As I write this, Senator Barack Obama has just won the South Carolina Primary. I know this because he sends me e-mails, and just once, I’d appreciate it if the guy personalized them like this:
Did you watch Sunday’s episode of The Wire? As you know, it’s my favorite television show of all time, and I know you have a great affection for it as well. Michelle and I are very busy on the campaign trail, but we made time to watch it. My thoughts: Omar is going to kill everyone, isn’t he?
By the way, if I am elected President, I will make sure that David Simon receives a Kennedy Center Honor. Would you consider making a donation?
Anyway, you don’t need another schmuck telling you how great The Wire is. Yes, it’s probably the greatest show television has ever produced, ever, but hearing hype like that can cloud one’s judgment of the thing. You just need to sit down with the first episode of the first season, with “This America, man. Gotta let him play.” and go on the journey yourself. It’s the only way to really get it, I think.
(Top five Wire episodes, for the record: 1. “Middle Ground,” 2. “Final Grades,” 3. “Homecoming,” 4. “The Hunt,” 5. “Dead Soldiers.”)
One of the most popular characters on The Wire is Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, the soldier of drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield played by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson. Pearson comes from the same inner-city Baltimore streets as the characters on the show, and is probably the only series regular on a major television show to have done hard time for murder. She also teamed up with celebrity ghostwriter David Ritz to pen the memoir Grace After Midnight.
I picked it up a few weeks back, and it’s not very good. Pearson has a unique speaking style that doesn’t translate well to the page, and many times during the book, I thought “this would be a lot better if she was telling it to me.” I get the feeling that’s what Ritz did, set up the tape recorder and let Snoop talk about her journey from a cross-eyed crack baby to a convicted felon to a star of The Wire.
The book isn’t terrible, though, and there are some really worthwhile stories here. (One of my favorites was when 2Pac comes to Snoop’s neighborhood.) Pearson, who is openly gay, writes honestly about being gay and black in the inner-city, never once shrinking from who she is. While these sections, like others in Grace After Midnight, seem somewhat glossed over, her description of watching Boys Don’t Cry for the first time is one for the ages.
Those looking for behind the scenes tidbits into how The Wire is shot or what McNulty’s like in real life won’t find them in this book. It’s 240 pages long, and Michael K. “Omar” Williams, who discovered Pearson in a club, doesn’t show up until page 220. Snoop only discusses one scene from The Wire in detail, the famous “nail gun” scene that opened season four. More emphasis is placed on how the show, and people’s response to her role on it, gave her a second chance after prison. According to the book, Snoop continued to deal drugs through the filming of The Wire‘s fourth season and it was only after the season began to air that the response to her role convinced her it was time to pack up her “shop” for good.
If you’re a Wire die-hard, this book is worth your time, but not your money. Get it from the library.
(The Wire‘s fifth and final season is currently airing Sunday nights at 9 on HBO. Grace After Midnight and the first four seasons are available in stores now. )