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Indicating by this succinct phrasing his understanding as to the work that would be required in order to make sense of the sketches and the heinous nature of the crime.
March 23, 2011 7:35 PM   Subscribe

There are few works of greater scope or structural genius than the series of fiction pieces by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden, collectively known as The Wire; yet for the most part, this Victorian masterpiece has been forgotten and ignored by scholars and popular culture alike.
Like his contemporary Charles Dickens, Ogden has, due to the rough and at times lurid nature of his material, been dismissed as a hack, despite significant endorsements of literary critics of the nineteenth century. Unlike the corpus of Dickens, The Wire failed to reach the critical mass of readers necessary to sustain interest over time, and thus runs the risk of falling into the obscurity of academia. We come to you today to right that gross literary injustice.
—Contrary to Rule No. 1 of the internets, the comments are also worth a moment or two of your time.
posted by kipmanley (38 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shiiiiit!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 PM on March 23, 2011


God, I'm so sick of people telling me to read The Wire.
posted by theodolite at 7:42 PM on March 23, 2011 [28 favorites]


It's really funny so far, but I've explicitly heard Simon say in interviews that The Wire isn't (or isn't intended to be, at least) Dickensian.
posted by codacorolla at 7:45 PM on March 23, 2011


Excuse me, can you tell me where the Poe house is?
posted by box at 7:47 PM on March 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


No mention of his previous book (also serialized) also set in Bodymore - Murther: Life on the Streets.
posted by 445supermag at 7:47 PM on March 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to read books to understand?
posted by Naberius at 7:48 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


HA.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:10 PM on March 23, 2011


"Say Hood, were does one find a loveable rogue-varied skill set-second story chap-low church and wooded rut-good with keys, that sort of thing."
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 PM on March 23, 2011


...the comments are also worth a moment or two of your time.

What the fuck am I reading?
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:52 PM on March 23, 2011


Can someone tell me succinctly why the wire is so great? This article doesn't get to the point.
posted by uni verse at 9:00 PM on March 23, 2011


So, I read this, and I was like, yes, this is great. And then I noticed the shout out to UW library connections, and I'm all, hunh, zis guy live in Seattle? And then with the Googling and the so forth and I'm all, huh, you know, I know a guy named Sean that comes up with stuff like OMIGAW and yeah it's this dude I know. Who is apparently a sort of genius! Which is exciting to know.
posted by mwhybark at 9:07 PM on March 23, 2011


> Can someone tell me succinctly why the wire is so great? This article doesn't get to the point.

Mr. Verse looked on in confusion, not privy to the brilliance of The Wire's intricate plots. A more worldly observer, with deeper knowledge of television shows, an understanding of great crime drama, and an ability to follow plot-lines across seasons, would begin to have a glimmer of what Metafilter had already concluded several times: that The Wire was the greatest fucking TV show ever.
posted by vidur at 9:15 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lol @ Sketches By Bubz
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:06 PM on March 23, 2011


Is The Wire being rebroadcast on TBS or somewhere in bowdlerized form, like The Sopranos was?
posted by mecran01 at 10:08 PM on March 23, 2011


The Sopranos was the greatest TV show ever, and then The Wire made it look like a school play.

Why do the CSI detectives just so happen to encounter and solve a bizarrely intricate murder every week? Because otherwise there wouldn't be a show called CSI. The detectives feel like the center of the CSI universe because they are.

You could write a similar paragraph about any other show in existence: unusual and frankly unrealistic chains of events continuously happen to the characters, because otherwise there wouldn't be a show. This is not a criticism of those shows, but it's something that miraculously doesn't happen in The Wire. The characters never feel like the center of the universe. We are looking at a small part of a real world.

In the first season, focusing on the Barksdale drug dealers and the detectives laboring to track them, the characters are just as likely to screw up in major or minor ways as they are to succeed in major or minor ways. More than any other characters in TV history, they appear to be experiencing real life. We sense that in the background, the characters are surrounded by peers, lessers, and superiors, who are also going about their own missions, who might at any moment materialize in the foreground of the plot.

And then, over the following seasons, the show pans out to reveal half a dozen other groups of characters, each with equal depth of realization, each experiencing the complexity of real life. And somehow the viewer is allowed to follow each group's ferociously realistic interlocking drama with pinpoint accuracy. No-one in TV production dreamed this was possible, not on this scale. But The Wire broke every rule in the book as if there were no book, and it took a non-fiction author to do it.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:33 PM on March 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


So, what you're saying is, The Wire learned all the lessons of NYPD Blue.
posted by hippybear at 10:57 PM on March 23, 2011


Lady Gaga : pop music :: The Wire : TV drama
posted by benzenedream at 11:07 PM on March 23, 2011


Lady Gaga : pop music :: The Wire : TV drama

What, underexposed?
posted by rhizome at 11:15 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The comments are so, so wonderful - they pick up the ball and run with it in all sorts of directions, like Watchmen as an epic poem: "Btw, have you seen the latest translation? Snyder argues the word that traditionally has been translated as “squid” is actually closer akin to “weapon”. "
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:11 AM on March 24, 2011


Overall a brilliant series, but the second volume, about a dockworker union in decline, seemed out of touch with the reality of 1850.
posted by A dead Quaker at 2:27 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a relatively casual student of Ogden, I agree that the tone of the second volume is noticeably different, particularly in comparison to the detailed critique of Victorian attitudes towards race and crime in the volumes that flank it. However, I do recall it being put forth that the second volume is an exploration of Shakespearian tragedy, wherein every character, even those with good intentions, rush headlong towards sorrow. They write their own ends, in a way that is agonizing to watch, but just as deep and beautifully executed as the more modern volumes in the serial.

And, of course, the second volume gave us what must be the most hated character in all of Western literary tradition: Ziggy Sobotka. Where would our understanding of humanity be without that loathsome being?
posted by kalimac at 4:01 AM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Mad Men, CP+B just...
posted by lesli212 at 3:23 AM on March 24 [+] [!]

Wait, we were speaking of Mad Men? Sorry to be snarky, but I'm waiting for it to come out on DVD so I'd rather not have unexpected information thrown out there in the middle of an apparently unrelated thread.

Also, apologizes if I'm dense but I actually didn't see anything else about Mad Men so if I'm just in a bleary morning haze my apologies (entirely possible).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:10 AM on March 24, 2011


I don't get Mad Men. It just a lot of nice suits, make-up and decor, to my eye.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:01 AM on March 24, 2011


And, of course, the second volume gave us what must be the most hated character in all of Western literary tradition: Ziggy Sobotka. Where would our understanding of humanity be without that loathsome being?

Ziggy Sobotka - the Jar Jar Binks of The Wire?
posted by entropone at 5:32 AM on March 24, 2011


No, that's entirely backwards. Jar Jar was painful to watch because he was so far off the mark — totally bizarre and implausible even within a weird-ass implausible fantasy universe. But Ziggy's painful to watch because he hits too close to home. We've all got a bit of that guy in us, and we hate to admit it.

My guess is that he was written in as an antidote to the super-badasses like Omar and McNulty. "Really? You're gonna take that guy as a role model? You're gonna tell yourself that you could be that streetwise and irreverent and crazy-smart all the time? Okay, look, just so you know — when you think you're coming off just like Jimmy McNulty, this is what you really look like."
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:25 AM on March 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Someone's got to do a full Two Gentlemen of Lebowski treatment of this. At least the first season.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 AM on March 24, 2011


Anybody remember this treatment of Star Wars as an Icelandic saga? I do. That was the good stuff, too.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 8:41 AM on March 24, 2011


So, I've been trying to read the comments after the linked article, and ... is there some other Dostoevsky that I don't know about? Because half of the conversation there about him does not seem to be about a 19th century Russian author.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:10 AM on March 24, 2011


Hate Ziggy? No. Pity and contempt, those would be the two conflicting emotions when I see his awkward, frantic, bizarre behaviour during the 2nd season of the Wire. The wannabe and never has been, who only finally comes into his own after destroying his own life.

the super-badasses like Omar and McNulty

I loves me some Omar, but I think it is worth pointing out that for all his super-badassery, he is still a flawed character whose own arc unfolds as it should. I think, however, that calling McNulty a super-badass is wrong. He is a good cop with delusions of greatness that lead to his downfall...the true super-badasses on the police side of the ledger are Bunk and Lester. True police, those two. Even if Lester fails in the end.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:49 AM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Come n get your White man's burden Tees!
posted by dracomarca at 11:16 AM on March 24, 2011


The Great Big Mulp: So, I've been trying to read the comments after the linked article, and ... is there some other Dostoevsky that I don't know about? Because half of the conversation there about him does not seem to be about a 19th century Russian author.

That's the joke, Mulp, that's the joke. You do know that The Wire is a TV series and not a Victorian serial, right?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:17 AM on March 24, 2011


Ahhhh ... right. Yeah, I guess my sense of humor is broken for the day. Carry on!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:23 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Ogden walkin'"
posted by gonzo_ID at 11:57 AM on March 24, 2011


The talk of Ziggy just made me go look up the word "desperate", and I can report back that that is indeed the word I was looking for.
posted by zoinks at 12:13 PM on March 24, 2011


The blighting website's bin and gone and went tits up, innit! Five oh free error my jiggly BUM.

Snivelsome oatings, eh wat?
posted by Sebmojo at 1:55 PM on March 24, 2011


I remember thinking the first episode of the Wire sucked, because they just throw you into this story that's already going and explain nothing. That's what makes it great.
posted by Huck500 at 4:02 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The caption should say something like "Omar draws near."" instead of "Omar comin',yo."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:36 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having just finished the second Volume of Ogden, I concur that it at first seemed a bit jarring to be focusing on a largely caucasian slice of Bodymore after all of the words spent clearly defining the African community in the first volume, but now I understand that not only was that necessary for the serial's depiction of Bodymore (which, correctly, should be viewed as the central "character" itself) to be complete, but also that the issue is not a change in the racial make-up of the books, so much as it throws the reader off to once again be tossed into a new "world" without anything to help us get our bearings once again. That Ogden continues on with the Barksdale storyline in the background without any apparent connection to the Longshoremen until near the end of the volume can also be a bit frustrating until the work is seen in retrospect.

Still, the parallels between wildly divergent characters are a definite strong point throughout. Stringer's attempts to hold together the operations on the West End mirror Sobatka's increasingly frustrated attempts to control operations at the docks, while each of them has underlings whom they care about deeply (Bodie, Ziggy) who are nonetheless hopelessly inept and only bring down pain upon them. And of course Omar's interactions with the Lords and Barristers are simply priceless.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2011


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