Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski in this gritty downer of a Rust Belt portrait.
“I threw my cigarette butt into the sewer grate. I looked up into the rain. That’s when a bird shit on my face.” Thus writes former New York Times and Detroit News reporter LeDuff (US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man, 2007, etc.), and he means nothing remotely humorous by it. His Detroit is a set out of Blade Runner, and never mind all that Kid Rock and sundry entrepreneurs have been doing to revive the Motor City; LeDuff isn’t convinced: The place is toast, its people what an editor of his used to spit out: “losers.” “That was 80 percent of the country,” LeDuff counters, “and the new globalized economic structure was cranking out more.” Even the locals have pretty much given up on the place; says one hard-bitten cop, “This whole town is just a worm-infested shit pile, Charlie….It’s a dead city. And anybody says any different doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.” With so much going against the place, readers can’t help but cheer when something goes right, as occasionally it does. Indeed, the heart soars when things don’t go absolutely wrong, as when LeDuff’s scrawny brother stands up to a hoodlum in a vainglorious, near-suicidal encounter at a bus stop. Along the way, the author looks at some of the toxic ingredients that have brought Detroit to its knees, including the aforementioned globalization, the replacement of local industry with a service economy of crime and, particularly, the noxious effects of racism, which he examines through his own family history. There’s little joy in these pages, and one hopes that Detroit will endure, if only to cheer LeDuff up.
A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness.