Screening Room: ‘The Pruitt-Igoe Myth’

Chad Freidrichs’ 2011 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth challenged some long-unchallenged myths of the debate over public housing, not to mention the systemic racism embedded in some of the more infamous complexes, such as St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe (seen here being demolished in 1972). It is still an incredibly relevant piece of work.

My article on The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is at Eyes Wide Open:

As Freidrichs shows, the lessons supposedly learned from this ignominious episode weren’t entirely wrong but they certainly weren’t all correct, either. As usual, it was the poor and powerless who received the blame, while the powers that be escaping censure and pointing fingers back at those whom they were to have been helping…

You can stream the movie for free this month at Vimeo:

Screening Room: Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts

‘St. Louis Superman’

The 2020 edition of the Oscar-Nominated shorts program is hitting theaters next week.

My review of the five-part documentary program, nearly all of which are fantastic if sometimes hard to watch, was published at PopMatters:

When assessing a short-film anthology, sometimes a theme presents itself and other times you have to go looking for one. The movies in The 2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary come from places far and wide, presenting an array of tones and personalities. But the thread that seems to link all of them together is worry that the future will not be an improvement on the problematic present…

Nota Bene: The St. Louis Accent

In Edward McCleland’s book How to Speak Midwestern, there’s a lot to learn about the intricacies and subdivisions of the American Midwestern accent. Take this article, which McCleland adapted from the book, on the history of how the folks in St. Louis speak:

In 1904, the year it hosted the World’s Fair and the Olympics, St. Louis was the nation’s fourth-largest city, behind New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It was a center of brewing, milling, and meat packing, and a magnet for Irish and Italian immigrants. That gave St. Louis, and its dialect, a more urban character than most other Midland cities. For example, older St. Louisans still say “youse” and substitute ‘d’ for ‘th.’

That urban characteristic affects not just the vocals of (older, at least) St. Louisans, but everyone’s attitudes:

St. Louis feels more connected to Chicago than it does to the rest of Missouri, which it regards as a hillbilly backwater. A St. Louisan is far more likely to visit Chicago than Kansas City—or Branson, for Pete’s sake.

Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: ‘St. Louis Noir’


For over ten years now, the good folks at Akashic Books have been publishing a fantastic series of city-centric collections of noir fiction that cover dozens of locales, everywhere from Baltimore to Beirut.

This month sees the publication of their newest volume, St. Louis Noir. Edited by the inestimable Scott Phillips (The Ice Harvest), it’s a crackerjack anthology of stories that cover the dark and seedy underbelly of the Gateway City.

There are some fantastic new pieces by Phillips, John Lutz, and Laura Benedict.

My short story “The Pillbox” is also included.

Buy it now wherever noir is sold, like here, here, or here.


Weekend Reading: April 22, 2016


Department of Weekend Reading: August 22, 2014


Department of Weekend Reading: August 15, 2014


Now Playing: ‘Kill Your Darlings’

Daniel Radcliffe (left) as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr in ‘Kill Your Darlings’

Kill-Your-Darlings-PosterIn 1944, Arthur Rimbaud-worshiping Columbia University student Lucien Carr was charged with stabbing to death David Kammerer, an older man Carr had known back in St. Louis who had been allegedly stalking him all across the country for years. The resulting murder scandal roped in Carr’s friends Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Kammerer’s St. Louis cohort William S. Burroughs.

The spry new film Kill Your Darlings — featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a bright-eyed young Ginsberg still unsure about his outlaw sexuality — tells an evocative, tortured romantic version of this story.

My review is at Film Racket; here’s part:

The Allen Ginsberg played by Daniel Radcliffe in the audacious but underachieving Kill Your Darlings is far from the brazen, bearded libertine who bridged the Beats to the hippies in one exulting Whitman-esque guffaw. This Ginsberg is an owl-ish college freshman overflowing with desires both literary and romantic. His eyes fairly gleam with all that he is not doing or writing or saying. The war is still on, and such a regimented society has little interest in such yearning young artistes. At least until the murder…

The trailer is here:

Readers’ Corner: The New Book House

bookhouse4Located in a rambling, 150-year-old Victorian just off Manchester Road in Rock Hill, a quiet old suburb not far from downtown St. Louis, The Book House is one of those rare bookstores that actually looks, feels, and is just like the great bookstore of your imagination. Smart staff, killer selection, drop-dead prices, and genially messy, it’s a bookworm’s paradise. Plus, like any good bookstore, over the years there’s always been a cat skulking around in a proprietary fashion.

There was some consternation recently in the area when word got out that the store was being served with eviction papers. Since no charm or history may be allowed to mar the modern American landscape, a developer has decided to get rid of the Book House (there is a possibility that the Victorian could be moved intact to a new location) and a couple other quaint houses tucked back there to make way for … a storage facility. Exactly what suburban St. Louis needs more of.

bookhouse8The good news is that the Book House folks have found a new space over in nearby Maplewood. The former department store likely won’t have much of the old charm at first (owner Michelle Barron told Publishers Weekly “It will be pretty barebones and bohemian for a while”) but will eventually have many times the capacity of the old location. Which means they’ll be able to carry even more of the great titles they’ve been known for. They should be open for business in October, make sure to stop by if you’re in the area.


Media: The ‘Underpaid’ and the Unemployed

Last Friday, the already dangerously-thin hometown paper, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, announced that they were laying off 23 employees.
According to the Riverfront Times, that makes 234 people laid off from the Post-Dispatch since just 2008, and noted that the announcement in the paper itself was unbylined:
Is it unbylined because no one wanted to write it, or because there was no one left to write it, edit it and produce an image to accompany it?
One of the more piquant observations, though, came from Jim Romanesko:
The downsizing comes just days after [Post-Dispatch owner Lee Enterprises] CEO Mary Junck was awarded $655,000 in company stock because, according to Lee’s executive compensation committee, she is underpaid.