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Here’s a place to post your thoughts about the first half of Clockers, which you can read & join in once you’re that far along. While I’m certainly interested in your thoughts on the book on its own terms, also be sure think about how it relates to the world portrayed in The Wire, and the differences in representation between a novel and a TV series.

5 Responses to “Open thread on Clockers (first half)”

  1. Michael Suen says:

    I’ve read 100 pages so far and already Clockers is clearly a far more introspective work, which is only possible because of its medium. The prose is directly filtered through the point of view of the characters Strike and Rocco: employing their vernacular, entertaining their insecurities and grievances. The Wire doesn’t have that convenience, so it instead represents character introspection by lingering on a facial expression or even utilizing a POV-shot.

    On the other hand, because of its consciously streetwise (but concurrently literary) diction, Clockers inherently feels more manufactured. Whereas the medium of video can play itself off as a naturalistic extension of the eyes, writing is always recognizably composed – an account, not the experience itself.

    I have some thoughts on the themes and plot, but I’ll read the rest of the first half before I can collect them in a somewhat organized blog post.

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  2. Matt Hedgpeth says:

    What jumps out at me in terms of comparison between “The Wire” and “Clockers” is the mutual importance of leadership. With the opening scene of the series fresh on our minds, what Ethiopia said about the children on the stoop has been something that’s really struck me about both the show and the novel. The sense that “The Game” really is the only option for many of the kids living with alcoholic/junkie parents in the projects is a very disturbing reality. While the buck of raising the younger kids is passed to other children (Wallace) or to some of the older street-pushers (D’Angelo, Strike) one wonders where our priorities lie. Certainly for cities like Baltimore and New York, investigating and solving the disproportionate amount of homicide cases is necessary. But at the same time, since much of what we’ve seen is centered directly around the drugs and since there are bigger infrastructural problems to be dealt with, the fact that the drug game is “forever” (as Stringer says) seems to point to a possible need for the refocusing of manpower. Not to denigrate McNulty’s ideals of justice (or those of any of the other police), but the fact that there are bigger, deep-rooted socioeconomic problems is hard to miss, to ignore within the context of the foci within both the show and the novel.

    Rocco is quite unlike some of his counterparts and the ones from the Wire in this very way: no longer interested in being married to the job, he turns his egotism instead towards the idealized fetishism of the police life that is realized through fiction––film, through Touhey.

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  3. Baird Kellogg says:

    After reading part 1 of Clockers, I have noticed some major advantages to being able to physically see the drug/cop world than by reading about it. Especially with the streets and projects and the people that inhabit them, it is a far more jarring experience to be able to see it on screen. I feel like just because it is such a different world from what the majority of the readers and viewers have probably experienced it is hard to get a good sense of it from verbal descriptions. Furthermore, for some reason I had a harder time buying into aspects of the projects that we are presented with in clockers, such as the notion of fourteen year olds desperate for drugs. The book was written in 1992, and I feel like Richard Price, working with David Simon and Edward Burns ten years later, are able to present a much more dynamic and thought provoking view of “street life.” I love the vignettes from The Wire such as the chess game as a metaphor for the drug trade or something as simple as the chicken nuggets. There is, however, one part of Clockers that I loved: Rocco’s story about “the cycle of shit.” After saving the boy who was handcuffed to the hot radiator, Rocco wanted to take his anger out on his careless, junkie mother. His partner then tells him that he knows the mother (her brother was beaten to death by his father, she is now mistreating her son, and her son will likely grow up to be a “real piece of shit too”). I still don’t know completely what to make of it, but it seems to symbolize the disillusionment that overcomes the cops after a few years on the job. Eventually the young, idealistic policemen begins to feel that whatever he does won’t really make a difference in the long run. This was an excellent part of the first half of the book. It is brilliant moments such as this that seem to be constantly recurring in The Wire. The book is still good though, and although I have not made as strong an emotional connection with Strike and Rocco like I have with many character on The Wire, I eagerly look forward to reading the rest of the book.

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  4. Tahirah Foy says:

    I really enjoyed reading the first part of Clockers. There are several advantages and disadvantage to the novel as a medium when compared to a show like The Wire. One of the advantages of The Wire is it ability to rapidly jump between perspectives. This helps create the sense of caos and suspense that keeps the audience actively engaged and on the edge of their seats. In novel like Clockers switching perspectives can be very confusing for the reader. However Clockers plays with perspective in a unique way. In the beginning of the story the reader is introduced to police from the perspective of the inhabitants of the projects even down to their names. Then it is not until later that the reader is introduced to the police from their perspective. I though this was a great technique. I also really like Price’s attention to small details that provided insight in the characters and added a level of mystery. Some examples I can think of are Strike and his vanilla Yoo Hoos or the moment Rocco shares with his daughter Erin.

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  5. Emily McCabe says:

    The first half of Clockers is first of all difficult and confusing to read in conjunction with seeing the show The Wire for the first time. The sheer number of characters introduced through both mediums to create the world on the streets of Baltimore and New York/ Jersey is overwhelming to keep track of (and i think the creators and novelist would have it no other way). By taking time in both instances to sort through the characters identities and emotions to the best of our ability the show and novel force the audience to perform their own detective work.

    That said, the perspective and how the author plays with our view of certain characters, as Tahirah mentions, differs in the novel from that of the show for me providing both positive and negative contrast. During certain scenes in the show (ex. Bubbles in interrogation) we leave action that the viewer has a vested interest in and hear it second hand through the doorway, or return moments later in the episode after our attention has drifted elsewhere. While this creates suspense it is also frustrating and irritating to a certain degree and I appreciate the narrative line in the novel that follows a sequence of action through to its conclusion. (ex: Rocco interrogating Victor) However even as the novel switches back and forth from chapter to chapter allowing the reader to glimpse both the law and the streets the narrative is centered differently. By making Rocco and Strike the readers eyes we must contend with their biases and limited view of the world in a way that we do not on the wire. On the Wire each characters story vies for the spotlight creating a fascinating interplay they novel, due to its structure lacks.

    In terms of thematic content, I was struck by the incredible anger and sometimes vindictiveness portrayed on the part of the women in the novel. When Almighty’s girlfriend turns him in for a crime she has no indication he was involved in it leads the reader to question the methods women utilize to obtain power in these sorts of situations. Feeling lost, abandoned and, above all furious she turns in desperation to the cops, a world it is clear she abandoned long ago (no contact with her father an ex cop). It will be interesting to continue to examine the womens role in the novel, especially in light of the male perspective and focus of the narrative.

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