The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City

The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood The crimeinfested intersection of West Fayette and Monroe Streets is wellknownand cautiously avoidedby most of Balti But this notorious corner's hour openair drug market provides the economic fuel for a dying neighborhood David Simon, an awardwinning author and crime reporter, and Edward Burns, a year veteran of the urban drug war, tell the chilling story of this desolate crossroadThrough the eyes of one broken familytwo drugaddicted adults and their smart, vulnerable yearold son, DeAndre McCollough, Simon and Burns examine the sinister realities of inner cities across the country and unflinchingly assess why law enforcement policies, moral crusades, and the welfare system have accomplished so little This extraordinary book is a crucial look at the price of the drug culture and the poignant scenes of hope, caring, and love that astonishingly rise in the midst of a place America has abandoned [EPUB] ✵ Muerte en Hamburgo (Jan Fabel, Author Craig Russell – an awardwinning author and crime reporter ❮Download❯ ➵ Jazz Age Stories Author F. Scott Fitzgerald – and Edward Burns [Read] ➮ Much Obliged, Jeeves Author P.G. Wodehouse – a year veteran of the urban drug war [KINDLE] ❅ The Wrong Blood By Manuel de Lope – tell the chilling story of this desolate crossroadThrough the eyes of one broken familytwo drugaddicted adults and their smart ❰PDF❯ ✓ The Customer-Funded Business Author John W. Mullins – vulnerable yearold son [PDF] ⚣ The Affair ✯ Emma Kavanagh – DeAndre McCollough ☆ [PDF / Epub] ★ Summer People & The Little House By Shirley Jackson ✩ – Simon and Burns examine the sinister realities of inner cities across the country and unflinchingly assess why law enforcement policies ☉ [PDF / Epub] ☆ Beautiful Creatures By Lulu Taylor ❤ – moral crusades ❮KINDLE❯ ➜ Dr. Simon Forman ❤ Author Judith Cook – and the welfare system have accomplished so little This extraordinary book is a crucial look at the price of the drug culture and the poignant scenes of hope ❰KINDLE❯ ❅ Susannah (Sunfire, Author Candice Ransom – caring [Reading] ➹ An Obsession with Cigar Box Guitars ➯ David Sutton – and love that astonishingly rise in the midst of a place America has abandoned

10 thoughts on “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood

  1. Kinga Kinga says:

    The Corner is rooted in human desire - crude and certain and immediate. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess with desire.

    I have this flaw in my character that I am extremely judgmental. I try to fight it. I try to tell myself I don't know the circumstances. I can't see the whole picture. But no matter how hard I try, there is always that voice in my head that keeps saying why can't people just get their shit together. You know, go get a job, stop selling drugs, leave that abusive relationship, don't join a gang, don't do drugs. Just say 'no', right?

    I will tell you this - no one has managed to do more for my personal improvement than David Simon and Ed Burns with this book of theirs. I can almost feel I am a better person now. 'The Corner' is a documentary of one year of the Corner of West Fayette and Monroe in West Baltimore. People getting high, people selling drugs, people getting in trouble, people shooting each other, kids having kids - you know the statistics. Now, Simon and Burns show you the people behind the statistics. They don't patronize or infantilize their subjects. They humanize them. They tell you like it is, they don't try to justify them, or blame everything on the system.

    This is not an easy read because the portraits of Fran, DeAndre, Gary, Blue or Fat Curt hit a little close to home. Well, of course I like to think that if I were born in the ghetto I wouldn't let that happen to me, I would just work hard, and try hard, and I wouldn't get in trouble.

    Because I am so strong-willed, right? I can't fucking manage two days without chocolate but I would make it out the ghetto.

    As the authors say: Yes, if we were down there, if we were the damned of the American cities, we would not fail. We would rise above the corner. And when we tell ourselves such things, we unthinkly assume that we would be consigned to places like Fayette Street fully equipped, with all the graces and disciplines, talents and training that we now possess.

    If this book doesn't bring you close to tears, I don't want to know you, you must be a bad person.

    Now, on the other hand, this book also made me want to become a dope fiend. Just a little bit, you know. Imagine I could swap all these conflicting desires and needs I have for just one need and desire - to get that blast. Just that. No other emotional and material needs. No need to find love or a more fulfilling job or start family or make more money, just get a blast. A simple goal, achievable on a daily basis. Yeah, fucks you up good in the end, but it doesn't matter because what matters is to get a blast. This is a very simple code: get a blast and never say never because you never know how far you will go to get a blast.

    Oh God, this book was great. Can David Simon go and live somewhere else for a year and write me another one like that? That's all I want for Christmas, thank you. The language was beautiful and literary, and full of slang at the same time and somehow it didn't sound like your dad trying to be hip. You might listen to a hundred rap songs, and you won't have a clue. You can watch all the 'urban movies' you can download in the whole wide internet and you still won't understand. Read this book and you might just begin to have an idea.

    This book deserves a song in the review:

  2. Matt Matt says:

    This is a difficult book to discuss. After all, it tramples all over the third rail of American life: race. It’s about an inner-city neighborhood that’s nearly as far from my own life experience as possible. As an outsider looking in, it’s hard not to blurt out something hopelessly condescending or insufferably judgmental.

    I am white. I came from the suburbs. I played soccer and listened to Blink 182. I came from a different place than the Baltimore citizens chronicled in David Simon’s and Edward Burns’ The Corner. My corner is not their corner. My understandings and assumptions are not theirs.

    The Corner serves as a bridge between worlds and understandings and mindsets.

    In Simon’s police classic Homicide, he spent a year with Baltimore homicide detectives, giving us a grim, often-grisly look at a violent city that averaged a murder a day. The one shortcoming of that book is that it was too one-sided. In following just the cops, there was a stark unbalance between police and citizen. The (mostly) white cops became distinct individuals, with varying styles and strong personalities. On the other hand, the black victims, perpetrators, and civilians became a blur. They became an Other, an alien species.

    In The Corner, Simon and Burns give us the other side of that coin. Here, the authors imbedded themselves in the neighborhood, spending a year following a handful of people living in the area of Monroe & Fayette.

    Based on what I’d read in Homicide, I expected this to be a bloody tale. It’s not. That doesn’t make the depiction of this neighborhood any less bleak. Life around the corner of Monroe & Fayette is an endless hustle, a day-to-day struggle for a little bit of money or a little bit of dope. It is a scarred and pockmarked place of rundown drug houses, gang-infested corners, broken families, and a wilting community center; it is a community populated by slingers and fiends and petty criminals and teenage mothers and unwatched kids, and a few stolid citizens trying to keep the whole thing bursting at the seams.

    At the center of this story is fifteen year-old DeAndre McCullough. The reason, obviously, is DeAndre’s youth, a time when all the mistakes are still waiting to be made. The most notable thing about DeAndre is that his position as The Corner’s center is not based on any exceptional quality. He is no Good Will Hunting of the projects, no character from a Horatio Alger novel. He is a delinquent and a truant and a small time drug peddler. In terms of his environment, he is average, and therefore, a perfect portal into this world.

    The Corner also spends a great deal of time with DeAndre’s parents. His father is Gary, a onetime seeming-success story, who was making as much as $60,000 a year in early 90’s dollars. Drug addiction destroyed his career, and now he gets by running small-time hustles (which he terms “capers”) to steal scrap metal. DeAndre’s mother is Fran, who we first meet stealing her son’s stash. Fran is the archetypal junkie, ready to quit the needles and the high, just not today, and probably not tomorrow, but maybe next week. Throughout the book, there is a will-she-or-won’t-she- quit tension; anyone familiar with addiction will know how it turns out.

    Other peripheral characters (if that’s the right word for actual people) include Fat Curtis, a longtime user who’s mostly used up; DeAndre’s various friends; Tyreeka Freamon, DeAndre’s girlfriend; and Ella Thompson, who runs the local recreational center and is the closest thing to a hero this anti-heroic book has to offer.

