(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This is a story of four teenage friends who come of age on the streets of southside Chicago. In a neighborhood whose streets have no names, they search for something with which to ally themselves, a place to claim as their own.

Blight is everywhere; they appropriate the word into their vocabulary so that it—the word “blight” itself—becomes the definitive influence on their world. When their neighborhood is proclaimed an Official Blight Area, they change the name of their band from the No Names to the Blighters. Baptized in the good name of blight, the Blighters know firsthand the beauty buried underneath the buildings boarded up and blackened by arson, with bulldozers waiting in the wake. Blight is a state of mind, a level of consciousness and perception, and the Blighters—Ziggy, Pepper, Deejo, and Dave—have heard “the music of viaducts”; they have been to “churches where saints winked.”

A series of anecdotal digressions weaves an interrelated mosaic of visual impressions that all rise out of a shared sense of place: a Chicago that owes more to invention and the imagination than it does to the restrictions of a realistically detailed map. The narrative focus shifts from character to character, offering glimpses that range from the magically fantastic to gritty urban realism. Between two mid-century wars—Korea and Vietnam—the Blighters begin to see the world in a new light: a movement from innocence to experience. Early...

(The entire section is 456 words.)