This isn’t my idea — it’s John Carpenter’s, my former Grosse Pointe buddy who now lives in Chicago — but it’s a good one, and I’m stealing it. A little background:
Today’s issue of the Metro Times features a remarkably lousy interview with Elmore Leonard. It’s lousy for many reasons, starting with the cliché on the the cover (“The Dickens of Detroit”) and running throughout the copy, which in several thousand words manages to turn up practically nothing about the man that isn’t already known. With no obvious hook — a new book or movie to promote — the writer asks no questions that haven’t already been asked a million times. Leonard gives the same answers he’s already given a million times, which makes him look like a bore, but what else can he do? How many times can he describe his writing routine, or why he thinks the movies made from his books almost all suck?
What’s more, there are some remarkable omissions. There’s no mention of “Justified,” the TV series based on his work, which is running new episodes now and would have presented some new ground to plow, had the writer noticed. There’s no mention of his son Peter, who recently launched his own writing career and now appears with his father when he (pére) is book-touring. And there’s a ton of description of Leonard’s painstaking research that fails to mention that he doesn’t do his own research anymore. He hasn’t for years. He pays a guy to do it for him, which is an unusual arrangement right there. His researcher, Gregg Sutter, has been the subject of many stories in his own right, and I for one find their relationship interesting. But Gregg isn’t mentioned anywhere.
You expect crap like this from Entertainment Weekly, but not from the alt-weekly in Leonard’s own hometown, which should know him better than anyone.
But that’s not the point of this. The point is that if someone is looking for a fresh angle on Leonard, I have an idea. Or rather, John Carpenter had it: We need a Dutchday in Detroit.
Dutchday — I like the one-word usage better than Dutch Day — would be based on Bloomsday in Dublin. The whole city celebrates on June 16, the day described at great length in “Ulysses,” in which Leopold Bloom wanders the city and has lots of interior monologues. Among the many activities of Bloomsday is to retrace Leopold’s steps, stop at places mentioned in the novel, and read those passages aloud.
I think we could easily put together a tour of Detroit where we could do the same thing. There would be some problems I can see right up front. Leonard’s books range widely over the metro area, from Detroit to Macomb to Oakland to Port Huron, and doing it by bus wouldn’t be the same thing. So, say, we’d limit it to those places that can be easily reached by bicycle. A bike tour of Elmore Leonard venues, on a weekend close to his birthday, which I believe is in early October. So, a bike tour of Leonard’s Detroit venues in the fall, one of the prettiest months of the year here. With a small PA system for the read-aloud portions, which you could tow in a bike trailer. It would all wind up in some pub for lager and discussion. Maybe the Dickens of Detroit could be persuaded to join us for a signing, and to sell a few books. Now that’s a story, Metro Times.
Who’s with me? I’m serious.
If anyone in Baltimore hasn’t done this with the works of Laura Lippman, they should do that, too.
So now it’s a right-wing group here in Michigan who’s gone a-FOIAing for college-professor dirt, that’s if you describe union activities as dirt:
The Mackinac Center, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institution and receives money from numerous conservative foundations, asked the three universities’ labor studies faculty members for any e-mails mentioning “Scott Walker,” “Madison,” “Wisconsin” or “Rachel Maddow,” the liberal talk show host on MSNBC.
The Mackinac Center hasn’t stated a reason for the request — it doesn’t have to — but the conventional wisdom is that public employees are prohibited from political activities on company time or with company resources, so if they can find one e-mail where a professor says, “I saw on Rachel Maddow that the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is a fink, and that he lives in Madison,” well, jackpot!!!!!
Note to the Mackinac Center: One of the libraries at Wayne State is named for Walter Reuther. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. I don’t know what to say about this, other than: Enough. I know it’s fashionable in some circles to fly-speck every minute of public employees’ time, to find whether they’ve cheated, somehow, using “taxpayers’ time” to send personal e-mail or shop for shoes online or whatever. I know every job in the world includes some down time, which may be used to call one’s doctor or fill out NCAA brackets or whatever. Let me know when it gets ridiculous, but for now, this is cheap bullying and harassment, and the people who run the Mackinac Center should be ashamed.
(Most people know other conservative groups are doing this in Wisconsin, and if you haven’t read the target’s extremely reasonable response, you should.)
A couple of you have asked me, over the years, why I wasn’t more taken with Jennifer Granholm, the now-former governor of Michigan. She appears on national chat shows from time to time, and always impresses the rest of the country as attractive, personable, reasonable and articulate. She is all those things. She is also not much of a leader, who let two terms pass while the state’s economy went into a ditch, without doing much more than talking about it — in a very articulate manner, granted.
Now she’s taking a page from the Evan Bayh playbook. She just accepted a richly compensated seat on the board of Dow Chemical.
A Michigan company, granted. Still. I’ll also grant the absurdity of a conservative editorial writer calling this “a payoff” for tax breaks Granholm steered the company’s way when she was in office, as this happens regularly in Republican politics, and is called Works Well With Business. Still. The ex-guv and her husband both recently accepted two-year teaching positions at the University of California at Berkeley. I guess this is part of the let-the-well-refill strategy all politicians seem to think they deserve once they leave office.
Finally, an obit for a San Francisco food writer, whom I wish I’d known. Among her last words: Never eat margarine! A woman after my own heart.
Work beckons. Have a great day, all.