    Of all the people followed by Simon and Burns, there are some noteworthy exclusions: there are no cops, no detectives, no outsiders at all, really. The Corner admirably avoids the Dances With Wolves/The Last Samurai syndrome of filtering a place and a culture through the eyes of a visitor. To the contrary, Simon and Burns work hard to disappear; at no point in the text do they draw attention to themselves, or remove the focus from their journalistic subjects.

    (The level of depth and detail is astounding, and seemingly impossible to explain. It is worth reading the Author’s Note to understand Simon’s and Burns’ methods).

    This book, like Homicide, is written in the profane, informal, sometimes darkly funny idiom of the streets. However, this never comes off as forced or patronizing. In other words, it doesn’t sound like a white suburban wannabe trying to talk gangster. Rather, Simon and Burns have spent so much time walking this beat, they seem to have absorbed its rhythms, cadences, and languages. If the streets had a voice, it would read like the pages of this book.

    While The Corner is most concerned with the lives of the people it follows, it is also a polemic, a broadside across the bow of the endless and unwinnable drug wars.

    Get it straight: they’re not just out here to sling and shoot drugs. That’s where it all began, to be sure, but thirty years has transformed the corner into something far more lethal and lasting than a simple marketplace. The men and women who live the corner life are redefining themselves at incredible cost, cultivating meaning in a world that has declared them irrelevant. At Monroe and Fayette, and in drug markets in cities across the nation, lives without any obvious justification are given definition through a simple, self-sustaining capitalism. The corner has a place for them, every last soul. Touts, runners, lookouts, mules, stickup boys, stash stealers, enforcers, fiends, burn artists, police snitches – all are necessary in the world of the corner. Each is to be used, abused, and ultimately devoured with unfailing precision. In this place only, they belong. In this place only, they know what they are, why they are, and what it is that they are supposed to do. Here, they almost matter.

    Simon and Burns certainly have a grasp on the troubling consequences of criminalizing addiction; however, The Corner is far more than a screed against our nation’s draconian drug laws. Indeed, the authors refuse to lay all the problems of the inner city at the feet of any one culprit.

    In The Corner, everyone shares a bit of the blame: broken families and fatherless kids; unfair laws; overbearing cops; failing schools. Everyone takes a hit. Simon and Burns pay no attention to political parties, ideologies, or sacred cows. They are willing to expose the systemic failures at every level. And that’s what it comes down to: the failures of our institutions.

    The realness of The Corner prohibits any false redemption arcs. To Simon’s and Burns’ credit, there is a striking sense of compassion and empathy in every page. But because this is real life, and not the fiction of The Wire, things don’t always turn out the way we hope for these people. Sometimes, things don’t really turn out at all, they just keep plodding along.

    Despite the verisimilitude of The Wire (which Simon created), there is a certain glorification to the drug-running and violence and cat-and-mouse games of the inner city. It plays out like a Greek tragedy, in which the heroes and the antiheroes struggle on the corners, all the while being controlled by the various godlike institutions – City Hall, Police Headquarters, etc – that rule over them and ultimately control their fates. There are tragedies, of course (poor Wallace), that felt real. But for every bit of cold, hard, documentary-style realism, there is a moment of Hollywood swagger that broke the effect (the mythical Omar, for instance).

    There is no glorification in The Corner. There is no false ennobling of the day to day struggle to survive. There is only a mess, and no clear solutions for cleaning it up.

  3. Kiekiat Kiekiat says:

    'The Corner' reminded me a lot of the Elliot Liebow book, Tally's Corner, which was a sociological study of black men that hung out on the street corners of Washington, DC in the early 1960's. 'Tally's corner was a type of immersive observer sociological study that produced a classic work. I was not surprised to learn at the end of the book that Simon and Burns, the authors, had used a style similar to what Elliot Liebow used--of embedding themselves into this neighborhood, one of over a hundred drug corners in Baltimore, and watching the goings-on, the tragedies, triumphs, hope mingled with sadness and all of the daily workings of a group of people they came to know.

