For a currently declinist, anxious America, and pessimists across the western world, Detroit stands as a cautionary tale, its rise and fall an ideal subject for any nonfiction writer with some historical skills, a bit of courage and street wisdom, and a few gothic adjectives at their disposal. For the first few chapters here, it seems almost too ideal. Unlike many of Detroit’s recent explorers, Binelli has local roots. He writes for Rolling Stone magazine, and uses a busy, knowing prose. Initially, this volume reads less like a book than a good book proposal, authoritative but self-conscious, switching restlessly between past and present, scene-setting and summary, energetic promotion of the topic at hand and world-weary commentary on rival Detroit portraits. Binelli then traces the city’s ascent, from its foundation in 1701 as a French fur-trading post, well situated between two of the Great Lakes, to the self-mythologising “Motor City” of Detroit’s brief heyday.
more from Andy Beckett at The Guardian here.