Thursday, September 16, 2010

Detroit Noir

Detroit is very much in the news lately. Marginalized. A joke on late night television. It’s constantly viewed as a symbol of all that has gone wrong in the country. Its history and its present state can be read as cautionary tale. Detroit Noir is a collection of seemingly dark short stories by folks who have lived in this former boomtown.

Interestingly, even though it's a noir collection and death and decay are ever present, Detroit Noir reads like a melancholy love story. In so many stories, we see a once vibrant city; characters holding on to memories of the places they grew up, of friends and family that inhabited the city streets; characters playing out the string, because there are no other options. The stories harken back to a time of possibility. It’s a portrait of a city that is home. It may not be an idealized home, but it is home none-the-less.

There are some really great stories here. Gotta make a comment about Megan Abbott, my fave crime writer. She delivers an awesome coming of age story, about the fascination with the wrong side of the tracks.

For what it's worth, Detroit is my hometown. I haven't lived there for over 20 years, but people still ask me what I think of it. In a way, it's not for me to say, but the last couple of times I've been back, there seems to be a lot of energy around revitalizing the city. It seems like a city that is in a "now or never" situation and folks are waking up to the possibilites. There seems to be a lot of exciting and/or radical proposals on the table. Shrinking the city, creating urban farms and the like. Some bold proposals. Will the city have the money to pull any of these ideas off? Will politics as usual spoil what hope remains? Who knows? But my gut says that a vibrancy is ever present. A vibrancy that the outside world does not see or report on in all the ghost town stories told about Detroit in the media at large.

Detroit Noir serves as a more homespun view into the world of a city that has meaning to those who live there.