It’s not often that Hooray For Movies forays in to the world of literary reviews. However this is not, as popular opinion may have you believe, due to alack of reading taking place within Hooray HQ. No. Quite to the contrary. We love a good book here almost as much as we love a good movie. It’s just I tend to be less moved to proselytize about the books I consume. There will every so often though, be a book that I feel if worthy of a few words due to the fact that it may pass many by when it would probably be of great interest to many. On this occasion the book in question is The Last Days Of Detroit, Mark Binelli’s fantastic contemporary history lesson of America’s most fascinating and terrfying city.
A native Detroitan, and journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, Binelli uses his position of being both an objective observer and passionate resident within the city that epitomises the fragile nature of the American Dream, to paint a rich tapestry of the various factors that have lead to it’s demise. For those interested in the social impact of ill judged public policy and wild private investment, The Last Days of Detroit is packed from start to finish with captivating human stories as Binelli’s weaves his investigation by way of politicians, artists, activists, terrifyed and over-armed local residents, gangbangers, union leaders, firemen and everyone in between. Yet he always seeks to look back to how the history of the auto industry has correlated with the fortunes, or more often the mis-fortunes, of a city that was for a time considered to be the jewel in the crown of industrial America. In spite of the often unrelenting stories of woe Binelli tries to see the positives, the gree shoots of optimism poking through the smoking tyre fire that is Detroit, Michigan. It is a story when played through to it’s inevtiable inconclusion that feels ripe for adaptation by Ken Burns.
At just shy of 300 pages it isn’t too weighty and Binelli’s easy writing style, honed from a career of mainstream journalism, makes it feel a lot lighter. Plus, if I am honest, you can easily skim through the last two chapters which focuses on the local artist community which lacks much of the captivation held within the rest of the book, and specifically in an earlier chapter which focusses on some far more interesting artists. All told though this is a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in modern America and the city that most represents a 21st Century frontier.