I’ve been meaning to say something here about a piece of writing I’ve just published. It’s a piece of long-form journalism about São Paulo, and one of a new series of ebooks recently released by Strelka Press. I should confess that I’m also the editor behind Strelka Press, so this was partly a case of my wanting to live this experiment to the fullest, as both author and publisher.
It began with a drive. A couple of friends and I set out one day to drive the circumference of São Paulo. We thought we would make a film about it, and in fact the photographer Thelma Vilas Boas – one of my companions that day – shot some beautiful footage. But we never made that film (largely because Thelma and I live on different continents), so instead it became a piece of writing.
Edge City is part road trip and part urban critique. It explores the edge condition of South America’s largest metropolis, trying to understand how it came to be the way that it is. Focusing on the different kinds of housing that make up the sprawling periphery, from favelas to modernist social housing to gated communities, it takes a snapshot of a landscape that is the product of failed politics.
The essay delves into the history and politics of the city, but it is also very much a work of observation. Along the way it takes in evangelical churches and love motels, advertising and graffiti, factory villages and reservoirs. There are encounters with people who made their homes here, often against the odds. And most of all, like an experiment in mapping by writing, there is mile after mile of road.