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: This quarter’s Book Quarterly is an unusually meaty one, loaded with juicy morsels of… God, I’m hungry… anyway, there’s a lot in it. Justin Bauer kicks things off with a lively discussion of novels that take on the outdoors and uncharted territories.

For a book about a lost polar expedition, Amy Sackville’s The Still Point (Counterpoint, Jan. 1) contains very little in the way of pulse-pounding action. She does this deliberately, choosing texture over ease. After all, adventure stories provide easy structure. Whether a polar expedition or a pioneer survey or a trek through the unmapped Everglades, familiar trajectories of adversity and conquest supply the deep satisfaction that comes from fulfilled expectations, or useful conventions to rebel against.

Sackville’s quiet, prim novel rebels. The fictional Edward Mackley’s expedition to the North Pole — the still point of the title — gets unwrapped by CP_2011_02_24.jpggreat-niece Julia during a sticky-hot day. Time, the reserve of his journals, and especially the family mythology shaped and passed down by the wife who waited a half-century for his return impose still more distance between subject and researcher. But the imprint of the past on Julia and husband Simon’s present, where the bulk of Sackville’s controlled and precise Woolfishness is concentrated, shows clearly, and the conflict between vague legend and knotty family history is amplified by the textured contrast between stifling summer nights and ice-cold midnight sun

The Still Point ‘s family myths work like our national ones, like the frontier ideal that stunts and channels the present of Jonathan Evison’s West of Here (Algonquin, Feb. 15). Both novels share surface similarities, with West of Here featuring a similar expedition to the interior of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, played much straighter. Evison ropes together all of his plots — and there are a good half-dozen — with resonances between past and present, heroic settlers’ footsteps prefiguring the much-diminished fumblings of their descendents.
Smart, tidy, concise — I dig it. Copious reviews give us plenty to chew on, too. But don’t actually eat the books, now. That’s the quickest way to get thrown out of the library, I’ve found.

PW: Another stellar cover from PW. Michael Alan Goldberg digs into neighborhood turf wars surrounding the shooting death of a promising youth athlete and the rivalries that spring up, generation after generation, in a small pocket of the city between East Falls and Hunting Park.

On Feb. 17, the night after Anderson’s funeral, Town Watch Integrated Services—the city agency that tries to bring communities and police together in the name of neighborhood safety, crime response, and crime prevention—hosts a meeting in the Abbottsford Community Center for residents to air their fears about Anderson’s murder and the potential for escalating violence between Abbottsford and Allegheny kids.

cover022311small.jpgAbout 70 concerned parents and seniors show up; Big Shawn and Anderson’s mother, Tyisha Mincey, are there, too. So are Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Wright, 39th Police District Commanding Officer Capt. Stephen Glenn, Roxborough Principal Stephen Brandt, District Attorney’s Response Team Director Theresa Marley, and several members of Men United for a Better Philadelphia—former Philly gang members now working to stop gang violence. Not in attendance: Any Abbottsford teens. Anderson’s friends and peers. The ones TWIS Executive Director Anthony Murphy hoped to reach directly with his “Stop the Violence” message.

“I don’t want the young people [at Abbottsford] to feel that they gotta go retaliate against someone else,” Murphy tells the residents. “I don’t want things to go off at Roxborough High School and it comes back here. I don’t want things happening at 32nd and Allegheny, either. I need to know what it is [that’s going on], and then we can work to fix it.”

“We can all point fingers at someone but that’s not the answer—we gotta change the heart of man,” Wright says. A man sitting in the back rolls his eyes, another lets out a frustrated sigh. “We’ve got to find a better way to deal with each other regardless of the gang you’re in or what neighborhood you’re from,” Wright continues. “This violence is ridiculous.”

“After being at Shawnee’s funeral, and you see all the young people at his funeral, you look at their faces after seeing someone’s body laying there and you’d think they’d be spooked and that would be a wake-up call,” one resident says. “That wasn’t a wake-up call. That made these young guys ready to ride.”

Glenn implores anyone in the room who might have any information about Anderson’s murder to get in touch with him. He walks around handing out his business card; some residents reluctantly take it. By the end of the 80-minute meeting, pledges of moral support and promises of more dialogue and community meetings—but little else—have been offered by city and school officials, few of whom linger to talk with the residents. The police brass say they’ll stick around as long as necessary to answer questions one-on-one and address people’s concerns; within moments they’re gone. Residents walk over to Big Shawn and Mincey to pay their respects, then shuffle out into the night.

Goldberg goes deep with numerous members of the community and comes away with something smart, sad and slow-building — lots of quotes, lots of family and ‘hood history — but ultimately very well-constructed.


CP: Theater X: Possibly home to theatrical mutant superheroes. Maybe they’ll fight Slumlord, a supervillain who rules with an iron fist. Dept. of Yikes: Teacher jail, complete with chalk shivs. Kennett: the new king of Queen Village.

PW: Nobody puts Brian in the Corner. From the slammer to City Hall? After a fire, left out in the cold. Life in Kensington, post-strangler.

WINNER: Props to both pubs, but the prize goes to PW. Crime, poverty, arts — they’ve been swinging for the fences so far in 2011, and it’s good to see them circle the bases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *