From Tuesday's NYT article "For Detroit, a Crisis of Bad Decisions and Crossed Fingers:"
The financial crisis that has made Detroit one of the largest cities ever to face mandatory state oversight was decades in the making, a trail of missteps, of trimming too little, too late, of hoping that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns that might melt away as the economy picked up. Some factors were out of the city’s control. As auto industry jobs moved elsewhere over the decades, for example, Detroit lost much of its affluent tax base. Lower than expected state revenue sharing did not help, nor did corruption allegations in the administration of Kwame M. Kilpatrick, a mayor who resigned in 2008 and was convicted on Monday of racketeering and other federal charges. But recent findings from a state-appointed review team and interviews with past and present city officials also suggest a city that over the years was remarkably badly run.
What is the Great Detroit Novel? Extremely powerful depictions of Detroit can be found in Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, so that's my vote:
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal." So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Other popular novels that feature Detroit as a setting include:
- them by Joyce Carol Oates: From the 1930s through the race riots of 1967, the members of the Wendall family, living in inner-city Detroit, struggle to understand the obscure forces constantly tearing at their lives and happiness. Winner of the National Book Award.
- Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser: Twenty-five years after his high school graduation, David Halpert returns to a place that most people flee. But David is making his own escape—from his divorce and the death of his son. In Detroit, David learns about the double shooting of his high school girlfriend Natalie and her black half-brother, Dirk. As David becomes involved with Natalie’s sister, he will discover that both he and his hometown have reasons to hope. As compelling an urban portrait as The Wire and a touching love story, Say Nice Things About Detroit takes place in a racially polarized, economically collapsing city that doesn't seem like a place for rebirth.
- City Primeval by Elmore Leonard: Clement Mansell knows how easy it is to get away with murder. The seriously crazed killer is already back on the Detroit streets -- thanks to some nifty courtroom moves by his crafty looker of a lawyer -- and he's feeling invincible enough to execute a crooked Motown judge on a whim. Homicide Detective Raymond Cruz thinks the "Oklahoma Wildman" crossed the line long before this latest outrage, and he's determined to see that the hayseed psycho does not slip through the legal system's loopholes a second time. But that means a good cop is going to have to play somewhat fast and loose with the rules -- in order to maneuver Mansell into a wild Midwest showdown that he won't be walking away from.