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The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood

4.41  ·  Rating Details ·  4,292 Ratings  ·  470 Reviews
The crime-infested intersection of West Fayette and Monroe Streets is well-known--and cautiously avoided--by most of Baltimore. But this notorious corner's 24-hour open-air drug market provides the economic fuel for a dying neighborhood. David Simon, an award-winning author and crime reporter, and Edward Burns, a 20-year veteran of the urban drug war, tell the chilling sto ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published June 15th 1998 by Broadway Books (first published 1997)
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Nov 09, 2011 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Corner is rooted in human desire - crude and certain and immediate. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess with desire."

I have this flaw in my character that I am extremely judgmental. I try to fight it. I try to tell myself I don't know the circumstances. I can't see the whole picture. But no matter how hard I try, there is always that voice in my head that keeps saying "why can't people just get their shit together". You know, go get a job, stop selling
Feb 28, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult book to discuss. After all, it tramples all over the third rail of American life: race. It’s about an inner-city neighborhood that’s nearly as far from my own life experience as possible. As an outsider looking in, it’s hard not to blurt out something hopelessly condescending or insufferably judgmental.

I am white. I came from the suburbs. I played soccer and listened to Blink 182. I came from a different place than the Baltimore citizens chronicled in David Simon’s and Edwar
The interesting thing about The Corner is I used to pass this exact corner in the summers when I visited my Grandmother. I had no idea that that corner was a drug corner; I was so sheltered and naive back then. I knew there were drug dealers and addicts, but they were everywhere it seemed and it became a staple in the backgrounds of my visits. Interestingly enough, I learned to fear these addicts, walking past them with my cousin and seeing them high out their minds, I would just look at the gro ...more
Mar 13, 2008 C.E. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of "The Wire", people interested in an honest, unflinching portrait of the drug world
Books don't get much more powerful or moving than this.

The premise is simple--Baltimore Sun reporter Simon (who's lately been earning acclaim as the driving force behind HBO's "The Wire" which takes place in the same area)and Ed Burns spent a year living on or around one of the busiest drug markets in Baltimore and reports what he learned. In doing so, he tells the stories of the people who inhabit this world: street pushers, kids trying (although often not that hard) to stay straight and the p
May 27, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing
I have the unique perspective of having lived on "The Corner" for a year, and in the neighborhood for two more. My review might be biased because I don't have the luxury of distancing myself from the characters or saying "such and such was probably embellished for dramatic flair."

The characters in The Corner are real people struggling to live "normal" lives in the face of circumstances that 99% of us would consider absolutely unacceptable. Burns and Simon stay with each character long enough to
Jun 29, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Human Beings
In Chapter 5 of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, that chronicle of poverty in the Great Depression after a section on of the dejection of poverty, where the description transitions into a long string of punctuation marks. The emotion and description have moved beyond words. The author pounds his fists on the typewriter and screams out of frustration.

This is a real Social Document. It is a raw and honest look at the brutal decay and degradation of the inner city, the compounding of prejudice and bad
Aug 05, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
The Corner documents the intractability of the inner city drug culture and the pervasive hopelessness that charts the destinies of its citizens. Simon and Burns spend 1995 in a Baltimore neighborhood with an open drug market – the corner. They follow the everyday lives of the corner’s participants; the dealers, addicts and their families. The portrayals are heartfelt and heartbreaking.

