The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-city Neighborhood


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Reviews of The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-city Neighborhood (1 review)

5 - Excellent Review


"The Corner" is a chilling, stark, ultra-realistic portrait of inner-city life, written by a veteran journalist and an ex-cop. I guess, for a small-town white boy like myself, initially there was some exoticism involved in my reading the book, but I think it's an important book, and one that ought to be required reading for anyone who likes to shoot their mouth off about social issues. Here is a tour of West Baltimore's blighted streets, and the doomed souls who call it home. Heroin and cocaine rule every aspect of life, whether you use or not, and your fate is often decided before you're old enough to know it. Our cast of characters centers around Gary McCullough, his ex Fran, and their teenage son Deandre. Gary comes from a good family and once had the world by the tail; Fran, not so much. Both have raging, all-consuming addictions. Deandre is a bright kid, but in that environment, he barely has a chance, and is already starting to run wild. For the adults, the days are fully occupied around scoring drugs. Gary, ever the entrepreneur, comes up with a series of what he calls "capers," in reality petty larceny and property crimes that he rationalizes by saying he's not actually physically hurting anyone. Fran has her own scams going, but still retains just enough of herself to make attempts at raising Deandre. For his part, school is an afterthought, as he often goes weeks or months without setting foot in class. He roams the streets, playing at being a ghetto superstar, throwing away his money as fast as he makes it. Even with his intelligence, of which we see frequent glimpses (but glimpses nonetheless), his lot is all but cast, the same as the other kids who simply don't have a chance, and when the main part of the book ends, with Deandre and his friends getting their first taste of real gang warfare, and it becomes clear that he, like his friends, is beginning to use hard drugs as well as sell them, it's impossible not to feel the chill. There are quite a few passages where the authors lecture the reader, emphasizing how utterly separate this world is from our own, but their points are all well-made. If you like simple answers and tidy moral lessons, you will hate this book. Final note: even at the time of publication, four years after the events transpired, almost all the major characters were dead, and a quick Google search on the rest, conducted by me in the spring of 2013, revealed that only one was still alive at this time.