PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY 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!


CP: For the latest installment of the Book Quarterly, Lauren Friedman takes on Maurice Sendak and his lasting hold over children from 1 to 92. It’s not just idle trend-cashing, what with the movie version of “Where the Wild Things Are” hitting screens on Oct. 16; Philly’s Rosenbach Museum has the authoritative Sendak collection, with original sketches, manuscripts and more. Even more importantly, how often, outside of an academic setting, do children’s stories and the archetypes they set up for adult life receive a serious treatment? For those reasons, I’m glad to see that this scored the cover.

While plenty of books from childhood are remembered nostalgically and still others are simply forgotten, cp_2009_10_15.jpgWhere the Wild Things Are is, for many, beloved not only for what it was then, but for what it means now.

“When I was 6, I would always choose Where the Wild Things Are to read,” recalls Nick Leone, the director of the illustration-centric Animazing Gallery and a friend of Sendak’s. “It was my favorite book then, and — 35 years later — it still is. “It still gives me the chills,” Leone continues. “It’s really about life, and life experiences, and taming the beasts you meet as you go along.”

Sendak himself, who is now 81 and has dealt in the past two years alone with triple bypass surgery and the death of his longtime partner, could not be reached for comment, but people close to him assert that there are still flashes of the man who dreamt up the wild rumpus. He lives in the woods in Connecticut and is currently finishing work on a new book, Bumble-Ardy, about a little pig. “Despite the carefully presented image of a curmudgeon, I’ve seen through the armor into the treasury of feeling he holds,” says Maguire.

That fella Maguire there, at the end? That’s Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, another book that turned childhood ideals on its head. He knows a thing or two about inner children and the emotional touches that can hit us where we live. This focus on Sendak isn’t a retreat into childhood. As Sendak’s archivist, Harrison Judd puts it, “I’m 48, but I’m also 4, and I’m also 8, and the problem comes when we deny that.” Cut that first number in half, and I’m so there.

PW: A gritty, penetrating look at Stop Snitching – the controversial code of silence that has dogged pro athletes and corner hustlers alike and continues to rule the streets in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Mike Newall gets into the skin of Maurice Ragland, a gunshot victim, gutsy criminal and unlikely informant.

pw_1015.jpgRagland explained it all—how Davis sent everyone from drug bosses to his own girlfriend and mother to urge him to keep quiet and offered him five grand to accompany him to the office of a Center City defense attorney and sign an affidavit saying he didn’t know who shot him. At one point, Davis even paid for a private attorney Ragland needed to deal with a burglary case of his own. Ragland took the money and the assistance and then, as he likes to say, he “burned,” the man who shot him.

In doing so, Ragland provided a rare—and extremely unsettling—look into Philadelphia’s Stop Snitchin’ culture, undoubtedly one of the biggest barriers to staunching the amount of blood that flows through our neighborhood streets each year. And while Ragland has his own reasons for testifying—?revenge and money, mostly—his story allows for a better understanding of uncompromising realities many witnesses and victims confront when deciding to take the stand in Philadelphia. We can’t combat the Stop Snitchin’ mindset if we don’t understand it. Ragland understands it, he’s living through it.

Now he’s paying the price for his actions. He is a known snitch, a man on the run who sleeps in abandoned houses to hide from anyone who might try to kill him before he can testify at Davis’ February trial. Ragland carries his few possessions—some clothes, medications and soaps—in a backpack. He says many of his friends have disowned him. “What goes on in the hood is hood business,” they tell him. “The next time someone shoots you, they gonna put more than two in your head.” But Ragland is determined to finish what he started. To tell the truth about what happened to him.

The reconstructions of Ragland’s shooting and his dealings with “Kidney” Davis and the rest of his crew are painstaking, and the cycle of drug use, dependency and crime, with its inevitability and repetition, is almost heartbreaking. Before going to the cops – a move that still threatens his life – Ragland could do no right, it seemed. To try and set things straight, he has to put his life at risk. The continued threats against him will likely drive him from Philly after the trial in February. Ragland’s drug use may be his own fault, but the rest of this situation, and the street code that perpetuates it, is tragic. You hate to read, but it must be told.


CP: Big lit-names are back this fall: Fight illiteracy and read this shit. The softer side of skinheads. For the 48-year-old who is also 8: Discover “a place where only the things you want to happen will happen.” Fond: BY-Oh, baby.

PW: Grand Old Philadelphia? Haunted theater: Macbeth and Hamlet aren’t the only ones with ghosts. Welcome back, Craig D. Lindsey: last week’s R. Kelly piece really made me miss you. Wake-up call: Philly’s HIV infection rate is five times the national average.

WINNER: PW takes it, no question. An atmosphere of intimidation and a bizarre sense of propriety are putting lives at risk, and Mike Newall – and Maurice Ragland – are telling it straight.

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