Saturday, March 26, 2011

Carl Crow's Tortured Prose

I've been reading a comically bad history of Buick and Flint called The City of Flint Grows Up, authored by Carl Crow in 1945. The writing is entertainingly awful:
"It is not far-fetched to say that the relationship between the city and the industry has been like that of a self-sacrificing father and a successful son. The people of Flint dug deep into the toes of their financial socks to bring the puny Buick enterprise to this community. They coddled and nurtured it through infancy and adolescence, and when it grew Flint also grew, and was rewarded with security and prosperity."
Crow was an interesting guy, judging by his Wikipedia entry, which may be more reliable than some of the things Crow wrote:
"Carl Crow arrived in Shanghai in 1911 and made the city his home for a quarter of a century, working there as a journalist, newspaper proprietor, and groundbreaking ad-man. He also did stints as a hostage negotiator, emergency police sergeant, gentleman farmer, go-between for the American government, and propagandist."
Not exactly a bio that gives you confidence in his objectivity. He spends a chunk of the book's forward explaining why, even though Buick paid him to write the book, he had "complete freedom of expression...with no restriction" on what he wrote.

Yeah, Carl. Sure. Whatever you say.


  1. Henceforth, all my assets shall be metaphorically contained in a sock, and when I spend money I will be taking it from the ankle, heel, or, in desperate times, the toe.

    --M Skrzypek

  2. Does this mean Pipi Longstocking was rich?

  3. And is there a link between dirty socks and filthy lucre?

  4. I recently checked this book out for the second time from Mcfarlen library in Grand Blanc. I thought I was alone when it came to appreciating the tragic/comic irony in this prologue. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. The first time I read it I sent this quote to a prominent (?) local newspaper columnist, who promptly ignored me. I couldn't think of anyone else to share it with who would care. I was all smiles to see it brought up on here.

  5. Yeah, if the book were better written it would be pretty boring. Carl managed to achieve the elusive so-bad-it's-good quality. Now a well-written bio of Carl Crow could be a legitimate good read.

    And it just dawned on me that the sock reference might be a play on the concept of socking money away. This sounds like a depression-era saying. Anyone know the origin?

  6. So if we are the parent, and GM is the successful son, does this mean that our wonderful son has now placed us in some hideous, third rate nursing home with sadistic, abusive caregivers?

    I found a copy of the book some years ago. I seem to recall it being required reading in 3rd or 4th grade in the Flint Public Schools back in the early 60's.

    It would have been great if it had maybe been reissued in the early 80's, with a forward and updates by Tom Kay.

  7. I have a copy of this book. It was sponsored by Buick, and was written as a post-war tome about how great Flint is (was). The guy also wrote a lot of books about China and seemed to think they were the next big thing. In the 1940's! So I give the guy some credit.

    Check out the section in his Flint book about drunk lumberjacks getting their paychecks and running amok around "downtown" Flint of the 1800's.

    Absolutely classic stuff. I mean you can't make it up, and Gordie you should have random bits of it posted from time to time.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at