Drug infested communities are often approached as a problem but The Corner depicts them as a systemic self-rein
A very heavy book--figuratively and literally. At over 500 pages, I did have a little trouble with the length--I wasn't always compelled to pick it up and read more, given I was going to read about more hardship, disappointment, and misery. However, I understand why the authors wanted to give a year-in-the-life of the people they wrote about--it gives a fuller spectrum of their day-to-day lives. For those of us outside "the corner" life, this book gives a lot of intimate and personal details abo ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 4 minute warning
Recommended to Mariel by: house of cards
Ed Burns and David Simon's The Corner gave me a lot to think about. I really could not stop living in it, or talking about it to anyone who would pretend to listen to me (life before I wrote reviews on goodreads).
Their journalistic approach of living with their subjects (in no way are the people within this account "subjects". I'm not good with word choices) for a year and being able to not leave their own footprint in was fascinating to me, for one thing. Not that it isn't hard to read about i
Dec 09, 2007 Julia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is quite possibly one of the best books I've read! Ed Burns and David Simon undertake a journalistic approach to the traditionally anthropological method of ethnography- the descriptive documentation of a living culture. The result of over a year of living among and gaining the trust of individuals within the culture is an amazingly engrossing story of the year-in-the-life of the residents around an open-air drug market on Baltimore's west side.

Focusing on a core of approximately 10 indivi
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing
I had to wait a few days after finishing this book to write anything about it, because it didn't seem like any part of my reaction really did it justice, or would be worthy enough to record without cheapening the book. It's unquestionably one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time, and knowing that it's nonfiction - that all these people really did exist and really did do the things it describes - makes me pause. Very few books make me think about my own relationship to the text to ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Melissa rated it liked it
Don't follow this link if you plan to read the book & haven't, but I was pleasantly surprised after I searched for one of the characters online this morning...
A bizarre redemption tale.
The Corner is written in documentary form, with apparently 75-80% of the content being observed events in the lives of these West Baltimore residents. The focus of the books is more on the drug users than the drug sellers, which makes sense as I'm sure there aren't too many dealers out there looking to be foll
Mar 04, 2012 AticoLibros rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: principal
Hay muchas razones para leer "La esquina", de David Simon y Ed Burns. Ahí van dos: es un ejercicio de periodismo narrativo ejemplar, por honesto, rico y ambicioso, en un tiempo en el que el trabajo de contar historias reales ya no es como lo conocimos; y dos, retrata la otra cara de América, el gueto, busca explicaciones e intuye por qué fracasan todas las políticas para erradicar la droga y la pobreza. La esquina es un horizonte, siempre va a estar ahí, en cualquier parte del mundo. (La Tribuna ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Flora rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A couple of thoughts on The Corner:

I thought Simon and Burns did a great job telling these people's stories, and they did right by their subjects in staying in touch and following up for several years afterward.

Like "The Wire," the pacing can be slow and maddeningly erratic. It took some time for me to care much about these characters.

Also, it was neat to see how this book provided the seeds for some of the "Wire" characters. I know there must be a universality to the corner life, but it's not
Feb 02, 2014 Larraine rated it it was amazing
"Searing" is one of the most overused descriptions for a book. For me, a one word description would be "heartbreaking." The book was written in 1997, but I doubt that much will change. If our nation ever gets past it's obsession with the criminalization of drugs, this period in our history may go down as one of the most wrong headed and stupid, right up with with prohibition and with almost as horrifying results as slavery. The story centers on a few people at a corner in West Baltimore. Gary is ...more
Pablo Abayian
Apr 09, 2017 Pablo Abayian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El mejor libro que lei en mucho tiempo. Una historia muy dura que parece ficción, cuando sin embargo es un relato observado por dos periodistas durante un año siguiendo a los personajes. Uno se olvida rápidamente de eso y pasa a estar metido en el mundo de los mismos, como lo haria en cualquier novela de ficción. El libro trata sobre las drogas en la ciudad de Baltimore en el año 1993, visto desde el punto de vista de una familia, donde adictos, traficantes y laburantes conviven en un ambiente q ...more
Todd N
Apr 21, 2010 Todd N rated it it was amazing
Two writers spend a year hanging out and observing a West Baltimore neighborhood that is almost completely given over to open-air drug markets. It's sort of an urban "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" with fewer linking verbs.