    The main focus of the group was on one family and their sometimes close, sometimes slight connections with various denizens of the neighborhood. The family included Fran Boyd, a heroin addict living in a shooting gallery when we first meet her. There is her ex, Gary McCullough, whose family figures largely in the book. It was McCullough's father who first arrived in Baltimore as a youth from Salisbury, North Carolina, after enduring one too many beatings from his father. Fran and Gary's son, DeAndre McCullough, also has a lead role in the book. DeAndre is 15 when we meet him, slinging drugs with a crew of semi-loyal friends and a cousin. Gary McCullough is now a dope fiend (the jargon used in the book) and needs to get his daily fix to put things right with the world. To get the fix, Gary, among other fiends, pulls what he calls capers, which involve everything from stealing scrap metal out of houses to shoplifting irons in a suburban mall. Fran is also a dope fiend needing her daily fix and her sons DeAndre and DeRod live with her. Fran also has to hustle to feed her habit and take care of her kids. She's a conflicted character who clearly loves her children and has urges to straighten up and get clean, i.e., get off the drugs. The main drugs used on the corners are heroin and cocaine in powder and crack varieties. Almost none of the sellers like DeAndre use hard drugs, most sticking with marijuana and beer.

    The neighborhood has a recreation center funded by grants and run by Miss Ella Thompson, a woman whose 12-year-old daughter had been raped and murdered five years before. Ella channels her immense grief over the murder into helping kids of all ages at the Rec center and recruiting locals to coach a basketball team for the older boys and to teach art lessons to the younger children. She is almost an archetype in rough neighborhoods around America--the saintly woman who shepherds the children with love and forgiveness, while at the same time harboring no illusions about the grim realities of neighborhood life.

    'The Corner' opens a window to a world that few Americans ever really experience. The really bad sides of a city, where few of the people are white, most are poor and some are quite dangerous. These are the sorts of areas that people from the suburbs avoid if possible and drive through with trepidation. Baltimore remains one of America's most dangerous cities, and the drug corners, far as I know, still exist, just as they do in most blighted urban hellholes.

    Simon and Evans present a nuanced view. Yes, many are sucked into life on the corner, either selling dope, using it, or both. But some people get out and join the military or find jobs that give them more opportunities at ordinary, unfulfilled lives. They maintain ties to the old neighborhood only to go to church or visit family still living in the maelstrom. Likewise, one of the great strengths of the book is that it refuses to turn the corner's residents into stock characters. Humanity with all its mingling of good and evil, sorrow and joy, is brought out in various scenes the author's observed. Corner people routinely help each other, often sharing the same residence that is either abandoned or owned by one of them. Just as often, they will put the screws to a comrade, stealing his or her dope or failing to divide the spoils equally from a joint caper. The teenage males in the book rarely attend school, yet sometimes they do surprising things. DeAndre, for example, mysteriously volunteers to read Martin Luther King's, I have a Dream speech in front of a school assembly. He does such a great job that his teacher enters him in the city speech tournament, where he loses to more experienced public speaks but manages to deliver the speech with dignity and power. Miss Ella forms a rec center basketball team and DeAndre and his crew join up and enjoy playing despite losing every game. Gary McCullough, DeAndre's father, pulls capers to get his daily fix, but on many nights he pours over favorite passages in the Bible and peruses such writers as Karen Armstrong. At one time Gary had a good job making $55,000 per year and had a stock portfolio worth $150,000 which he had built up with wise investments--an astonishing accomplishment for anyone dealing with the vagaries of the stock market.

    If you've watched the HBO series, The Wire, then you've basically seen life on the corner. It is a world of addicts, dope sellers, stick-up men (usually males who rob dope sellers at gunpoint or steal the dope stash. The drugs are nearly always in another location in case the police happen to visit, which they do on occasion. Usually a crew sells the drugs, which in Baltimore are often supplied through contacts in New York City. Most of the sellers on the corner are black males, as are the crew. It is a coordinated effort as the seller hawks his product, one or two of the crew stand lookout for the police or the occasional robber, and another goes to the stash--the hidden place where the dope is kept--and gets the buyer his drug of choice. A favorite of those on the corner is the speedball, a mixture of heroin and cocaine. Several corner junkies get clean while some other heavy users finally succumb to years of toll the drugs have taken on their worn-out bodies.

