Tag Archives: saint louis

Review of The Twenty-Seventh City, by Jonathan Franzen

I picked up a copy of Jonathan Frazen‘s The Twenty-Seventh City at Goodwill, because it’s set in Saint Louis (my town). I then suggested it as my bookclub’s November book and it was chosen. 

Description from Goodreads:

St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city’s leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American Dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy. 

Review:

I had a really hard time deciding if I liked this book or was just charmed that it’s largely set in my neighborhood. And I mean neighborhood, not just city. Though a transplant, not a native, I live in Webster Groves, where a lot of the book takes place (and apparently the author grew up). There really is a Schnucks on the corner Franzen says there is. The high school team really is the Statesmen. A lot of the attitudes people hold in the book really are ones I’ve encountered in Webster Groves (for better and worse). I live in the not so posh side of the neighborhood from the characters in The Twenty-Seventh City, but it was still amazing to read a book set SO LOCALLY. 

If I try to decide how I feel about the book outside of my familiarity with the locale, I find that I didn’t dislike it. I thought it was cleverly written and, though 30 years old, quite relevant to today.  I was uncomfortable with some aspects of it—the villains being so obviously cultural Others, the blatant way race was addressed (though Saint Louis is a notoriously segregated city, so this rings painfully true), the way women who were infidelious all seemed to come to a bad end, while the same wasn’t true for even the skeeviest male cheater. (Rich white men get away with so much after all.)

All in all, however, I have to say it kept me interested

Little Free Library design competition, hosted by Space

I got to do a fun little thing this afternoon. I attended the judging party for this year’s Little Free Library Design Competition, hosted by Space (a local architecture firm), in conjuncture with Saint Louis’ general Design Week.

Poster

I am a book hoarder, a manic reader, and a Little Free Library steward, but not part of the design community. This means I was able to stand back and observe as an outsider. (And check out Mayana‘s nacho bar and Narwhal’s urban ices!) What I discovered, other than that a Bellini slushie is a hard thing to pass up, even if you do have to drive home, is that Saint Louis has an engaged and open community of designers that seemed to truly enjoy getting together and giving back to the community.

Roughly a dozen groups submitted Little Free Libraries for consideration. And, for me, seeing them was the best part of the evening. It’s amazing how many ways the same idea can go.

I wasn’t able to get pictures over everything. I missed a few info cards along the way. But this was largely because, by the time I thought to take pictures, there were quite a few people there and I didn’t want to obnoxiously elbow my way in. But that also means there was a pleasantly positive turnout for the event. Win! But here is an example of what was there.

It’s worth noting that the heart shaped one was drawn by an art student at Adam’s elementary and then turned into a library that will hopefully be placed at the school. See, that’s just cool community building. As is the competition in general. The houses will be passed to the  St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, who will distribute them around the city and officers will hopefully use them to build and strengthen relationships with neighborhood children. (Please, please let this be a step toward community policing. Please!)

I was also a little camera happy with the cool posters hung around the office.

Anyhow, it was a fun chance to see what the community is up to and a step toward sharing literacy. As I even donated a few paperbacks, there was some playing with books too. All in all, I think everyone deserves a trophy.

trophies

……Except you Mr. Parking Warden. You may have just been doing your job, but I don’t feel like giving you a trophy for it.

ticket