Friday, August 14, 2009

Five best books on Detroit's car culture

Paul J. Ingrassia retired from The Wall Street Journal at the end of 2007, after 31 years. In 1993, as the Journal's Detroit bureau chief, Mr. Ingrassia won a Pulitzer Prize -- along with his deputy, Joseph B. White --for coverage of the prior year's crisis at General Motors. The two also won a Loeb Award. Messrs. Ingrassia and White co-authored Comeback: the Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, published by Simon and Schuster in 1994.

His new book, Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster, is due out in January 2010.

Back in 2005 he named a five best list of books that capture Detroit's car culture, and America's.

One title on the list:
"The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" by Tom Wolfe (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965).

The California custom--er, kustom--car culture of the 1950s and 1960s and the rise of stock-car racing in the South (modern-day Nascar) come alive in this collection of essays. This isn't strictly a car book but instead a description of the post--World War II rise of popular culture--and the hallowed place of automobiles within its various strains. Thus we meet Southern stock-car legend Junior Johnson and California custom-car guru Ed Roth, among others. "Cars mean more to these kids than architecture did in Europe's great formal century, say, 1750 to 1850," writes Mr. Wolfe. "They are freedom, style, sex, power, motion, color--everything is right there."
Read about another book on Ingrassia's list.

--Marshal Zeringue