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Summer Scholars: Writing Detroit (British Library)
July 31, 2015 @ 12:30 pm - 1:00 pm
Summer Scholars Friday 31 July
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- Writing Detroit
Benjamin Markovits (Eccles British Library Writer in Residence) reads from his new novel, in a discussion about race, Walden and the death and life of the great American city.
From You Don’t Have to Live Like This (Faber, 2015)
“This city,” he said, posing for the cameras in front of Michigan Central Station, in his tasseled loafers and holding lightly onto his linen tie, to keep the wind from blowing it in his face, “lies at the center of so much of what America is talking about and worrying about today: the death of the middle class and the rise of social inequality, the collapse of the real estate market and the decline of manufacturing, the failure of the American labor movement and the entrenchment, almost fifty years after Martin Luther King led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, of a black underclass. Detroit at its peak had a population of almost two million people—it is now roughly a third of that, which means, let me put it this way, that for every family still living here, their neighbors on either side of them have moved away. And their houses—you can see this for yourself because we’re going to show them to you—sit either empty or boarded up, or half burned down, or they’ve been destroyed altogether, and grass and trees are growing in their place. What we are about to witness is a small experiment in regeneration—an attempt to repopulate these neighborhoods, to rebuild these houses, to revive these communities. It is, by its nature, a very local solution to some of the deeper and broader problems America faces today. But if you can fix it here, you can fix it anywhere.”
Benjamin Markovits grew up in Texas, London and Berlin. He is the author of six previous novels: The Syme Papers, Either Side of Winter, Imposture, A Quiet Adjustment, Playing Days and ChildishLoves. He has published essays, stories, poetry and reviews on subjects ranging from the Romantics to American sports in the Guardian, Granta, The Paris Review andThe New York Times, among other publications. In 2013 Granta selected him as one of their Best of Young British Novelists and in 2015 he won the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award. He lives in London and teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. You Don’t Have To Live Like This about an experimental community in Detroit, is published by Faber in July.