I associate Detroit with three things: Motown, the automobile industry, and by extension, the decline in American manufacturing. After reading Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit there is fourth item to add to that list - corruption. I knew Detroit had problems – a succession of bad mayors, a major decline in jobs, a crazy high murder rate, but otherwise just thought of it as another American city that happened to be going through a hard time. Now I wonder how the city can possibly continue to exist in its present state. It almost seems impossible that it exist now.
Detroit is one of the most depressing books I’ve read in a long while. The book is divided into three sections. After finishing the first section I thought surely things would begin to improve soon. It wasn't that I expected a happy ending, just that there would be some sort of ending that suggested things were beginning to change. Given that the subtitle of the book is “An American Autopsy” I suppose it was foolish to hope for anything but more corruption, murder, unemployment, and a host of other problems plaguing the city. Detroit, the book and the city, seems to have an endless supply of crime, corruption, and disappointment. Not that there are people’s trying to make it better, there are. There are firemen who keep going into burning buildings even though their equipment is faulty. There are kids struggling to survive and graduate from high school. But despite all its good people Detroit keeps getting knocked down. It tries to stand up or at least get to its knees and then someone or something – corrupt politicians, criminals, general apathy – knocks it back down again.
Notwithstanding the depressing nature of the book, I am glad I finally got around to reading it. I liked LeDuff's writing style. It added to my education. That being said, my next book will definitely be something lighter.