Corner Dreams

I am really impressed with the Corner book.  I had a feeling, after reading Homicide, that this book would be very good, as well.  I don’t know if I only say this because I am from Maryland, as well, but I think one of the reasons his writing is so nuanced and vivid is because he feels a part of the community, if even in a small way, because it is one he belongs to.  Certainly, he is not a “corner boy,” but something you can draw from his writing is that everyone is affected, and potentially involved in some way.  I think some parts of the tenth chapter really capture this feeling.  After his passage about what “we” would do if we were the children of the addicts, he states that this is “our” myth that we, as Americans, accept as truth because we can’t seem to blame ourselves for the poor choices of others.  The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” myth is, as he states, what excuses our “judgments” (478) that we can’t help but pass on those who we assume are making the choice to live as they do.  They’re just “lazy,” or they are so resentful of “success” that they’ll be god damned if they go after it, right?  Its not our fault, right?  In the final episodes of The Corner, we see all of the characters struggle with their instinctual desires to “get out,” through work, sobriety, relocation, even somewhat passive suicide.  There are two scenes that show this the best, both taking place in Inner Harbor, a “revitalized” district of Baltimore with hotels, a convention center, somewhat upscale shopping, lots of restaurants, and extremely guarded and expensive parking.  Gary goes shopping in a health food store and sees “Schindler’s List,” which reminds him of his old success.  This gets him thinking about the situation in West Baltimore, as he clearly feels like a stranger in places he didn’t used to.  He tries to see a bigger pictures outside of his own choices, attempting to find a greater explanation for why he can’t escape his own addiction.  The other scene is when DeAndre applies for a job at a nice Italian restaurant in Inner Harbor, only to walk out as he observes an older black man bussing tables.  He is shamed as he sees someone who is trying to escape his “fate,” and gives in again to the corner.  Later, he helps Miss Ella out with her garden while he is supposed to be working on the corner, showing his ambivalence.  He tries to be “good,” but when someone or something discourages him, he immediately agrees with them and goes back to being what the “outside” world thinks of him: bad.

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