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

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  5,302 ratings  ·  523 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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Kinga
"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
...more
Matt
Feb 28, 2012 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
...more
Kiekiat
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'The Corner' reminded me a lot of the Elliot Liebow book, Tally's Corner, which was a sociological study of black men that hung out on the street corners of Washington, DC in the early 1960's. 'Tally's corner was a type of immersive observer sociological study that produced a classic work. I was not surprised to learn at the end of the book that Simon and Burns, the authors, had used a style similar to what Elliot Liebow used--of embedding themselves into this neighborhood, one of over a hundred ...more
Jan-Maat
This book is a collaboration between former journalist David Simon and former policeman Ed Burns, both probably best know now for their television work in particular for the modern Greek tragedy The Wire. Simon enlisted Burns- who had retired from police work to introduce him to his former beat, and presumably watch his back, and they then got to know and interview addicts and street corner dealers, and non-drug related residents including a woman running a youth centre, this book is the result, ...more
Diana
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
Ted
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ted by: my son, who could't believe what he learned
Fat Curt is on the corner.

He leans hard into his aluminum hospital cane, bent to this ancient business of survival. His fattened, needle-scarred hands will never again see the deep bottom of a trouser pocket; his forearms are swollen leather; his bloated legs mass up from the concrete. But then obese limbs converge on a withered torso: At the heart of the man, Fat Curt is fat no more.

"Yo Curt."

Turning slightly, Curt watches Junie glide over from the other side of Fayette, heading into Blue's for
...more
Stephen
May 27, 2010 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
...more
Max
Aug 05, 2015 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
...more
C.E.
Mar 13, 2008 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
...more
Jess Penhallow
Wow. What a powerful story of people stuck in a cycle of poverty, drugs, and crime. The fact that these were the stories of real people made them all the more affecting and I was rooting for them all even when they did some terrible things and even knowing that this is not fiction, these people's lives are not at the whim of the author, they are the whim of the many forces of life.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but this book was engaging in the way that fiction is. The authors picked the mom
...more
Jen
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
Mariel
Mar 23, 2011 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
...more
Julia
Dec 09, 2007 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
...more
Melissa
Apr 01, 2008 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 followed
...more
Rebecca McNutt
In-depth, intense and really gripping, The Corner brings its readers to the streets of Baltimore where crime and drugs wait in the shadows.
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
How can I describe The Corner? How can I do justice to this heartbreaking book? You know David Simon and Ed Burns as the creative force behind The Wire. This non-fiction book is the truth behind the television, a revealing portrait of a broken family living at one of the worst drug corners in West Baltimore. Dope and coke are sold 24/7, violence is omnipresent, and the pursuit of drug-induced happiness has made life and liberty seem as distant as the moon.

Gary McCollough is a former businessman
...more
Toby
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
Christine
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book, I've come to the conclusion that if we are going to have an intelligent discussion about the war on drugs, everyone in America should read this book.
Todd N
Apr 21, 2010 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
...more
Flora
Feb 25, 2014 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
...more
Larraine
Feb 02, 2014 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
Zach
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.
Isabelle Duchaine
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you like The Wire, you will like this. Most people like The Wire a lot. Witten by David Simon and Ed Burns, it's a year following a cast of real people at the intersection of Fayette and Monroe Sts.

One thing about The Corner is it really highlights.... the absolute futility of the system. The scenes about Fat Curt waiting to access healthcare, or Miss Ella doing her best to scrape money from the city are Kafkaesque. I wonder how The Corner has changed in the 20 years since this came out - Da
...more
J. Kenyarta
Hey, guys and girls!

So, whether you prefer the city life or the country, readers will connect with this gritty novel. (Sidenote: I had no idea it was a TV show, which is pretty cool! I loved THE WIRE on HBO, and THE CORNER is/was on the same network.)

WOW, this BOOK! Art imitates life and, sometimes, life imitates art. This project is written in such a brilliant way that most readers will want to immediately flip it open and re-read it! This is a good read; it's startling, sad, amusing, creativ
...more
Tzu-Mainn Chen
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Those who have read David Simon's "Homicide" may view "The Corner" as a companion piece that takes the viewpoint of the drug dealers and users. It is... and it isn't. The story told in "The Corner" is far more harrowing for me, because it's about more than a job and a duty; it's about human lives on the very edge of survival. Addicts, dealers, parents, children, and a few souls that desperately try to stay above it all wrest something good from the drug-infested streets - Simon takes these viewp ...more
Bosco Farr
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a hard but necessary read. It tells a lot of truth about the U.S. ,drugs, humanity. It's full of expected tragedy but their are triumphs and joy. David Simon knows how to write. There is some truly beautiful writing here: poetic but unflinching, with real true heart. Sits easily and immediately among my favorites.
Adam McDonald
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deep dive into the lives of people involved in drug abuse and dealing in Baltimore. Simon and Burns did a great job of honestly assessing the events and people throughout this book, as well as offering their thoughts on the complexity of drug use, poverty, and government involvement. It went far beyond any expectations I had.
Jamieson Ninneman
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to finish it though because the stories inside are so depressing and hopeless. It is really well written and offers a vivid description of true life on the street.
Karen
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was excellent. The first chapter was slow for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to get into it but I quickly became absorbed and did not want it to end. Incredible amount of research went into the book. I was invested in the lives of the people highlighted in the story and spent time afterwards looking everyone up. The authors give commentary on the drug war, welfare and other issues which added to the narrative. Would love to see a 20 year followup written about the same neighborhood.
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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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Summer reading season is in full swing, which means many of the year's biggest and best releases are coming out of the gates. And although your Ju...
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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.”
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“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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