Author Mark Binelli Talks About Detroit: New Novel Give Him An Opportunity To Return To Hometown
Author Mark Binelli reveals that his latest novel "Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis" gave him an opportunity to retunn to his hometown.
Talking to Npr.org about his experience of writing a book about his hometown and what life in Detroit meant to him
On writing about Detroit as a writer and not a resident
"When I got there, I realized Detroit had become this poster city for the recession. I mean, reporters were coming [from all over the] country, all over the world, really, to look at the place, and I felt like, as someone who'd grown up there, I could really bring a little bit more nuance to the story, and not tell the same stories that are being told over and over - and that includes things like humor. I mean, Detroit is a very surreal, weird place, and I thought a lot of that was being missed by reporters who were just coming in for an afternoon or a day or two."
Things that could be changed about Detroit
"One of the problems with Detroit is, you know, it was a city that at its peak, population was 2 million. Now with this last census, in 2010, it's down to just over 700,000, so you have all this vacant land, all of these abandoned buildings, what do you do with it? I mean, one of the more intriguing things that's been talked about, not much progress has been made so far, has been this sort of right-sizing initiative. That's the euphemistic term they have been using. Basically the idea is to convince people, incentivize people somehow, to move to denser urban cores, so then you would have the vacant land concentrated, and you could turn that into parks, possibility into farms.
'The city of tomorrow,' today
"You read some of these old guidebooks and Detroit was called 'The City of Tomorrow.' ... When business was booming, when the Model T plant was really at its peak, Detroit was the city, it was the city everyone was looking toward. It's one of the great stories of the 20th century, I mean, this wilderness city, basically, rising up out of nowhere, creating modern life in the 20th century as we know it in many ways: mass production, consumer culture, suburban sprawl, [and] in many ways, the American middle class. And then the fall from such great heights.
"It's classical tragedy in lots of ways. In this case, the character is the city. You see the seeds of the character's destruction. You see those tragic flaws early on, and it's completely undone, and now we are at the third act, and we will see what happens."