Sunday, May 10, 2009

Great Writing By Eric Konigsberg About Grosse Point--"Where The E's Are Silent But Still Do All The Work."

Sometimes it's best just to step back and let a gifted writer's words and rhythms speak for themselves.

Read, and listen, to a spectacular lede from this morning's paper, atop the Sunday Styles cover story by Eric Konigsberg about the effect of economic woes on the ritzy Detroit suburb of Grosse Point.

This is how it's done.

WITH an address in this town, where the e’s are silent but still do all the work, a club doesn’t need an elaborate name, nor even much of a physical plant. The Tennis House tells you everything you need to know. You either get it or you don’t.

One indoor Har-Tru court. An intermittently staffed wet bar with some dilapidated steel chairs covered in tartan vinyl. And upon entering, a doormat that says only “Since 1936.”

The club is so low profile that some people here aren’t even aware of it. It was built, said Richard Klimisch, a longtime member, by Edsel Ford and is still owned by members of the Ford family who live nearby.

“You used to have to wait years to get in, but now we can’t even find enough members,” said Mr. Klimisch, a former engineer and lobbyist for General Motors who considers himself very fortunate to have taken an early buyout several years ago. “We need 100 just to cover the costs, and we’re down to about 75. It used to be the most exclusive club in Grosse Pointe. Now, we’re probably going to have to close it down.”

Detroit is used to playing through pain — having endured, over the years, the 1967 race riots, the advent of fuel-efficient Japanese cars, and Kid Rock’s marriage to Pamela Anderson. But this is Grosse Pointe, one of its grandest suburbs, a community along Lake St. Clair, where — if some generalization can be permitted — the mansions have porte-cocheres and loggias; and the Fords, Chryslers and Dodges on the block might be last names.

The automotive industry’s current woes are so severe, members of the local ruling class say, that they feel threatened to an extent they haven’t before. With Chrysler in bankruptcy and G.M. — even after receiving $15.4 billion in federal loans — at the brink of it, too, gloom and fear are hardly abstract quantities.

Auto executives have been as ridiculed as any high-flying group in recent years, with their private jets, falling sales and spectacularly huge losses. Grosse Pointe’s clubby culture always seemed solid. But now, as the industry lays off its white-collar workers in greater numbers, the suburb is suffering and residents seem surprised — and maybe even a little angry. The troubles go much deeper than the fate of one threadbare tennis court.


Michael Powell said...

Now HERE'S something to agree upon. Eric is terrific and this lede was a thing of beauty

Anonymous said...

Nice story. It's always heartwarming to see a reporter so enamored of his subjects.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm thick, but I still don't get the joke in this lede.

"...where the e’s are silent but still do all the work..." sure sounds good, but what does it mean? I see the silent e's, but what work are they doing? Who are the e's?

The last time I was in Grosse Pointe the only people I saw actually working were "tradesmen" as I think they're called by the natives, but they didn't have e's on their shirts or anything so obvious.

Anonymous said...

I also had to think three or four times to understand the joke and I'm not even sure I sussed out the joke that Konigsberg wanted to make.

My reading is that without the silent e at the end of each word, it would just be "Gross Point" which doesn't sound very sophisticated. If I were writing the lede, I would have said, "Where the E's are silent but gild the name with French grace."

But maybe I'm being too literal.

Anonymous said...

Initially I thought that also, but it seems too obvious for a thing of beauty.
Maybe it's funnier in French.

Anonymous said...

Add one more to the "I didn't get the lede" list. I started thinking "The E's do all the work? What E's? Employees? Immigrants? No - that doesn't have an E. What is he talking about?" It was only reading your comments that I realized the "E" referred to the the E at the end of Grosse -- and even then, it seems like a strained piece of writing that never explained how the e's did all the work.