Quotes from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood

David Simon ·  576 pages

Rating: (4.7K votes)


“That's the myth of it, the required lie that allows us to render our judgments. Parasites, criminals, dope fiends, dope peddlers, whores--when we can ride past them at Fayette and Monroe, car doors locked, our field of vision cautiously restricted to the road ahead, then the long journey into darkness is underway. Pale-skinned hillbillies and hard-faced yos, toothless white trash and gold-front gangsters--when we can glide on and feel only fear, we're well on the way. And if, after a time, we can glimpse the spectacle of the corner and manage nothing beyond loathing and contempt, then we've arrived at last at that naked place where a man finally sees the sense in stretching razor wire and building barracks and directing cattle cars into the compound.

It's a reckoning of another kind, perhaps, and one that becomes a possibility only through the arrogance and certainty that so easily accompanies a well-planned and well-tended life. We know ourselves, we believe in ourselves; from what we value most, we grant ourselves the illusion that it's not chance in circumstance, that opportunity itself isn't the defining issue. We want the high ground; we want our own worth to be acknowledged. Morality, intelligence, values--we want those things measured and counted. We want it to be about Us.

Yes, if we were down there, if we were the damned of the American cities, we would not fail. We would rise above the corner. And when we tell ourselves such things, we unthinkably assume that we would be consigned to places like Fayette Street fully equipped, with all the graces and disciplines, talents and training that we now posses. Our parents would still be our parents, our teachers still our teachers, our broker still our broker. Amid the stench of so much defeat and despair, we would kick fate in the teeth and claim our deserved victory. We would escape to live the life we were supposed to live, the life we are living now. We would be saved, and as it always is in matters of salvation, we know this as a matter of perfect, pristine faith.

Why? The truth is plain:

We were not born to be niggers.”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood


“It isn't about the welfare check. It never was.

It isn't about sexual permissiveness, or personal morality, or failures in parenting, or lack of family planning. All of these are inherent in the disaster, but the purposefulness with which babies make babies in places like West Baltimore goes far beyond accident and chance, circumstance and misunderstanding. It's about more than the sexual drives of adolescents, too, though that might be hard to believe in a country where sex alone is enough of an argument to make anyone do just about anything.

In Baltimore, a city with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, the epidemic is, at root, about human expectation, or more precisely, the absence of expectation.”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood


“The three-story derelict is home to Smitty, Gale, and Gale's baby - a nuclear family nested on the corner - and Ella is accustomed to seeing them on the front steps, waiting for redemption or a cool breeze from the harbor, neither of which seems particularly likely.”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood


“There should be no surprise when you come to that hideous moment for which you've spent a lifetime preparing.”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood


“No doubt some kind of war on drugs was a political inevitability, just as that war’s failure to thwart human desire was inevitable as well. But we might have saved ourselves from the psychic costs of the drug war—the utter alienation of an underclass from its government, the wedding of that alienation to a ruthless economic engine, and finally, the birth of an outlaw philosophy as ugly and enraged as hate and despair can produce—if we had embraced the common sense that comes with the paper bag.”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood



“This is an existential crisis rooted not only in race—which the corner has slowly transcended—but in the unresolved disaster of the American rust-belt, in the slow, seismic shift that is shutting down the assembly lines, devaluing physical labor, and undercutting the union pay scale. Down on the corner, some of the walking wounded used to make steel, but Sparrows Point isn’t hiring the way it once did. And some used to load the container ships at Seagirt and Locust Point, but the port isn’t what she used to be either. Others worked at Koppers, American Standard, or Armco, but those plants are gone now. All of which means precious little to anyone thriving in the postindustrial age. For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information. In that world, the men and women of the corner are almost incomprehensibly useless and have been so for more than a decade now. How”
― David Simon, quote from The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood


About the author

David Simon
Born place: Washington DC, The United States
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