    The authors pass no judgments on the residents of the corner. They are more critical of the society that has caused such a place to exist in almost every major city in America. Baltimore, so they say, had a mere 2000 heroin addicts in 1958. Now there is an estimated 45,000, though the actual number is unknown. Politicians and talking heads on TV constantly babble about the sudden opioid epidemic in this country--yet based on statistics of estimated heroin users, we've been experiencing this opioid epidemic for fifty years or more.

    Reading this book led me down several rabbit holes. I began buying some books on the drug cartels of Mexico and Colombia and also started reading a book I've owned a long time, 'The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.' The authors ask the question, Why do Americans use more drugs than any other nation in the world? I also wondered why! 'The Corner doesn't attempt to provide answers and, so far, I haven't found any, yet. What The Corner' has done, though, is given us a window on a world few of us will ever experience and, I hope, has helped readers put a human face on a population largely disenfranchised in modern America.

  4. Jan-Maat Jan-Maat says:

    This book is a collaboration between former journalist David Simon and former policeman Ed Burns, both probably best know now for their television work in particular for the modern Greek tragedy The Wire. Simon enlisted Burns- who had retired from police work to introduce him to his former beat, and presumably watch his back, and they then got to know and interview addicts and street corner dealers, and non-drug related residents including a woman running a youth centre, this book is the result, as in Simon's Homicide it follows a number of different people struggling with varying degrees of lack of success to get on with rolling their boulders up hill sisyphian style.

    Reading this you get an understanding of just how much work there is involved in being a drug addict, or at least in being a poor drug addict, an exhausting non-stop business. The reliance on good will in providing community services, itself dependent on the support of flawed individuals comes across very well, as does the difficulties and tensions inherent in providing state (and therefore necessarily bureaucratic) services to a population who, due to addiction, are only intermittently able to function as citizens.

    For fans of The Wire you get to see in this book a lot of the inspiration for the addicts' side and to some extent the drug dealers side of the story.

  5. Diana Diana says:

    The interesting thing about The Corner is I used to pass this exact corner in the summers when I visited my Grandmother. I had no idea that that corner was a drug corner; I was so sheltered and naive back then. I knew there were drug dealers and addicts, but they were everywhere it seemed and it became a staple in the backgrounds of my visits. Interestingly enough, I learned to fear these addicts, walking past them with my cousin and seeing them high out their minds, I would just look at the ground, embarrassed for them, wanting to erase their ugliness from my mind as soon as possible. Then, The Corner comes out on HBO. I watch it and forget about it. I remember being transfixed on it but losing myself in the acting, never caring or connecting the fact that this was about real people. Fast forward to a few months ago, my husband and I watched the entire seasons of The Wire. We loved it. Inspired, I convince him to watch The Corner, which I always thought was a spin off from The Wire; I was wrong. We watched it with our adult eyes and I fell for Gary's wide eyed innocence and DeAndre's poetic toughness. I felt for Fran and was angered by her as well. After surfing the internet to see what they were all up to, I find that DeAndre has died from an overdose and my heart breaks all over again for this family. Almost everyone, except Tyreeka and Fran, is dead.

    Reading this book, I felt lost. I felt like the only thing that spared me from living this exact lifestyle that DeAndre and CMB and Tyreeka were forced to live was I was lucky enough to be born somewhere where open corners were virtually unheard of. You had to seek them out, they didn't seek you out. I grew up afraid of drugs, allowing afternoon specials to convince me that I was better than that, while these kids grew up around drugs. DeAndre never really had a chance and that pisses me off. It makes me so angry that Fran spent so many years high and never took the time to really raise him, and neither did Gary, and then DeAndre falls right into their footsteps. I know we all make our own choices but honestly, what choices did he have? I am finished with the book but I feel like I will never truly be finished with any of them. I feel like Blue, Ella, Pooh, Fat Curt, Gary, DeAndre, Tyreeka, and Fran will always haunt my dreams. I think they will remind me to stop being so judgmental. To stop acting so self righteous. To remember that not everyone chooses this life, that they kids being born into it didn't ask for this.

