. $30 off Kindle Paperwhite GNO Shop Now HTL17_gno

Customer Review

on July 20, 2009
Ever loved a song so much, you wish it had been written by a better band? That's what reading this book is like: Venkatesh gets three stars on the strength of his premise alone, but it only takes him about 4 chapters to spoil what he began. Here's what you can expect, once that 100 page honeymoon is over...

1.) Dialogue so false it makes George Lucas sound like a naturalistic writer. No disclaimer can excuse the dead ear Venkatech reveals whenever called upon to recount spoken words. The people with whom he interacts are voiced as sitcom-level caricatures; we meet the wise old woman who takes no guff, the insecure young tough, the smooth elder thug who maintains his rep with almost professional detachment, etc.

2.) A total lack of Academic responsibility. I'm not talking, as others have, about the moral questions raised by the author's witness of so many crimes - that's something you either forgive or not, before picking up the book. I'm talking about the fact that, for any given phenomenon, he only really entertains one theory, or one frame of explanation. The view of ghetto life he formed in the classroom is not one he's prepared to change, and he's really only interested in gathering details to fill out that view. But such is the problem - if you're not ready to change your mind on fundamental questions, then don't call it "research".

3.) An often shocking whiff of upper-middle class condescension. There is no easy way to this, so I'll just say it: the author treats his mostly black subjects with a smugness that is sometimes quite disgusting. It's a disguised, liberal kind of smugness, but it reveals what kind of expectations Venkatesh brought with him to the experience. He fawns over his subjects (never worse than with Ms. Bailey) so excessively, that it can only be the product of genuine surprise. Time and again, he seems to say: "Look at these wretches, how startling and cute it is when they say something clever!"

Now, in writing this I probably picked up a bit of steam, and overstated my case. No doubt about that, but in the interest of balancing so much uncritical praise, I'll let this stand...
96 helpful votes
97 helpful votes
|
11 comment|Report abuse| Permalink
What's this?

What are product links?

In the text of your review, you can link directly to any product offered on Amazon.com. To insert a product link, follow these steps:
1. Find the product you want to reference on Amazon.com
2. Copy the web address of the product
3. Click Insert product link
4. Paste the web address in the box
5. Click Select
6. Selecting the item displayed will insert text that looks like this: [[ASIN:014312854XHamlet (The Pelican Shakespeare)]]
7. When your review is displayed on Amazon.com, this text will be transformed into a hyperlink, like so:Hamlet (The Pelican Shakespeare)

You are limited to 10 product links in your review, and your link text may not be longer than 256 characters.