[Crossposted from my five-star review on Goodreads.]
I rarely give out five stars, especially to an essay collection (where the quality can be uneven). But this is just fantastic: a highly readable selection of scholarly essays — mostly from professors of English, actually, but the essays are written from a more sociological perspective.
Doubtless the fact that I love the television show — perhaps the greatest in the history of the medium, but take my hyperbole with a grain of salt — has much to do with my appreciation of the book. The variety of the essays is its main virtue: there’s a discussion of “the production of gender” among the “Barksdale women”, two essays loosely about genre (the police procedural, and the melodrama), capitalism and violence (as seen through Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale), serial vs episodic narratives on television, inner-city manhood, a close reading/viewing of Agnieszka Holland’s visuality, and an analysis of fan reaction to Omar Little (and queerness and American citizenship). Foucault is mentioned a lot — not just because of the theme of surveillance running throughout the show, but because, like Foucault, The Wire takes as its main topic the nature of modern institutions and the distribution and exercise of power within them.
Of course, the book won’t make much sense to folks who haven’t seen the show. But for fans who want to delve further into the rich, complexly layered world of The Wire — and not just read a book that merely features making-of anecdotes or behind-the-scenes gossip (though I’d be happy to read that too) — this book is highly recommended.