Down but not out in the hardscrabble Chicago of the 2000s.
Pitchfork writer Hopper (The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, 2015, etc.), who was also a music consultant for This American Life, freestyles her way through the past in this spirited random-access journal of her Chicago days in the early 2000s, when she struggled to get by while taking in the sights. There’s the guy on the roof, peeing into a duct (“Does he know where that duct goes?...Is he a handyman who hates his job?...Is our duct next?”), and the disappointed evangelical who finally loses it. (“Whuddup, bitch? Why didn’t you take a pamphlet? You can just ignore him like that? Huh? Beeitch!”) Hopper mostly got around by bike or foot, subsisted on crummy jobs, attended concerts, and fell in and out of relationships that left her buoyant or bummed out (“I think he thought I was just being vindictive for that time he ruined 1997-2002”). The author doesn’t just observe; she also asks the right questions: “You know how some nights you leave the house wanting to milk summer for all it’s worth, but all you get is a good glimpse at the rotten soul of the universe as it exists in and outside of yuppie jazz discos?” The weather was often unforgiving—“everyone is feeling the deep funk of winter’s bitch turn”—but the city was not: “It is profoundly comforting to live in a city that doesn’t give a shit and loves you how you are, because it is every bit as marred, bereft, and cocky as you are.”
The nonsequential entries make it difficult to chart Hopper’s growth, but that isn’t her game. In this lively and funny collection, she bears vivid witness to an industrial punk landscape that is both crumbling and evolving beneath her bare feet.