BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: None of the titles offered in this week’s (or is it this quarter’s?) Book Quarterly really jumped out at me. I’m not usually much of a fiction reader, and the non-fiction titles just didn’t grab me (well, maybe The Lost City of Z). Jakob Dorof compensates, though, by running down a number of the city’s independent bookstores and assessing their current state. You’ve got Joseph Fox, riding high as the city’s oldest after the recent and unfortunate closing of Robin’s; Brickbat Books and Head House Books, both near South Street and both coping with struggles; and a mystery-specialty store called Whodunit?, to which I say, Who knew?
Whodunit? opened as the second mystery dealer in the world, after an article in the Wall Street Journal about New York’s Murder Ink sparked Bourgeau’s interest. But since his inspiration closed shop at the end of 2006, Whodunit? is now the oldest mystery bookstore in existence — although Bourgeau admits that it hasn’t been exclusively mystery “for at least 10 years now.”
“We carry just about everything now, except business and self-help,” he says. “Unless you consider religion self-help.”
I chuckled at that last bit, as well as at one money-quote from the write-up of GERM in Fishtown, which attracts UFO-logists and conspiracy theorists, as well as run-of-the-mill bookworms. Dig this, from owner David E. Williams.
“We just had a group show put on by the Church of Satan, actually,” he says. “They had pretty good PowerPoints.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
PW: An interesting look at the post-prison job prospects for ex-cons – a good topic considering a new intiative that’s created the Mayor’s Office for the Reentry of Ex-Offenders (MORE). Daniel Denvir looks at some existing programs, chiefly the Philly ReNew Program through the Pennsylvania Prison Society, and traces the path of a recent inmate, Leonard Freeman, as he tries to make a new life for himself.
“Before joining the program,” he says, “I had some work, but not 9 to 5. Just some guys who needed help sheetrocking with cement. I want consistent work.”
That’s something that would be new for him. Leonard has been in and out of the criminal justice system for two decades. His first arrest, for a schoolyard fight, was at 15. Now, he wears an electronic monitor on his ankle to ensure that he’s home by his 9 p.m. curfew.
In a country with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, a first arrest often leads to a second, pushing the chance of a regular job and a life in the community increasingly out of the picture.
Freeman’s story isn’t atypical. He grew up living with relatives in West and Southwest Philly and says he was a good student until high school, when he started to get distracted by the opportunity to make money by dealing drugs.
The prison population is easy to overlook – out of sight, out of mind – but ex-cons attract attention, usually of the negative, NIMBY variety. In the end, though, it truly matters how the city looks after the last and least of its residents, and the MORE initiative seems like a worthy cause. I’m really glad PW came through with a timely, thoughtful piece.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: A Dave Eggers’ referencing headline and a LOVE statue parody: too clever, and I love it. Nutter’s latest: “If that’s the way the winds are blowing, let nobody say I don’t also blow.” Vampire musicals, being a sketchy dude with pinkeye: I love you, Jason Segel. Wait, did I miss something? What’s happening with Fumo?
PW: SEPTA station renovations? Viva Las Stimulus. More interviews, eh? Boo to boosting a former PW staff writer, hooray for taking on a theater legend. Mexican in the Italian Market: Me gusta.
WINNER: Fumo’s headed to the joint, but hopefully he can land a nice job placement after he gets out. I hear he’s good with home renovations. In that spirit, PW takes it.