Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Report 3/20/14

Completed Reading (nonfiction): Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Much like a book about the fall of Carthage (see Book Report 1/16/14), one about the decline of Detroit is not going to have much of a surprise ending. LeDuff continues to explore the deterioration of the city through a very personal lens, the impact of that decay on the lives of his family and people he has gotten to know in the city. I guess the title of the book is indicative of the story he wants to tell, but it might have been nice to balance the stories about promising young men gunned down in their prime with at least one example of personal achievement. LeDuff explores the history of his own family, how they came to Detroit and found success by hiding their racial identity. He explores the history of the city, and its own deep racial problems. (Fun Fact: In the 1920’s a KKK backed candidate won enough votes to be elected mayor of Detroit, but since it was a write-in campaign, 17,000 ballots were invalidated due to misspellings of the candidate’s name. Which proves that racists have always been morons.) There is a note of hope throughout LeDuff’s narrative, even as he tells one horrible story after another. It seems somewhere deep inside he still believes in his home town. The book ends with a visit to the place his sister died, a now overgrown field where he spies a deer feeding on the tall grass. He takes this a something of a hopeful sight, but I have to wonder how much hope there is in nature reclaiming the city from its failed human inhabitants. Detroit: An American Autopsy is a powerful, but often depressing book. A

Currently Reading (fiction): Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

I have been following Chuck Wendig online for some time, reading his blog and tweets on a fairly regular basis. I have Kindle versions of his non-fiction 250 Things You Should Know About Writing and a fiction work titled Bait Dog. I tired of the list format before finishing 250 Things and have not yet had the opportunity to read Bait Dog, but recently purchased the novel Blackbirds during a special pricing promotion on Amazon. Blackbirds is about Miriam Black, a young woman with the strange ability to see the (future) death of any person that she touches. The book starts strong. Wendig is clearly in love with his style, his language and descriptions having a rather nasty edge to them. Nothing wrong with that, he uses language very effectively, but if you are easily offended you may wish to avoid his books. Miriam’s second major confrontation within the first few chapters of the book (a bar fight) has me wondering whether or not Wendig is picking these fights just to fill space and keep the action up. It’s as if he wrote “insert bar fight here” on his outline. I hope it has more relevance to the plot than that, though I doubt it. Still, an engaging start to what I hope will be an entertaining novel.

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