New York Times Says A Few Nice Things About "Say Nice Things About Detroit"
What ultimately resonates most profoundly in the novel is Mr. Lasser’s ode to the city where he was born — to the Amboy Dukes and Nemo’s sports bar, the Ren Cen and the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in nearby Bloomfield Township where Jimmy Hoffa was last seen — and his plea for its revitalization, writes reviewer Adam Langer.
Yet even this heartfelt entreaty loses effectiveness the more Mr. Lasser makes it. “It’s been going downhill for years, but I want to be back,” David Halpert says early on. “For me, this is the only real place.”
Later: “It was hard to make people understand that he was committed to the idea of return, that he was coming home, all the way, and he wasn’t going to be dissuaded.”
Later still: “Since moving back, he’d found himself rooting for Detroit, reverently waiting for it to rise in some miraculous resurrection.”
At moments this brings to mind Woody Allen’s series of over-romanticized false starts at the beginning of the film “Manhattan.” (“Chapter One: He adored New York City. To him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture.”)
In “Say Nice Things About Detroit,” Mr. Lasser may have been striving to compose an anthem, but has nevertheless wound up with an epitaph. The novel tries to imagine what would lead a middle-class white man like himself to move back to Detroit, but can answer only with wildly unlikely circumstances: a child’s death, a murder, two broken marriages, a love affair, an unexpected pregnancy.
The author’s own biography tells a less compelling story. Mr. Lasser, it reads, now splits his time between Colorado and Los Angeles, “with regular trips to his hometown of Detroit.”