    Rest IN Peace you guys... I will never let myself forget your stories.

  6. Ted Ted says:

    Fat Curt is on the corner.

    He leans hard into his aluminum hospital cane, bent to this ancient business of survival. His fattened, needle-scarred hands will never again see the deep bottom of a trouser pocket; his forearms are swollen leather; his bloated legs mass up from the concrete. But then obese limbs converge on a withered torso: At the heart of the man, Fat Curt is fat no more.

    Yo Curt.

    Turning slightly, Curt watches Junie glide over from the other side of Fayette, heading into Blue's for the evening's last shot.

    A stunning book by David Simon and Edward Burns, the producers of the highly praised TV series The Wire. That was fiction. This isn't.

    A year in the lives of an Inner-City Neighborhood. The City? Baltimore Maryland. The neighborhood? A couple of blocks along Fayette Street, shown on a map near the front of the book.

    And the corner? Fayette St. and Monroe St. An open-air drug market, one of many shown on the map, as they existed in the early 90s.

    The people that appear in the narrative? Real people, many of whom gave the authors permission to use their real names in the book. Several of these find their way into a section (following page 290) of photographs. The real photographs of real people. DeAndre McCullough. Fran Boyd. Gary McCullough. Fat Curt. Ella Thompson. R.C.. Tyreeka Freamon. And a jump out of cops searching for drugs perhaps being carried by three teen-aged Afro-Americans a few steps from that corner of Monroe and Fayette.

    These pictures I turned to again and again as I learned more and more about these people.

    An astounding exercise in sociological reporting, detailing the thirty year failure of the American war on drugs - billions of dollars wasted, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of lives ruined, young people growing up in these neighborhoods sliding into the drug culture and the majority never able to get away from it.

  7. Stephen Stephen says:

    I have the unique perspective of having lived on The Corner for a year, and in the neighborhood for two more. My review might be biased because I don't have the luxury of distancing myself from the characters or saying such and such was probably embellished for dramatic flair.

    The characters in The Corner are real people struggling to live normal lives in the face of circumstances that 99% of us would consider absolutely unacceptable. Burns and Simon stay with each character long enough to break through their one-dimensional exterior that makes it easy for us on the outside to dismiss. They paint a picture of injustice, ignorance, selfishness, selflessness, hopelessness, hopefulness, and finally - humanity.

    Despite how raw, true, and honest this book is, don't expect it to offer a simple conclusion or resolution to chronic poverty and drug use. Expect to simply sit with each of these people and see their real humanity break through. The easy labels we use to categorize good guys and bad guys melt away and we find ourselves confronted with stories that share similarities with our own. The drug dealer becomes a father. The drug fiend becomes a mother. The slut becomes a daughter. The criminal becomes a son.

    This corner doesn't have to be in Baltimore in the early 90s. There's a corner in every city in every age. The drug of choice may change every once in a while; the welfare system may receive an overhaul every few years, but on the streets, in the houses, and on the corner sit our brothers and sisters in humanity.

  8. Max Max says:

    The Corner documents the intractability of the inner city drug culture and the pervasive hopelessness that charts the destinies of its citizens. Simon and Burns spend 1995 in a Baltimore neighborhood with an open drug market – the corner. They follow the everyday lives of the corner’s participants; the dealers, addicts and their families. The portrayals are heartfelt and heartbreaking.

    Drug infested communities are often approached as a problem but The Corner depicts them as a systemic self-reinforcing culture. We might find a solution to a problem, but where do we begin to change a culture that readily sustains and replenishes itself. Its victims often die in their teens or their twenties from drug related violence or drug induced illness. But they have already had children who are destined to take their place. Few escape the corner. Most are condemned to repeat the cycle.

