Friday, October 17, 2014

An Outsider Looking In

I don't read celebrity gossip magazines, romance novels, pornography, or the National Enquirer but my one guilty pleasure, in regards to literary material, are books about the 'hood life' in the ghetto, predominantly the black ghetto culture, involving pimps, prostitutes, gangsters, drug dealers, drug addicts, and all manner of criminality and vice, that are largely fueled by a multi-generational culture of poverty and hardship.

I haven't read a lot of this subject matter, but the few that I have, have been very entertaining to me.

Although, I primarily prefer the stories where the protagonist rises above it all, gets an education and becomes an all around better person. But I also enjoy the stories with an unhappy ending too, so long as it's realistic, a story that is true, or based on real experiences, that show the authentic reality of life in the ghetto.

My favorites so far, are: Mama Black Widow by Iceberg Slim, and Black Boy by Richard Wright, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.

I just finished reading Black Gangster by Donald Goines. This was the first book I read of Donald Goines, having just recently discovered him. While it was a quick and easy read, overall I thought it was nothing special. However, I am looking forward to reading his book Dopefiend, which is a story centered around a heroin addict, and the ghetto culture of 1970s Detroit. It is said to be autobiographical. As Donald Goines was a junky, a criminal, a pimp, and convicted felon, who started writing in prison, and wrote over a dozen novels to ultimately support his addiction. He was murdered in 1974, along with his girlfriend, at the age of 37.

That's the same age as me. But our worlds couldn't be further apart.

I'm not a drug addict or a criminal. I've never been to jail. I've never used heroin. I've never been part of the criminal ghetto underworld. I just like reading about it.

Although, I did grow up in a city, which despite having a population of under 100,000 people, had a fairly large, primarily black, inner city ghetto. I lived on the other side of town, but passed through it on the bus, and knew a few people who lived on the fringe of it, and so I had some exposure, but mostly from a distance. A lot of crazy crackheads and outward hostility toward white people. That's what I remember. This was back in the 80s and 90s mostly. Yeah, I had some experience with the ghetto up close, mostly when I was a teenager and started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, which gave me a feeling of invincibility to go to places and associate with people I wouldn't ordinarily, but for the most part, I was an outsider looking in. Typical clean, sheltered white person, isolated from the reality of the ghetto, looking at it from the point of view of a tourist, reading about it from the safety of home.

Yeah, the next ghetto book I plan to read is Dopefiend, and than after that I'll read Pimp the autobiography of Iceberg Slim.

And also plan to revisit the beats, read some of William S. Borroughs and Charles Bukowski. Yeah, I like reading tales of alcoholics and drug addicts and moral degenerates and freaks, but I wouldn't ever want to know them. That's pretty much where I stand. Kind of like you and this blog. Welcome to another voyeur's peep show, dishing it up effortlessly one post at a time, and deleting them just as fast and effortlessly and without regrets.

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