El's Reviews > Pittsburgh Noir

Pittsburgh Noir by Kathleen George
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's review
Dec 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 21st-centurylit, permanent-collection, yinzers-n-at
Recommended to El by: Josiah
Recommended for: Yinzers
Read from December 29, 2011 to January 14, 2012

First impressions before I start reading:

Christmas Eve exchange book from my brother. I've read only the Introduction (by Kathleen George) so far, but it's a nice love-letter to the city of Pittsburgh and our sports teams - because apparently one can't really write about Pittsburgh without talking about the Pens, the Pirates, or the Steelers.

Also excited that there is a map in the front of the different neighborhoods that (I assume) will be covered in the various stories. They're marked with white chalk outlined bodies which cracks me up.

Note: Really? Wilkinsburg? I can't wait to read that one. I'd like to hear about a murder that takes place in W-Town that doesn't involve drugs.

Upon finishing:

I'm not from Pittsburgh originally. I've been from sort of all over, and I've only lived in Pittsburgh for about eight years. My brother and I shared an apartment on the North Side for a bit when we first got here before I moved in with a dude in Wilkinsburg, and then we moved together to Edgewood on the other side of the Busway because I didn't want to fear for my life anymore. And now we live just down the street (literally) in Regent Square. My brother ultimately wound up in Polish Hill where he has stayed and loved since he got there.

Here's the thing about Pittsburgh: It's filled with neighborhoods. There are at least 90 different neighborhoods that make up Pittsburgh. People here have grown up in their neighborhoods and they don't often like to leave. They go where they need to go if they need to, but if they can find what they need in their own neighborhood they will maintain an undying loyalty to those places. People generally know each other in their own neighborhoods. People look out for each other in their neighborhoods. There's a slightly different culture in any neighborhood you go into, even though together they all make up the same city. There's a camaraderie in this town which is strengthened if you express interest in the Steelers or at least can hate on the Ravens. I've learned that even though I don't care about sports, I should at least know some of the basics about the Steelers. It's sort of a requirement if you want to have a conversation with anyone. The Dahntahn Song is more true than you can even imagine. And yes, people talk like that here. Which brings me to...

They have a language of their own here in the 'Burgh, and if you're going to live here for an extended amount of time it would behoove you to learn what things mean or learn to talk the talk yourself: "Yinz goin to the Iggle n'at?" "No, Ah'm goin Dahntahn." "Careful, it's slippy out." "Lift me some salad." "Go Stillers!" "Yinz are jagoffs." "Double yoi!"

And they do things differently here, like put french fries in their salads and cole slaw on their burgers, and then they think you're the strange one if you don't do it that way. You're the odd one out if you call a rubber band anything other than a "gumband". In fact if you ask for a rubber band you might just get ignored.

That being said, I love it here.

Get on with it, talk about the book already:

Each story in the book takes place in a different neighborhood. A local will recognize them all by name and probably knows someone from each area, or at least knows someone who knows someone else who lives there. I won't say that someone outside of Pittsburgh wouldn't appreciate these stories, because the topics are universal and hardly confined just to Pittsburgh. But if you are from the area and you know what Isaly's means, you'll have an enriched appreciation.

Like any collection of stories some are better than others. One of my favorite authors, Stewart O'Nan, wrote a story taking place in Bloomfield; turns out it's not the best thing I've read by him, but it made me happy anyway. Because he's my imaginary boyfriend. But the stories surprised me, like Kathryn Miller Haines' story about Wilkinsburg - it wasn't about drugs or gangs at all as I first expected; it was a sad story about a man coming back from war, back in the days when Wilkinsburg was not what it is today (ie, an empty, shot-up shell with the highest property tax in town and one of the areas with the most run-down, boarded-up, empty homes).

These were fun reads that captured the heart of the city, that despite how weird the locals talk or what they eat, they're just reg'lar folk like you and me. They just bleed a little Black n Gold.
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Reading Progress

12/31/2011 page 85
30.0% "Stewart O'Nan, I love you. The other stories in this collection have been great as well. Next chapter takes place in Carrick. (I don't know Carrick as well. Road trip must be in order!)"

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