    Simon and Burns have done an incredible job of bringing this bleak world to life for those of us who view it from afar through the media. Most of us in the suburbs and affluent sections of the city are just looking for ways to protect ourselves and our children. Today while we lament the victims of ISIS, we mostly ignore the victims of the corner. Partly this may be because we consider drug addiction a choice, but the authors show that this choice is an illusion. Children are raised by children who are themselves already addicts. There is only one life they know and can fit into – life on the corner. The authors make clear those growing up in the thousands of corners throughout America are a human tragedy of grand proportions.

    As Simon and Burns realized in 1995 and as we are finally coming to accept today, we can’t arrest and incarcerate away the problem. There isn’t jail space enough. The war on drugs, drug enforcement agencies with huge budgets, mandatory sentences are not only doomed to fail, they undermine the police agencies they were designed to help. Meeting an officer’s quota by locking up street dealers and frisking every bystander not only inflames the entire community as we have recently witnessed in Baltimore but it is ineffective. This is because the real issue is the drug culture not the drug transaction. As the authors put it:

    We want it to be about nothing more complicated than cash money and human greed, when at bottom, it’s about a reason to believe. We want to think that it’s chemical, that it’s all about the addictive mind, when instead it has become about validation, about lost souls assuring themselves that a daily relevance can be found at the fine point of a disposable syringe.

    Our politicians, police and pundits typically offer up self-serving opinions and answers that aren’t answers at all. Unfortunately, Simon and Burns offer no solutions of their own. Now 20 years later in 2015 Baltimore has flared into violence as racial bias and overly aggressive policing led to civil unrest. Yet while everyone wants fixes that will quell the protests, the deeper underlying issues of the corner at the heart of that Baltimore community seem to be forgotten.

  9. C.E. C.E. says:

    Books don't get much more powerful or moving than this.

    The premise is simple--Baltimore Sun reporter Simon (who's lately been earning acclaim as the driving force behind HBO's The Wire which takes place in the same area)and Ed Burns spent a year living on or around one of the busiest drug markets in Baltimore and reports what he learned. In doing so, he tells the stories of the people who inhabit this world: street pushers, kids trying (although often not that hard) to stay straight and the parents who worry about them, when they're not too busy trying to score their next fix. The stories are harrowing--from people who spend their days cashing in scrap metal for cash to get hooked up, to families sharing one small bedroom in a shooting gallery. Pretty much everybody is hoping for a change in fortunes, but the book offers few happy endings. In spite of this, its a fascinating glimpse of a world where most of Simon's readers will never go.

    The narrative is occasionally broken up by Simon and Burns' musings about the war on drugs. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, its hard to disagree with Simon's belief that the war has failed, at least in his little corner of the world. There's a particularly powerful passage near the end where Simon flat out shatters the Horatio Alger myths that many middle-class suburbanites cling to, particularly the idea that should they find themselves in that situation, they'd simply apply a little Puritan gumption and work their way out their unfortunate circumstances. In the end, he doesn't offer any solutions and precious little hope.

    Yet, the people who live there are more than mindless junkies. They're human, with hopes and dreams and stories to tell. Perhaps Simon's greatest achievement is the way in which he employs his sharp eye and powers of observation to paint a wholly three-dimensional and, given the circumstances, refreshingly non-judgmental picture of a community in deep decline.

    In the end, its an amazing powerful read, one that will leave readers deeply affected and likely having shed at least a couple of tears along the way.

  10. J.M. Hushour J.M. Hushour says:

    Simon & Burns, as masterful as ever, walk you through a year of a drug corner's goings-on. the most poignant part of this work, and there are many, is very similar to their main theme of their other work, especially The Wire which is the harrowing story of the crumbling of American institutions. The Corner is part biographical sketches of various folks on the corner, focusing on a young drug dealer and his addict parents, but also part scathing indictment of institutional racism, the war on drugs, how we deal with poverty and policework. As you can see, it is quite timely.
    Like their other work, Simon and Burns dig in and let the people speak for themselves and you will be at turns horrified and hopeful, but that is precisely the point: without recognizing the former how can you get to the latter?

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