One of the writers is an ex-cop schoolteacher named Ed Burns, and the other is David Simon, writer of the excellent Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and creator of The Wire. In a lot of ways The Corner is the flip side of Homicide, showing Baltimore from the point of vie
Curtis Marx
Oct 23, 2012 Curtis Marx rated it it was amazing
"These [people] I write of are human beings, living in this world, innocent of such twistings as these which are taking place over their heads; and that they were dwelt among, investigated, spied on, revered and loved by other quite monstrously alien human beings, in the employment of others still more alien; and that they are now being looked into by still others, who have picked up their living as casually as if it were a book..."

I cannot find a more fitting way to describe this book than the
Jean Marie Davis
If I learned anything from this book it's that drug abuse is booooring. Seriously. It's like going to a party sober. It's no fun and all your friends act like assholes. Boring.

My main concerns with this book were thematic and so ingrained within the structure that I had difficultly overlooking them. For starters, it's too long. There was no need for this book to prattle on for over 500 pages. Several passages that went on for pages about the boys under-16 basketball team. One passage would've s
Dirk Baranek
May 19, 2012 Dirk Baranek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-literatur
Ein absolut empfehlenswertes Buch. Aus mehreren Gründen.

Grund 1: die Form. Die Autoren nennen es selbst "erzählenden Journalismus". In der Tat: es ist quasi eine auf Buchlänge ausgeweitete Reportage, einigermaßen chronologisch erzählt. Die Sprache ist journalistisch: genau, einfach, präzise. Verschnörkelte literarische Poetik ist hier abwesend.

Grund 2: das Thema. Es geht um den "War on drugs", den die USA jetzt seit 40 Jahren innen und außen fechten und der rein gar nichts gebracht hat, außer ü
May 04, 2012 Borbality rated it it was amazing
Fascinating chronicle of the drug life in the inner city. I mean some real grim stuff. Mom living in a crack house with multiple kids.

This is not like "The Wire," not a gritty crime drama starring a cop who doesn't play by the rules.

This is seriously just about the hopeless drug life and most facets of it. We know it doesn't end well, either.

My only problem with this sort of thing is that it kind of romanticizes the culture and "good old days" of junkies at times. You can tell the authors real
Nihal Vrana
Aug 15, 2016 Nihal Vrana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, crime
This is one of the best books I have ever read and I feel that it will have a lasting effect on me. The tale of the corner was completely captivating; and having watched both Wire and The Corner beforehand I was completely immersed in it. You might be hard-pressed to think stuff to write about a drug market for 500 pages; but this book is a testament to the fact that it is not the topic you selected but how you approach it that makes a story impactful. With a genuine care for their subjects in e ...more
With The Corner David Simon and Ed Burns have produced a fine journalistic example of documenting a living culture - the drug trade in one small area of Baltimore in 1993 - in a descriptively interesting manner that sheds some light on the whys and hows of the situation. As with Homicide you are immersed in the world of these people and you are horrified at the differences between you and them but at no point are they held up for ridicule; Simon and Burns are largely sympathetic in their honest ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Though this book was written over 20 years ago, it is as important now as it was then. The depiction of real life people struggling with addiction, poverty, sickness and life in a Baltimore neighborhood is vivid and gut-wrenchingly genuine. Your heart aches for Gary just as much as you root for Fran and while the chapters are written with the easy fluidity of a novel, you are aware that happy endings most likely will not exist for every one. I also appreciated the social commentary chapters on t ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
A staggeringly good book, following a family and their friends living in the bowels of hell – a few blocks of West Baltimore’s drug district. A focused look at a tiny facet of the USA’s huge problem - not trying to find solutions, because maybe there aren’t any.
My only complaint with this book was at times, the authors gave their opinions on the sociological history and impacts of this horrible situation – when I really just wanted to get back to the McCullough family in the hope there’d be some
Kaleigh Meyer
Feb 06, 2014 Kaleigh Meyer rated it liked it
This book was pretty good, and I enjoyed it. I found it interesting to read and learn about places very different from Chatham. This book takes place in West Baltimore, a very poor and bad part of the city. "The Corner", is the meeting place between West Fayette Street Monroe Street where many dealers deal drugs to people living in that area. It revolves around one family, that face many obstacles including drug abuse, adolescence, and the struggle to stay out of trouble. In all, I rate this boo ...more
Sep 06, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
very good extended reporting.
but like a lot of this stuff from America, it's too long.
reads nicely when the narratives follows people's lives ... and just as it get's comfortable, the narrative switches to a long essay-like newspaper think piece. also good. but the book would have been more powerful if the writers had just stuck to letting the characters show their lives. Readers like this. and they tend to switch off when the essay starts.
But wonderful reporting.
Martin Budd
May 08, 2013 Martin Budd rated it it was amazing
Undeniably one of the most , if not the most powerful books ever written about inner city life. Specifically those involved in the supply and use of illegal narcotics.This is one of those books that will challenge your perceptions, and give you an insight into lives that most of us only ever occasionally brush up against and recoil from. Try to purchase a post 2011 edition to get the most recent updates on the lives of those involved.
My mom sent me a text the other day to say that she finally finished season one of the Wire, which we loaned her like 6 months ago. Asked for her thoughts, she replied: "Such a downer to think people live that way. Like Sopranos it humanizes the game and its players."

