Sunday, September 2, 2007

The 10th anniversary of ‘The Corner’

On September 2, 1997, one of the best books ever written about ghetto life was published: “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood,” by journalist David Simon and ex-cop Edward Burns.

To fans of good television, Simon and Ed are now heroes for their work on HBO’s “The Wire.” To a large degree, that show grew out of the many months they spent on the streets of West Baltimore, observing the chaos of human lives and telling people’s stories.

I’ve known David Simon for nearly 30 years. And the best thing that ever happened to me was when he brought me on as a screenwriting partner for the HBO version of “The Corner.”

So I’ll honor this anniversary by pointing you to a 17-minute radio piece that aired on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” in January of 1998. It includes interviews with some of the people featured in the book – DeAndre McCullough, Fran Boyd and Ella Thompson.

To hear it via NPR’s online archives, follow this link. (Word of warning: You might need to experiment to find the right combination of media player and Web browser to stream this audio. RealPlayer on Firefox worked for me.)

Ella Thompson, who operated a neighborhood youth center, is now dead. But her spirit and good works live on through the Ella Thomspon Fund, a charity set up and supported by Simon and Ed Burns. Click here to visit the website for the Ella Fund, see what it’s about. Contributions are always welcome.


SJ said...

Didn't Fran get married to the "real" Omar? Now that is just a great story...even Hollywood couldn't come up with that.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

The Corner was great television. But the book was a better read. I remember reading Clockers and The Corner back-to-back in that order. It inspired me to inject some of the stylistic traits into my writing. I think I'll revisit that territory this week - just like I revisited Invisible Man after your post on Ralph Ellison.

Ross said...

Thanks bro for the post. I love the wire and sad that it is entering into its final season. I will track down the book.

Anonymous said...

sj: Yep! Fran married Donnie Andrews. Simon was the best man.

For more, check out

Obie Joe Media said...

Having met Mr. Simon about the same time as you, I, too, have much respect for the man. That said, as a native Baltimorean now raising a new brood of Baltimoreans, I am thrilled to see The Wire's last days (even though many of the people in my school and church were employed by the show).

This continuing vilification of Baltimore has gotten to be tiresome. I recognize the complexity of the show's issues are shared by many cities, and that Baltimore is in crisis, but too often the show made it that much easier for those in the suburbs to dismiss the city.

Us hometowners say we could always spot an out-of-towner when they talked about what a wonderful show The Wire is. Uh-huh.

And yet, The Corner remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Undercover Black Man said...

Greeting, Mr. Obie Joe. Thanks for the comment. I wonder if you think there's any way to dramatize the problems of poor black people in Baltimore without it amounting to "vilification"?