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Book Club Sat Mar 17 2007
A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream
by Rick Kogan
(Lake Claremont Press, 2006) 115 p.
In a recent interview for the Chicago Writers Association, author Rick Kogan said, "It's kind of amazing that no one thought to write this story before Sam Sianis sat me down and, God love him, asked me if I'd be interested." I agree. The Billy Goat Tavern is so much a part of the Chicago consciousness and, thanks to Saturday Night Live, the national consciousness, that it does seem incredible that this story has not been told until now. But, what a story it is.
In its scant 115 pages, A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream tells the stories of tavern founder William "Billy Goat" Sianis, who arrived in Chicago from Greece in 1912; his nephew and current tavern owner, Sam Sianis; the whole story of the goat and the fabled Cubs curse; the Saturday Night Live skit that made the tavern famous; and stories of the journalists, newspaper people and other regulars, such as Tim Weigel and Mike Royko, who have inhabited the Billy Goat over the years.
Throughout A Chicago Tavern, Kogan employs the present tense, even when describing events that occurred 30, 50 or 70 years ago. Although unusual, it gives the stories a strong feeling of immediacy and intimacy. As readers, we're not just reading about the Billy Goat — we become one of its patrons, sitting alongside the bar, listening to these stories as if we were shoulder to shoulder with Rick, Mike, Sam or Billy. At its heart, A Chicago Tavern is about family, both the Sianis family and the family of the tavern's regulars. Reading this book, for a few hours we feel like part of the family, too.
A Chicago Tavern: A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream by Rick Kogan is the April book for the Gapers Block Book Club. Read the book, and then come to The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) on Monday, April 9 at 7:30pm for our discussion. Author Rick Kogan is scheduled to join us, so it promises to be a special evening.
About the Author
Kogan is a senior writer at the Chicago Tribune and writes the "Sidewalks" column for the Tribune's Sunday magazine. He is also the host of "Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan" on WGN radio and the author of several books, including America's Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers and, most recently, Sidewalks: Portraits of Chicago, a collection of his columns accompanied by photos by Charles Osgood. In 1999 New City named Kogan Chicago's Best Reporter, and he was inducted to the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2003 by the International Press Club of Chicago.
The official website of the Billy Goat Tavern includes photos, a brief history, souvenirs and more.
Visit the book page for A Chicago Tavern at the Lake Claremont Press website to read an excerpt and find out more about the title.
Read the whole interview with Rick Kogan at the Chicago Writers Association website from their March newsletter. (Scroll about halfway down the page.)
And, the Sun-Times also recently talked to Kogan about life, the Billy Goat and his other recent book, Sidewalks.