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January 25, 2008




It gets better actually. Bowden was not only hired by Marimow a couple years ago as a columnist at the Inquirer, he blurbed Haner's book, Soccerhead.

There is more here than some wanted to meet the eye. The Atlantic
piece crosses some remarkable ethical thresholds.


No doubt. Thanks for the additional information.

And thanks for the Esquire link. A slight change of topic, but I always got the impression that Simon was sort of the McNulty of the Sun. Makes this season all the more interesting...

Ken Lowery

If I'm reading Bowden right, he's basically criticizing Simon for not telling stories the way he does. He doesn't seem to grasp that they are two different people going for two different things in two different ways; Bowden constructs a narrative from journalism, where Simon uses uncanny verisimilitude to tell stories about that old chestnut, the Human Condition. Of course Simon's methods will be seen as inadequate, viewed through Bowden's lens. But it ain't Simon's fault Bowden doesn't know how to "read" the show.

The adage I live by when taking in fiction, or allegory, or what have you, is that something does not have to be factual to be true. Among other things, this allows me to be a religious person without believing in the supernatural or any kind of afterlife. But I guess the ability to make that distinction, and to find value in fictionalized accounts, is what makes me a critic... and Bowden not one.

Ken Lowery

Oh yeah, the third thing...

I think we're all (you, me, Bowden) not giving the rest of the creative crew of The Wire enough credit when we lay it all at the feet of David Simon. I've no doubt he's the ringmaster, but every interview and story I've read about that show's creative process suggests everyone else's fingerprints are all over it, too. And that these are people who know their shit.


Yeah, Bowden's criticizing Simon for writing fiction instead of handwringing on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand, I'll-just-sit-back-and-observe-with-forced-neutrality-even-though-I'm-friends-with-half-the-people-involved journalism. A coherent vision is an asset in fiction, or in scholarship for that matter--in any form where you're allowed, in fact encouraged, to make arguments instead of pretending to a pure and unsullied objectivity.

The notion that Simon and co. have left out things that don't fit their beliefs is absurd. From the failures of Hamsterdam to the occasionally idealistic politicians, The Wire throws in plenty of details that would seem to cut against its vision. This show doesn't cut details, it adds them to build realistic characters and a realistic city; the sheer crush of details almost always complicates the simple moralization Bowden projects onto Simon.

I could see making Bowden's claim about season five's newspaper plot, but not about Simon or the show or, um, the art of fiction as a whole. But then, I don't think Bowden has really failed to read The Wire. He's a bright guy and his article shows a deep familiarity with the show. He's casting aspersions on Simon's integrity and panning the art of fiction because The Wire is criticizing his buddies and his old boss, calling them out not just on the ways they have failed his vision of journalism but on the ways their vision is itself a failure.


Art is the lie that makes us see the truth.

-- Picasso

Ken Lowery

"instead of handwringing on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand,"

Was that an Al Swearengen moment? That was beautiful.


You know, I wasn't a Deadwood fan. I tried watching the show a couple of times and found I was bored by any scene that didn't have Ian McShane.

To be fair, I came in late and was probably missing a lot of context. But no, no deliberate Swearengen moments.


Also, what kind of Al Swearengen moment wouldn't culminate in calling Mark Bowden a cocksucker?

Ken Lowery

I asked because he has this great scene where he asks the delegate from the county seat what kind of bribes they'll have to pay to get their land titles recognized. And he cuts him off with a, "And don't give me this, 'on the one hand, and on the other hand'" shit.

I'm inclined to think of Deadwood and The Wire as birds of a feather. But you pretty much need to be there from the beginning.


Ah, no, if I got it from anywhere it was from a James Wood column about critics. Or maybe a critic's column about James Wood?

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