Order for £18 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Review: The Last Days of Detroit, By Mark Binelli. Bodley Head, £20
Tuesday 23 April 2013
At its peak in 1950, the city of Detroit housed nearly two million people; today, fewer than 750,000 live there.
The population of the suburbs has gone from one to over three million; they took most of the jobs, political clout and money with them. At the same time the city has shifted from 20 per cent African American to 80 per cent; the demography of the suburbs is exactly the reverse.
Detroit has lost 165,000 homes to arson and demolition, and conceded around a third of the city to urban prairie and scrub. It has rates of unemployment quadruple that of the surrounding counties; over a third of the city lives on or below the ludicrously low US poverty line.
All this in the place where the future in the form of modern mass production and mass consumption was invented during the Second World War. It is surely the greatest urban cataclysm of our age, the most terrifying demonstration of the shifting turbulent winds of the global economy.
So far, Detroit's fate has been chronicled predominantly by photographers. Now, the city and above all its people have been brilliantly captured in Mark Binelli's book on "motor cars, Motown and the collapse of an American giant". There are wry retellings of the city's French and colonial histories, its previous cycles of growth and decline; piercing portraits of scrappers and hipsters, techno-heads and crack-heads; a guide to the micro-politics of street survival.
Attempts by the local elites to revive, rebrand and restructure the city have all failed. The Obama bailout of the incompetent car industry has worked but at the cost of an ever-declining level of employment and security. Yet Binelli keeps finding reasons to believe that something good is emerging in Detroit: the slow tide of artistic innovation, the micro-pockets of gentrification, the rapid spread of urban farming and community projects, the DIY entrepreneurialism of the post-industrial frontier. Whether this is enough to turn around the descent is unclear but, as Binelli suggests, if Detroit once again is a harbinger of the future, we shall all have the chance to find out.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food