Preib encounters traces of specifically Christian faith, but the religion that obsesses him is, as for Melville or Whitman, something beyond the limits of Christianity or any other creed; the “religion” at the center of these essays is the root of endurance, what keeps the people of the city slogging on, day to day. This is a stripped-down, gritty notion of the religious, but one that resonates with deep association in American history and, as Preib argues, one rooted not in metaphysics or inherited tradition so much as in the “promise in seeing the city at it is.”Chicago's a very tough town but the professed tough Mother Fuckers seldom as tough as they say and the truely tough families who thrive despite it all seldom written about in the local lit. Ok, I haven't read the book it, so let me hold back the rest of the judgement.
Maneuvering around a leaky corpse, trying to figure out the best angle of approach to avoid getting fluids on your uniform or your skin—if such a moment is the root of a religious conception of the world, this religion is not for the weak of heart or stomach. Indeed, “realism” emerges from rough scenes—encounters with gang bangers, crime victims, the hopeless, the dead—scenes many civilians will never see. But Preib writes as a cop, with more than a passing interest in being read by his fellow cops. His indicting descriptions of self-serving lawyers, journalists, and professors is coupled with a persistent sense that only a select few are able to handle the truth of the world as it is. To embrace Preib’s realism, then, “You just have to be tough enough to ride it out.”
Preib is, to borrow his description of Whitman, “a tough motherfucker.” His prose has the blunt gait of an incident report, yet deeply measured, contemplative, each clean sentence clearly the work of lengthy reflection. His interest is not just in the facts, after all, but in how one can make sense of these facts; interpretation, in this case via formal framing through writing, allows one to go from the “realism” of the streets to the “religion” of the city.
This link over at Amazon.com The Wagon and Other Stories from the City