Detroit City Is the Place to Be
The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
By Mark Binelli
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805092295, 336pp.)
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Once America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists--all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.
With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city's "museum of neglect"--its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie--he tracks both the blight and the signs of its repurposing, from the school for pregnant teenagers to a beleaguered UAW local; from metal scrappers and gun-toting vigilantes to artists reclaiming abandoned auto factories; from the organic farming on empty lots to GM's risky wager on the Volt electric car; from firefighters forced by budget cuts to sleep in tents to the mayor's realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.
Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a longshot future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning--what could be the boldest reimagining of a post-industrial city in our new century.
Detroit City Is the Place to Be is one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012
Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.
Magnificent… A crackling rebuttal to ruin porn, those glossy coffee table books that fetishize Detroit's decay… A clear-eyed look at promising recent developments, without any saccharine optimism.
First things first: Binelli can really write.... Binelli chronicles the various experiments happening inside Detroit with a winning combination of humor, skepticism and sincerity [and] also does the far more important work of squaring the repurposing and rebranding of Detroit by artists and enterpreneurs with the more fundamental reality of the place.... He is a cleareyed and soulful narrator of Detroit's travails.
The single best thing to read if you want to understand what Detroit feels like today.
Binelli is excellent writer and a sensitive and careful reporter.… He does a great job of presenting the arc of Detroit's 20th century: its rise as automotive capital of the world, its economic apex in the 1950s and its thudding diminishment.
I can't think of a better work of nonfiction in 2012 than Mark Binelli's Detroit City is the Place to Be.... Nothing has come as close to realistically documenting the wackiness of contemporary Detroit.
Heartbreaking… Darkly funny and prophetic.
A gripping, tragicomic account… Binelli is a pessimist of the intellect but an optimist of the will. He offers an unflinching analysis of the city's problems but an intimate portrayal of those longtime Detroiters and newcomers alike who are trapped in the city's present while reimagining its possible (and impossible) futures.
Terrific… A long-overdue and hugely welcome corrective to the one-dimensional narrative of urban decay that has been spewing out of Detroit roughly since 1970… Binelli is equally skeptical of breathless hype and received wisdom, and he can also be very funny.
As fascinating as Detroit's current, tentative renaissance is, Binelli masterfully provides a broader story, a 300-year tour through the formerly wondrous and now wondrously devastated metropolis.... A wildly compelling biography of a city as well as a profound commentary on postindustrial America.
Before turning the buffalo (or the artists) loose on the haunted prairie that was once Detroit, we should ponder why a great American metropolis was allowed to die. Mark Binelli, Motor City native returned, provides a picaresque but unflinchingly honest look at the crime scene. Like Richard Pryor, he has the rare talent to make you laugh and cry at the same time.
-Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear