Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sort-Of Related: The Wire/Freedomland (2006)

Consider this the under-the-weather report. Everybody seems to get sick when they travel now. It’s how you know the trip is over. (Orbitz will soon allow you to pre-select the virus that fells you, but the software is still in beta.) Me, I wait until whatever projects were left hanging fire are completed, and then I succumb. I’m nothing if not efficient.

Throw in a spate of truly lousy weather, and it’s been the perfect time to catch up on episodes of HBO’s The Wire. For a while, season four threatened to get away from me. Which would have been a shame, because the best show on TV continues to get richer and deeper as it progresses. Expanding the focus from police work to the public school system underscores that the program has always been more than a crime drama. It’s a ruthless anatomization of American urban life. Some fans have groused about the mayoral election subplot, but those have been my favorite scenes so far this year, beautifully detailing old-school retail politics at the door-to-door level.

It was only appropriate that I also watched Freedomland, the adaptation of Richard Price’s brilliant 1998 novel. Price has penned episodes of The Wire, and the film features a couple of key members of its cast. The incendiary plot would work on the show – a poor white woman’s claim that a black carjacker kidnapped her son escalates tensions in a racially-mixed New Jersey city.

Price, in condensing his 700+ page book, eliminated my favorite character as well as any mystery about what really happened on the night in question. But the power of his storytelling – his ability to capture the day-to-day burdens of big city life, the wellsprings of humanity that flow in the darkest of places, the ways in which well-meaning people can talk past each other – still registers strongly. It’s far from a perfect movie, but it certainly didn’t deserve the critical brickbats it received earlier this year. Wire fans in particular should check it out.

Miscellaneous: Links

A while back I linked to the short film Terrill Lee Lankford made of the opening chapter of Michael Connelly’s latest novel Echo Park. The L.A. Times reports on how the film may have bolstered the book’s sales. I prefer that approach to treating books as design accessories. But whatever works, right?

In excellent news, Ed Gorman returns to the blogosphere. Ed, you have been missed.