We'll see if the critique of capitalism so central to season 2 (which is, honestly, the heart of the entire show) hits home to the same degree.
May 21, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most fascinating, disturbing, moving and enlightening books I've ever read. Masterfully written and keenly insightful about a segment of society that is so mysterious and poorly understood. Like Homicide and The Wire, it offers an unblinking, unsentimental but profoundly compassionate view of its subjects.
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David Simon is a journalist and writer best known for his nonfiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and its television dramatization Homicide: Life on the Street, which David Simon also produced and wrote for.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
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“That's the myth of it, the required lie that allows us to render our judgments. Parasites, criminals, dope fiends, dope peddlers, whores--when we can ride past them at Fayette and Monroe, car doors locked, our field of vision cautiously restricted to the road ahead, then the long journey into darkness is underway. Pale-skinned hillbillies and hard-faced yos, toothless white trash and gold-front gangsters--when we can glide on and feel only fear, we're well on the way. And if, after a time, we can glimpse the spectacle of the corner and manage nothing beyond loathing and contempt, then we've arrived at last at that naked place where a man finally sees the sense in stretching razor wire and building barracks and directing cattle cars into the compound.

It's a reckoning of another kind, perhaps, and one that becomes a possibility only through the arrogance and certainty that so easily accompanies a well-planned and well-tended life. We know ourselves, we believe in ourselves; from what we value most, we grant ourselves the illusion that it's not chance in circumstance, that opportunity itself isn't the defining issue. We want the high ground; we want our own worth to be acknowledged. Morality, intelligence, values--we want those things measured and counted. We want it to be about Us.

Yes, if we were down there, if we were the damned of the American cities, we would not fail. We would rise above the corner. And when we tell ourselves such things, we unthinkably assume that we would be consigned to places like Fayette Street fully equipped, with all the graces and disciplines, talents and training that we now posses. Our parents would still be our parents, our teachers still our teachers, our broker still our broker. Amid the stench of so much defeat and despair, we would kick fate in the teeth and claim our deserved victory. We would escape to live the life we were supposed to live, the life we are living now. We would be saved, and as it always is in matters of salvation, we know this as a matter of perfect, pristine faith.

Why? The truth is plain:

We were not born to be niggers.”
“It isn't about the welfare check. It never was.

It isn't about sexual permissiveness, or personal morality, or failures in parenting, or lack of family planning. All of these are inherent in the disaster, but the purposefulness with which babies make babies in places like West Baltimore goes far beyond accident and chance, circumstance and misunderstanding. It's about more than the sexual drives of adolescents, too, though that might be hard to believe in a country where sex alone is enough of an argument to make anyone do just about anything.

In Baltimore, a city with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, the epidemic is, at root, about human expectation, or more precisely, the absence of expectation.”
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