Rebecca Solnit

Geography Thursdays #1: The Rise and Decline of Detroit

Rotting building in Detroit, photo by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, from their Time Magazine series (click on the picture to see all the photos)

This is the first installment of a regular feature. Every Thursday, Lily Hoang and I will be bringing the news from the world of geography. First up is the most beautiful piece of writing about a city I have ever read — Rebecca Solnit’s “Detroit Arcadia,” which first appeared in Harper’s, but which now seems to be available through a link from the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. The thesis, or one of them, is that Detroit has completed the usually epochal life cycle of a major city, from rise to decline, in a hundred years:

After the Panic of 1893, Detroit’s left-wing Republican mayor encouraged his hungry citizens to plant vegetables in the city’s vacant lots and went down in history as Potato Patch Pingree. Something similar happened in Cuba when the Soviet Union collapsed and the island lost its subsidized oil and thereby its mechanized agriculture; through garden-scale semi-organic agriculture, Cubans clawed their way back to food security and got better food in the bargain. Nobody wants to live through a depression, and it is unfair, or at least deeply ironic, that black people in Detroit are being forced to undertake an experiment in utopian post-urbanism that appears to be uncomfortably similar to the sharecropping past their parents and grandparents sought to escape. There is no moral reason why they should do and be better than the rest of us, but there is a practical one. They have to. Detroit is where change is most urgent and therefore most viable. The rest of us will get there later, when necessity drives us too, and by that time Detroit may be the shining example we can look to, the post-industrial green city that was once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing. (Click here for PDF Full Text of Solnit Article.) READ MORE >

Random / 23 Comments
October 7th, 2010 / 7:59 am

i do this sort of shit BECAUSE I CAN

Quote of the day (see above; also left) belongs to Amanda F. Palmer, alumna of The Dresden Dolls, fiance of Neil Gaiman, and friend of The Rumpus (who have almost certainly already linked this, so even though I found it on my own let’s assume a HAT TIP to them; if nothing else they had AFP play one of their fundraisers and she was great). Anyway, AFP went to the Golden Globes because NG’s film Coraline was nominated for something. Her debrief on this experience is about a thousand pages long and worth every minute of your time–pissed off security guys! playing dead on the red carpet! Mike Tyson! armpit hair!

Jason Diamond interviews Gary Shteyngart for

The Nation has Rebecca Solnit on how the media exacerbates the problems faced by survivors of disasters by the way in which it covers them–particularly in referring to scroungers food and supplies as “looters.” “Covering Haiti: When the Media is the Disaster.

Felicia Sullivan blogs an elegy for Salinger that I think speaks for itself.

Matt Taibbi is still a badass. David Brooks thinks economic populism is like racism against rich people. Michael Steele wishes! Everyone else just thinks DB is a giant flaming dick. Anyway, here’s Taibbi-

And the really funny thing about Brooks’s take on populists… I mean, I’m a member of the same Yuppie upper class that Brooks belongs to. I can’t speak for the other “populists” that Brooks might be referring to, but in my case for sure, my attitude toward the likes of Lloyd Blankfein and Hank Paulson has nothing to do with class anger.

I don’t hate these guys because they’re rich and went to fancy private schools. Hell, I’m rich and went to a fancy private school. I look at these people as my cultural peers and what angers me about them is that, with many coming from backgrounds similar to mine, these guys chose to go into a life of crime and did so in a way that is going to fuck things up for everyone, rich and poor, for a generation.

Their decision to rig the markets for their own benefit is going to cause other countries to completely lose confidence in the American economy, it will impact the dollar, and ultimately will make all of us involuntary debtors to whichever state we end up having to borrow from to bail these crimes out.

Web Hype / 6 Comments
January 29th, 2010 / 3:35 pm