Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, May 22

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Book Club

Books Tue Dec 15 2015

Review: The Fugue by Gint Aras

fuguecover.jpgThere is a long list of amazing local authors writing about Chicago and its nearby neighborhoods, but few of them do it with such poise as Gint Aras. His writing balances bold flourishes with a plainspoken beauty, which was in full display in his novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar. In that book Aras completely embodies his pot-laced Andy Nowak in the first person narrative, right down to the slang written words and diction. It was a deep character study that asked you to see the world through his eyes and ears. Aras' second novel, The Fugue, released by Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, is an entirely different beast. It is a disorienting and multi-layered tale that interlinks refugee families, communities, and art over multiple generations. There aren't books immediately deserve a second reading, but The Fugue is one of them.

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Julian Ramirez

Poetry Mon Dec 14 2015

The Perfect Stocking Stuffer for the Beatles Fan on Your List

Beware of Napkins - John Lennon

Chicago Public School teacher and writer Jack Murphy has teamed up with local freelance artist Melanie Plank to produce an illustrated book of Beatles inspired poems. The collection, titled Beware of Napkins, includes 15 poems and 23 pen, ink and crayon or crayon-like illustrations.

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Emma Terhaar

Book Club Tue Nov 10 2015

Review: City Creatures, Collected by Gavin Van Horn & David Aftandilian

City Creatures cover.jpgThis month, University of Chicago Press published City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness, a book of essays, poetry and art collected by Gavin Van Horn and David Aftandilian springing from the Center for Humans and Nature's City Creatures Blog. Book and blog work in tandem to advocate for the appreciation of nature within the city, conservation of threatened habitats and species, and ecology education for all. In his essay "A Tale of Two Squirrels and One City," Joel S. Brown writes that his students "...could see the concepts of ecology in action; they could see the relevance of the formerly abstract discussion of adaptations in the very characteristics and behaviors of the squirrels around them." City Creatures calls attention to the animals we share Chicago with and solidifies abstract concepts surrounding ecology and conservation.

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Brianna Kratz

Books Tue Nov 10 2015

Review: The Voiceover Artist by Chicago Writer Dave Reidy

Voiceover.jpgIf you love fiction and Chicago authors then you probably already know Dave Reidy. His first book, Captive Audience, is a collection of short stories with a Chicago take on music, comedy, sports, and family. His writing has humor and drama, and it explores human nature in a way that only a Chicagoan who has experienced and loved these topics only can. In his first novel, The Voiceover Artist, released by Curbside Splendor this week, he tackles similar ground: entertainment, family and relationships, and how they all intertwine.

Reading fiction, you have to suspend disbelief. Reading The Voiceover Artist it's a bit hard to imagine how main character Simon Davies, a man with a speech impediment who hadn't talked for years suddenly makes a name for himself in the tough world of voiceover work. But that's fiction's job, to create a reality where anything is possible. And Reidy does that here with the unique way in which he tells this story.

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John Wawrzaszek

Author Thu Oct 22 2015

Skokie Public Library Hosts YA Authors November 5

Popular young adult authors Ally Condie, Jandy Nelson, and Meg Wolitzer bring their nationwide book tour to the Skokie Public Library (5215 Oakton Street) on Thursday, November 5 at 7:00pm. The Penguin Random House authors are on tour together promoting the releases of their new paperbacks: Atlantia by Ally Condie, I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. ya-book-tour.jpgThe moderated panel discussion will take place in the Petty Auditorium of the Skokie Public Library, and books will be available for purchase courtesy of The Book Stall. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is available online to those with a current library card from the Skokie or other suburban public libraries. If you do not have a library card or if you live in Chicago, call (847) 673-7774 to sign up by phone.

Jeremy Owens

Author Wed Oct 21 2015

Beyond Lolita: Literary Writers on Sex and Sexuality

LOLITA.jpgWomen and Children First Bookstore hosts Beyond Lolita: Literary Writers on Sex and Sexuality at the Swedish American Museum (5211 North Clark Street), Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7:30pm. This Chicago round-table event will be moderated by writer Anna March and feature Chicago-area authors Rachel Dewoskin, Audrey Niffenegger, Megan Stielstra, Luis Urrea and Cyn Vargas.

"Beyond Lolita" brings writers and editors together for a discussion on sex and sexuality in literature. Participants will reflect on their own work as well as the work of a diverse array of modern and contemporary writers. Topics may include: craft considerations; the impact writing on these topics has on the culture and on writers themselves; the challenges authors have in writing their own experiences and writing beyond their own experiences; the importance of writing diverse sexuality; aspects of LGBT culture; and more.

The Chicago stop is one of five events being held around the country (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland) to benefit the PEN America's Writers' Emergency Fund. This event is free and open to the public, reservations are not required.

Jeremy Owens

Chicago Public Library Fri Oct 02 2015

One Book, One Chicago Events

One-Book-One-Chicago.jpgJoin the Chicago Public Library at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State) this month as it presents a variety of programs in conjunction with the current One Book, One Chicago selection, The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja.

On Monday, October 5 at 6:00 pm the Lower Level of the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium will offer a sneak peak premier of the film In The Game. The movie, directed Maria Finitzo, takes a look at four years in the life of the girls' soccer team at Chicago's inner city Kelly High School in the primarily Hispanic Brighton Park neighborhood. This event will be followed by a panel discussion.

Do you wish you could design a home like the architects in The Third Coast? You'll get the chance on Monday, October 12 at 1:00 in the library's Maker Lab. Participants will learn architectural and design skills on a small scale when they make a doll house with a laser cutter in this Really Tiny House Maker Lab Series. This series will continue through April 2016 resulting in a complete "Really Tiny House."

Teddy Cruz, a Rome Prize-winning architect, will be on hand Tuesday, October 27 at 6:00 pm in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. Architectural historian Dianne Harris will interview Mr. Cruz about the societal implication of his architectural work. Cruz is known for using the Tijuana-San Diego border as a laboratory to re-think global dynamics, including the issues of hospitality inherent in immigration issues and the expanded gap between wealth and poverty.

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Jeremy Owens

Reviews Wed Sep 30 2015

Review: The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin

the dead ladies projectJessa Crispin, the founder of the literary blog and the online magazine Spolia, and a former Chicagoan, recently wrote a memoir. The Dead Ladies Project will be released Oct. 6 by University of Chicago Press.

The book is one part travel diary and one part biography of famous intellectuals. Crispin spent a year and a half traipsing through Europe. She dedicates each section of her book to a different city and a different genius who at one time lived there.

The Dead Ladies Project is worth reading for the brief biographies alone. Crispin tells us about people who've never gotten as much attention as their life and work demands. Who was James Joyce's wife? Why does no one tell the story of half-sisters/lovers Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore playing tricks on the Nazis? What was father of Psychology William James's relationship with his own father like? Crispin details the lives of nine figures complete with their love affairs, run ins with the law, and a synopses of their life's work.

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Emma Terhaar

Reviews Wed Sep 30 2015

Review: Nightfall by Jake Halpern & Peter Jukawinski

nightfall.jpgNightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Sept. 22, 2015)

On the island of Bliss, 14 years of day are followed by 14 years of night. As the sun sets on the horizon, everyone prepares to migrate off of the island to wait out the long night. Locks are taken off doors, furniture is rearranged and tables are set. No one knows how or why these rituals began -- at least, no one is willing to talk about it. Nightfall focuses on three teens who are accidentally left behind as everyone flees night and the terrifying creatures that inhabit it.

The book was co-authored by investigative journalist Jake Halpern and former U.S. diplomat Peter Kujawinski as their jobs took them across the globe. Knowing that the manuscript was passed back and forth from India to Haiti and the Arctic Circle, it's easy to see that the authors' work lives inspired the book's themes.

Nightfall is very difficult to put down, it's low on magic and full of suspense and adventure. It reads like an edge-of-your-seat action movie. The book ends in a perfectly satisfying way, and leaves plenty of room for a sequel. If you are a fan of The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games, this book is for you.

Jeremy Owens

Reviews Mon Sep 28 2015

Ascenders, Neither Heaven nor Hell

Ascenders Cover Image 2.png

"No, this isn't heaven. It isn't hell. It's high school."
- C.L. Gaber, Ascenders

Walker Callaghan is your average 17-year-old suburban Chicago girl; she just happens to be dead. After a car crash, she finds herself in a middle realm that looks a lot like Michigan, where she attends The Academy, a school intended to teach the "Unformed" enough so they can ascend. In a world where there are no rules because you can't die twice, Walker falls for her classmate, bad boy Daniel Reid, and grapples with how to cope with loss--of life, and of those she cares about most.

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Brianna Kratz

Readings Thu Sep 03 2015

Gloria Steinem in Conversation with Roxane Gay


Women & Children First bookstore will host an intimate conversation between feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay on October 29 at The People's Church in Uptown. This one night only event celebrates the release of Steinem's forthcoming memoir, My Life on the Road.

Gloria Steinem, best known for her outspoken advocacy on behalf of women, was a founding editor of, and political commentator for, New York Magazine, and founding editor of Ms. Magazine. She is the recipient of many accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Roxane Gay, critic, and commentator is the author of the 2014 bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist. She is a professor of English at Purdue University and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, The Butter, and many others.

My Life on the Road details Steinem's life of travel, activism and leadership and how those experiences helped her to inspire change and revolution. This event will be a rare and great opportunity to hear from two different generations of important feminist leaders

The conversation will be held at The People's Church (941 W. Lawrence). Doors open at 6:15pm and the program begins at 7pm with a book signing following from 8 to 10pm. One ticket is included with the pre-order purchase of Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road from Women & Children First. Tickets are also available in-store, or by calling 773.769.9299.

Jeremy Owens

Books Tue Sep 01 2015

Best Chicago Novels by Neighborhood

Last week, the New York Public Library released its list of the Best New York City Novels by Neighborhood, pairing the city's best works of fiction with the neighborhoods in which they take place, from Henry James to Teju Cole. Since Chicago's literary history is just as impressive, I thought I'd take a crack at the City of Big Shoulders' best novels, neighborhood by neighborhood, from Henry Blake Fuller to Sandra Cisneros.

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Adam Morgan / Comments (20)

Contest Wed Aug 26 2015

Joe Meno's Marvel and a Wonder: A Party & a Contest

marvel and a wonderAuthor Joe Meno's latest novel, Marvel and a Wonder, will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 1 by Akashic Books.

The book tells the story of Jim Falls, a Korean War veteran, and his 16-year-old grandson Quentin, who he is raising on a farm in southern Indiana. In the summer of 1995, they unexpectedly receive a beautiful quarter horse, whose arrival draws the interest of a pair of meth-addicted brothers, who steal and sell the horse. The Falls must descend into the seedy underbelly of the horse world to get their horse back. You can read an excerpt of Marvel and a Wonder on The Rumpus.

To celebrate the book's release, Meno is throwing a party and reading at the Book Cellar on Thursday, Sept. 10, sponsored by Gapers Block and lit journal Goreyesque. In addition to reading from and signing his new book, Meno will be joined by Jan-Henry Gray, Amy Giacalone, Jan Bottiglieri and Julia Fine, who will each read a short piece of their own. We hope you'll join us there -- RSVP on Facebook.

Gapers Block has a pair of signed hardcover copies of Marvel and a Wonder to give away to two lucky readers. To enter, send an email with the subject line "Joe Meno" and your name and address in the body to We'll select the winners at random from all entries received by 5pm Thursday, Aug. 27, and will mail the books out on Friday so they'll hopefully arrive by the 1st. Good luck!

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Reviews Tue Jul 07 2015

Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

Time Salvager by Wesley ChuIn the year 2511, Chicago isn't somewhere you'd want to live anymore. "Everywhere they looked, rust dominated the landscape...Occasionally, a dim pale ray of light would sneak past the thick gray clouds, laying down an orange glaze across a surface...In the far distance over Lake Michigan, an electric storm sparked..."

"What happened to this place?" asks Elise Kim, a scientist who should have died over 400 years earlier. Her savior, James Griffin-Mars, responds, "Not just this place. Everywhere on Earth."

Chicago author Wesley Chu's new science fiction adventure novel from Tor Books, Time Salvager -- which hits bookstores today, July 7 -- is an impressive, ridiculously fun cross between Looper and Star Trek. Michael Bay, the pyromaniacal director of Transformers, has already optioned the book for a feature film.

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Adam Morgan

Books Fri Dec 12 2014

Hop into the Cab for a Ride-Along in Dmitry Samarov's Where To?

To my recollection, I never rode in Dmitry Samarov's cab. But thanks to his first book, Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, and his latest, Where To? A Hack Memoir, I feel like a regular who's ridden around the city with him for years.

Samarov took a job as a taxi driver after graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, first in Boston and then back here in Chicago. Over the years, he sketched, painted and wrote about the places he went, the things he saw and the many, many people he met, of every stripe and level of sobriety imaginable.

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Andrew Huff

Events Wed Dec 03 2014

Chicago Book Expo to Feature Speakers, Literary Events, Book Sales

The Chicago Book Expo will be 11am-5pm Saturday at Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash. The free event will have 75+ exhibitors selling books, including local presses, authors and literary organizations.

Seventeen sessions featuring more than 40 Chicago authors and other literary events are on the schedule. Here are some highlights:

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Nancy Bishop

Author Tue Nov 25 2014

The Other Chair Up There: An Hour with Donna Seaman

Donna Seaman was happy to speak with me. It was a surprise; her reputation preceded her. I knew Seaman was the woman who'd interviewed Martin Amis at this year's Chicago Humanities Festival. She is also a senior editor of Booklist.

These facts alone I describe as a "reputation": leafing through its pages on the bus downtown, I recognized Booklist as the answer to my past weekend's wondering, of literature's fading importance; and Amis was the coy and mellifluous knight at the masthead of that importance. We had all cheered, in the audience, when he came on stage. Because in his dry wit and Swansean tone we all thought we were hearing something of the truth.

She had a hand in both worlds and that fact alone led me to anticipate she'd be a little bit scary. She wasn't.

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Alex Thompson

News Tue Oct 21 2014

Clarence Page in Discussion @ The Union League Club

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 3.15.44 PM.pngThis Wednesday, Oct. 22, Printers Row presents a luncheon at The Union League Club (65 W. Jackson Blvd.) in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winner and nationally renowned columnist Clarence Page, wherein he will discuss his new anthology of work, Culture Worrier, Selected Columns 1984 - 2014, Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change.

In the 30 years since his first column in The Chicago Tribune, Page has witnessed a multitude of American milestones; his commentary on which has rightfully earned Page a revered place in the journalistic community. The anthology traverses decades and topics alike, as his interests, though always built around a core of cultural analysis, are truly varied. (Perusing his latest posts on Page's Page you'll find articles regarding President Obama's second term, the food gentrification of collard greens, and the American response to the ebola virus, to name a few.)

Page will be joined in discussion by Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune. The event kicks off with a reception at 11:30am, with the discussion set to begin at noon. Admission is $35, and copies of Culture Worrier will be available for sale at the event.

Miden Wood

Reviews Mon Oct 20 2014

Blind's Self-Pitying Narrator is Tough to Love

If you speak to any sighted person, becoming blind later on in life is an utterly devastating proposition. They would have no idea how blind people cope, how organizations thrive to better our lives, or how we could overcome so many mundane challenges in a single day. Blind by Rachel DeWoskin is an assumptive story that is a calming, engrossing read that doesn't hold many answers about how blind people -- such as myself -- accurately or factually live life but houses a wonderful plot and premise beneath stellar writing.

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Robert Kingett

Events Wed Oct 15 2014

To-Do This Month: Chicago Humanities Festival 2014

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 2.37.12 PM.png
Who better to discuss journeys than Jamaica Kincaid, Cheryl Strayed, Marjane Satrapi or Philippe Petit? Than those makers who traversed oceans, countries, revolutions; who proved that the most harrowing journeys can occur within just two hundred feet of tightrope?

The much-anticipated Chicago Humanities Festival returns for its 25th year with an extraordinary line-up of events, all centered around the theme of "Journeys." The tremendous talent includes, in addition to the aforementioned, writers like Ben Marcus (Leaving the Sea, Flame Alphabet), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Eula Bliss (On Immunity), Gary Shteyngart (Little Failure), and Jesmyn Ward (The Men We Reaped) to name only a few. Sit in on conversations with these authors and more as they recount journeys actual and notional; from the adventures that inspired their books to the very personal journey of writing them.

In addition to relishing favorite authors, lit lovers can revel in A Moth StorySLAM or any of a number of lectures. Unearth the original iteration of Hamlet, investigate J. Edgar Hoover's fascination with the Harlem Renaissance, or analyze love in all its guilty pleasure modernity with "Modern Love" editor Daniel Jones.

The festival kicks off on Oct. 21 with a Benefit Gala featuring The New York Times Op-Ed Journalist, David Brooks. Then, on Oct. 25, CHF begins full swing, with such a wide array of event topics as to make traveling to one program after another a journey in and of itself. In short, if you were looking for something to do between Oct. 25 and Nov. 9, Chicago Humanities can ensure that you will never be bored [PDF].

Miden Wood

Author Tue Oct 14 2014

Lit from Chicago, Mexico City Celebrated at Lit & Luz Festival


With each gust of wind the weary thought of winter gets stronger in our heads and suddenly we're all thinking about taking extended vacations in Mexico. Well, for those that can't get away, there's Lit & Luz: a festival featuring visual art, performances, and, of course, readings (how could we forget the readings?) with artists and authors from Chicago and Mexico City. The festival kicks off today at various locations throughout Chicago.

Lasting for four days, (Oct 15-18), Lit & Luz has lectures, interviews, and readings from strong, up-and-coming novelists and poets, such as Álvaro Enrigue, Valeria Luiselli, and Luis Felipe Fabre. Most of the readings are free, although tickets to the closing party, "A Live Magazine Show Extravaganza" put on by MAKE Literary Magazine are going for $15.

Jack McCormick / Comments (1)

Book Club Wed Oct 08 2014

Reflections on The Giving Tree at 50

It's the 50th anniversary of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree -- perhaps the world's most contentious story of a sentient tree. It's a classic story -- boy meets tree, tree falls in love with boy, boy strips tree bare of apples, branches, and finally trunk until tree is just a stump and boy is a lonely, bitter old man. As a kid, I thought the book was sad and sort of uncomfortable for reasons I couldn't quite put a finger on; as an angry 20-something I thought the tree was a sucker, and the boy was your typical, selfish tree-killing man. But I've come around to thinking this is a subtly brilliant indictment of some of the things we value the most.

The New York Times ran an article in their Book Review section last week: two writers debated "whether the book is a tender story of unconditional love or a disturbing tale of monstrous selfishness." Frankly, it's neither. Silverstein wasn't a dummy. He put the meaning of the book right there in the title. It's about giving. And giving, being generous, makes us very uncomfortable. Because giving, really giving, feels like losing. To give something to someone else, you must lose something of yourself. This is a very American way to look at generosity. Some of us (me) were taught very young to gird our loins against those who wanted stuff from us, and according to paranoid '80s parents, everyone wanted stuff from us. But even beyond that, for me, at least, real generosity was portrayed as martyrdom, death -- with reward, sure, but still death.

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Eden Robins

Awards Wed Sep 24 2014

Right This Way to "Women & Children First Way"

Talk about bragging rights: in a move that celebrates Women & Children First's reputation as a city institution, the bookstore is getting its own street in Chicago. 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman announced on Tuesday that the block at Clark St and Farragut Ave will bear the honorary name, "Women & Children First Way," as a tribute to the "iconic indie bookstore's impact as a community builder and neighborhood anchor."

This latest bit of good news comes on the heels of a change in ownership and talk of expansion in July. Founders Linda Bubon and Ann Christophersen sold W&CF to store manager Sarah Hollenbeck and her colleague, Lynn Mooney. Hollenbeck and Mooney bring years of writing and publishing experience to their leadership of Chicago's preeminent feminist bookstore.

The unveiling is scheduled for October 11th, and the celebration calls for poetry and performances by Yvonne Zipter and W&CF bookseller Shanta Nurullah. The event is free and open to the public. You'll also have a chance to meet Hollenbeck and Mooney in their store, where they'll share public drawings and a floorplan for the store renovation, set to begin in winter 2015.

Danette Chavez

Events Fri Sep 12 2014

Unabridged Bookstore Throws a Free Party for Paying Guests

The Paying Guests.jpgSet in 1920's London, The Paying Guests examines the social shift that followed the First World War: the extraordinary moment of transformation for women's role in society. Sarah Waters' much-anticipated novel has been hailed as absorbing, compelling, and eloquent; and now copies are coming to you!

Unabridged Books has just heard word that they will be receiving limited signed copies of The Paying Guests and the only proper vessel for their vast enthusiasm is, of course, a party! Featuring complimentary brew from neighboring DryHop Brewers, snacks, jams, and what promise to be "adorable lit-themed photo ops," this Monday's festivities are not to be missed. In addition to Waters' autographed arrivals, Unabridged will be celebrating Margaret Atwood's new collection, Stone Mattress, and Ian McEwan's new novel, The Children Act. In honor of all three authors, for Monday night only 100% of their works in the store will be available at a 20% discount.

Once you've sunk your teeth into old favorites and new releases, get a sneak peek at what Unabridged has in store for their stock; you might just win advanced copies of upcoming releases.

The festivities are this Monday at 10:30 pm. Come on out for your chance at winning a signed copy, and for the plethora of party perks!

Miden Wood

Author Thu Aug 21 2014

What Feminism Is Doing Wrong

cover_bad_feminist.jpgGlancing at Roxane Gay's latest title, Bad Feminist, I cannot help but imagine someone with a rolled up newspaper, whapping well-meaners on the nose: "Bad feminist! Baaad feminist. Look what you did!"

Now take that picture and imagine that, instead of a newspaper, Gay is wielding a rolled up zeitgeist: all the news, TV, film, music, and literature that have managed to slip through the cracks. (To pull an example from the book, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" became a song. A popular song. Let's all take a moment to wonder how that happened.)

Wrapped in hilarious prose, Bad Feminist is a lab experiment in media dissection. Throughout the anthology, Gay employs dry wit to pick apart thirty-plus essays worth of cultural phenomena; and when not making case studies of Girls or The Help, she analyzes feminism as a whole and its exclusionary tendencies. What does it mean, she asks, to be a woman of color and a feminist? What does it mean to be queer and be feminist?

This Wednesday, August 27th, Roxane will be reading and discussing Bad Feminist at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) at 7:30 pm. Stop by to chip away at those pieces of culture that subtly undermine feminism -- and maybe to love-bash The Bachelor.

Miden Wood

Books Thu Jul 24 2014

Find Book Bargains at the Andersonville Summer Sidewalk Sale

Aville_WineWalk_Small_Banner_FA.jpgBargain Hunters, point your vessels north: this weekend the stores of Andersonville take to the streets to offer discounts on all their wares!

We at Book Club are suckers for books (duh), which is why one participating business catches our eye. Feminist bookstore Women & Children First will be holding their used book sale this Saturday, July 26 from 10:00am - 6:00pm and Sunday, July 27 from 11:00am - 5:00pm.

The sale -- which will feature fiction, nonfiction, children's books, LGBTQ titles, CDs, DVDs, and collectibles -- benefits the Women's Voices Fund, a nonprofit arm of WFC dedicated to fostering discussion of feminist issues and culture, and to nurturing children's delight in books. Support women's issues, children's literacy, and your hungry bookshelves by coming out this weekend and seeing what Women & Children First has to offer!

Miden Wood

Events Thu Jul 24 2014

Near Ye, Near Ye! Your Weekend in Words

Did you enjoy Chicago's first Independent Bookstore Day, or take in a reading at the Book Fort at Pitchfork? Well, the literary love fest continues in Chicago this weekend, thanks to the efforts of The Newberry Library. You'll have a chance to shop--and shout--till you drop. Never has "you can't have too much of a good thing" seemed like a real possibility.

The Newberry Library kicks things off with its 30th Annual Book Fair, which runs from July 24 through July 27. Thursday is the Preview Night for members only, but don't worry, there will be plenty of books left for Friday through Sunday. Most books are $2 each, and psst, become half off on Sunday. It's the perfect time to build your personal library with fiction, cookbooks, or art books, as well as to track down rare collectibles: you could snag a first edition of The Lord of the Rings, or get an autographed copy of one of President Obama's works.

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Danette Chavez

Books Thu Jul 24 2014

Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village Celebrated in Book Release this Weekend

Join others to say, "Na zdrowie!" this Sunday July 27th, 6pm, in celebration for the book release of Images of America Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village (on Arcadia Publishing) at the Podlasie Club, 2918 N. Central Park. The book catalogs the neighborhood's rich cultural history, supported by over a hundred photographs (see below) and a foreword from notable Chicago biographer Dominic Pacyga. The book was co-authored by Jacob Kaplan, Dan Pogorzelski, Rob Reid and Elisa Addlesperger.


I connected with one of the authors, Dan "Pogo" Pogorzelski, to discuss this book and how the writers encapsulated the cultural relevance of this neighborhood. Pogo holds authority when telling the story of the Polish Village, the neighborhood where he was born. His professional career has allowed him to stay active in the community. He can be seen at neighborhood farmer's markers as a community outreach assistant for a state Senator, online as a writer for Forgotten Chicago, and as a preservationist with his appointment as Vice President of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society. He is no stranger to authoring books about beloved Chicago neighborhoods as he was involved two books in Arcadia's Images of America series documenting Bridgeport and Portage Park (which was co-authored by John Maloof, director of Finding Vivian Maier).

To begin, what was the initial motivation to write this book, one centered on Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village?

"The neighborhood that built Chicago" has a charm that intrigued all four of us co-authors. In my case, I was born in this neighborhood, and I still remember my father helping collect donations for POMOST, a local anti-communist organization, outside of St. Hyacinth Basilica every week after mass. This aspect of the history of Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village is just one facet of what makes this area interesting. While the heart of Polish Chicago certainly has beat strong in this neighborhood during Poland's struggles for independence, other ethnic voices have always been a vital part of its evolution and development, just like in every other hallowed ethnic enclave in our city. Industry, Labor, the Progressive Movement, the Interstate Highway System have all left a visible mark here. The person whom we chose to dedicate our book to, a longtime community activist by the name of Joe Jurek, had political guru David Axelrod run his campaign for public office well before Axelrod sprang to fame (thanks to electing Barack Obama as President). Our aim was to weave all of these intriguing strands into one narrative, one that intersects with notable figures such as Street Photographer Vivian Maier, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Pope John Paul II, the elites of Polish Rock music, as well as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar from the film Wayne's World.

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John Wawrzaszek

Books Fri Jul 04 2014

What the Hoopla's All About

chicago public library - hoopla digitalBefore the industrial revolution, only an affluent elite could afford to have libraries in their homes. Today we enjoy public libraries precisely because technological advancements made the mass production of books feasible, affordable. Now, technology has once again fostered a possible next step in library advancement: Hoopla Digital.

Recently adopted by Chicago Public Library, Hoopla Digital is a supplemental digital library brimming with audiobooks, videos, music and, later this year, e-books. Currently operating through 23 libraries in the greater Chicago area, and offering nearly 200,000 titles to download or stream 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And, like the library, it's all free.

"I've been serving public libraries for 25 years, and so public libraries have really been near and dear to my heart," says Jeff Jankowski, the founder and president of Hoopla Digital. "I think they really empower people to discover and find their own voice, so I want to give -- and my company wants to give -- Hoopla as a tool, as a digital brand for public libraries throughout North America... to really allow them to stay relevant in the digital age."

A digital offshoot of Midwest Tape, a media distributor that has sold physical items to public libraries for over two decades, Hoopla operates much in the same way that physical distribution does. Libraries pay for titles, and make them available to users free of charge. The only difference here is that the library only pays for titles per use by library cardholders, and they pay less per rental than they do in physical book acquisition.

With Hoopla the cost to the library of purchasing a book decreases significantly -- from approximately five dollars per title to, on average, $1.95, Jankowski estimates. Thus the information bound up in books (as well as films and albums) becomes accessible to even larger audiences. "I think that digital books, digital media, has a really important place," says Jankowski, "because you don't have to be in a physical location. It allows greater access, accessibility to all people."

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Miden Wood

Bookmarks Fri Jun 27 2014


Saturday! Grow your brain all day long with the first installation of Learn-a-Palooza in Wicker Park! Make a Zine, Keep some Bees, Produce a Play, or try your fist at Self Defense! The day, which lasts from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm, holds those workshops and more. Check out for more classes.

Saturday! Richard N. Cote will Skype in to discuss his career and book In Search of Gentle Death: The Fight for Your Right to Die With Dignity at the Edgewater Branch Library, 2 pm.

Saturday! Printers Ball returns for its tenth anniversary of readings, workshops and featured artists, all under the theme of "Chatter." Be sure to RSVP to attend, 4 pm - 8 pm.

Saturday! Kam Oi Lee reads from her work of speculative fiction at Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, 5 pm.

Sunday! Author Jonathan Lethem discusses his book Dissident Gardens with Printers Row editor Jennifer Day at Logan Square Auditorium, 3 pm.

Sunday! Make your way to Block Rock Pub for Salon Chicago, a live lit series featuring readings from Arnie Bernstein, Tessa Mellas, Kate Milliken, and Ben Tanzer, 7 pm.

Miden Wood

Book Club Fri Jun 06 2014


All Weekend! Printers Row Lit Fest rings in its 30th year at the historic printers' hub on Dearborn with hundreds of booksellers, over 200 authors, and a wide array of readings and workshops. If you are interested in literature and you live in Chicago, Lit Fest is where you need to be. Check out the schedule here and start planning your weekend. The festival is free, though indoor talks and events require tickets or a Printers Row Lit Fest Pass, which comes with two complimentary tickets for up to five programs, plenty of commemorative swag, and a 1-year digital subscription to Printers Row Journal.

Saturday! Thea Goodman reads from her debut novel, The Sunshine When She's Gone at Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 1 pm.

Saturday! Maya Lang stops by City Lit Books to discuss her book, The Sixteenth of June-- a loose adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses-- with Borrowers author Rebecca Makkai, 5 pm.

Saturday! Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain can be found at Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, where they will be discussing their latest book, Dear Nobody, 7 pm.

Saturday! Live Lit show The Spotty Truth comes to the Den Theatre for a double feature of competitive storytelling and improv comedy, $7, 10:30 pm.

Sunday! Five stories, one opening sentence: "I haven't always been afraid of clowns." Serving the Sentence returns to Towbar for a night of potentially circus-themed Live Lit. Donations will be collected for DetermiNation Illinois, 7 pm.

Sunday! That's All She Wrote returns to the Savoy for a Live Lit show brimming with talent, 8 pm.

Miden Wood

Submissions Thu Jun 05 2014

The Empty Bottle Book Needs Your Stories

You know the Empty Bottle, at 1035 N. Western Ave., right on the corner of Cortez. You probably went there to see any number of bands, readings, arts festivals, or book clubs. You might have walked into their side door that doubles as a chalk board denoting that night's line up. Maybe you played pool, posed in their photo booth or grabbed an Old Style from the bar.

emptybottlebook.jpgIn the Bottle's 20 plus years, they haven't documented their goings-on, until now. Teaming up with local publishers Curbside Splendor, the Empty Bottle is going to put out an oral history in the fall of 2015. Titled, 20-Something Years of Piss, S*#%, and Broken Urinals, the book will include stories, interviews, show posters and photographs from the bands who've played, the staff who've tended bar and anyone who's stepped through the door.

That's where you come in. Curbside Splendor is opening up submissions for anyone to share their stories, memories, photos, hangovers or worse. All submissions will be poured over and those selected will appear in the book or possibly posted on the book's website blog.

If you've got something to say about this notable Chicago venue (the only one I know of with a diagonal stage), then get your work ready and celebrate the Bottle's history.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Tue May 27 2014

Before Dessert: The Week Leading Up to CAKE


If you haven't yet befriended Charles Cake, you should. Not only is Charles a top-notch Facebook friend and all around stand up guy, but he also has the full scoop on his not-to-be-missed namesake, CAKE: the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo.

10373729_10203688071384407_7886899377359811501_n.jpgChicago has long been a hub of underground comics, and this week CAKE is rolling out a schedule of events -- all of which are free and open to the public -- that will do that history proud. The expo's third year kicks off with a live comic reading sponsored by Minneapolis-based comics publisher 2D Cloud. These works, imagineered by Edie Fake, Anna Bongiovanni, Sam Alden, Andy Burkholder, Mark Connery, Sarah Ferrick, John Holden, Scott Longo and Annie Mok -- liberally linked here for your viewing pleasure -- are intricate, expressive and beautiful. Head over to Galerie F (2381 N. Milwaukee Ave.) this Thursday at 7 pm to hear these stories told in the authors' own voices.

10306721_876359759047975_7327892387866606507_n.jpgAfter the 2D reading, gear up for whole other slew of CAKE-sponsored goodness this Friday. Artist Tony Millionaire will be doing a signing at Graham Cracker Comics (77 E. Madison Ave.) from 5 - 7 pm. According to advertising, he'll sign anything, so get creative. Quimby's Bookstore (1854 W. North Ave.) will host three of CAKE's exhibitors: Elisha Lim, MariNaomi, and Mike Dawson. These critically acclaimed authors and illustrators will read from selections of their latest work. In case that isn't enough hooplah for one evening, the third option for your Friday is an Artist's Panel at DePaul's School of Cinema (14 E. Jackson St.), featuring the story artists of beloved late-night cartoon nonsense, Adventure Time: Jesse Moynihan, Michael DeForge and, making a second appearance, Sam Alden. The panel, which begins at 6 pm, will discuss how Adventure Time's collaboration with alternative comic artists has breathed new life into the form and content of animated narrative.

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Miden Wood

Books Mon May 26 2014

What You Can Do for Printers Row Lit Fest

for-webbizbash3.jpgThis June 7th and 8th, the intersection of Polk and Dearborn will be overflowing, bubbling, bursting with books. That's right, Printer's Row Lit Fest is back, and its 30th year features a schedule that would whet any literary palette. With all that to offer on top of featuring over 200 booksellers (for the low, low price of Free), Printers Row is going to need a little help.

Get involved with the festival by signing up to volunteer here! With tons of positions available, you may find yourself greeting visitors, escorting authors-- or just sticking by the good eats. Either way, a day spent surrounded by books sounds like a good day to Book Club!

Miden Wood

Bookmarks Fri May 23 2014


Tonight! Author James Fearnley discusses his book, Here Comes Everybody at the Book Cellar, 7 pm.

Saturday! JaQuavis discusses his new book Whitehouse at CPL's West Englewood Branch, 2 pm.

Saturday! Take your self-started project to the next level with The Propeller Fund, an organization dedicated to stimulating creative growth in Chicago. Attend a workshop at Mana Contemporary Chicago to learn how to apply, 2233 S. Throop St., 1 pm to 6 pm.

Saturday! David Grubbs reads from his book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording, featuring musician John Corbett, at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 3 pm.

Sunday! Mike O'Flaherty reads from his new novel Where do You Run? at 57th Street Books, 3 pm.

Miden Wood

Bookmarks Fri May 16 2014


Tonight! Naked Girls Reading brings a little literary spice to your everyday nude show. $20, 7 pm.

Saturday! Head to the University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts, where Freakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner will be discussing their new book, Think Like a Freak, $30, 3 pm.

Saturday! Red Rover Reading Series at Outer Space Studio presents Kristy Bowen, Ladan Osman, Davis Schneiderman, and Keith Wilson, 7 pm.

Saturday! You won't want to miss comic artist and CAKE rep Edie Fake as he discusses his new book, Memory Palaces at Quimby's, 7 pm.

Saturday! Tamale Hut Café Reading Series returns with featured writer Alice Vedral Rivera, 7 pm.

Saturday! Bucket O'Blood Books & Records welcomes author Bill Hillmann in presenting his new novel with Curbside Splendor, The Old Neighborhood, 7 pm.

Sunday! Celebrate the latest issue of december magazine at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery with readings from Marvin Bell, Susanna Lang, Dina Elenbogen, and Abby Ryder-Huth followed by a reception, 6 pm.

Sunday! Reading series Excited Utterance comes to Uncommon Ground for its second installment of LiveLit goodness! This week's show features readings from Larry O. Dean, Kenyatta Rogers, and Kathleen Rooney, 7 pm.

Sunday! Salon Chicago comes to Black Rock Bar, with readings by Edward Kelsey Moore, Paulette Livers, Phong Nguyen, and Randy Richardson, 7 pm.

Miden Wood

Readings Thu May 15 2014

Four Far-Flung Corners of Chicago Fiction at The Book Cellar

The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) describes its monthly Local Authors Night as one of the shop's "most satisfying and eclectic events." This Wednesday, May 21, at 7 p.m., they'll present four writers who have, at least, a broad genre (fiction) and a general location in common--beyond that, it's hard to say. (And picking up on unexpected connections should be half the fun.)

9780544300460.jpgEric Charles May's debut novel, Bedrock Faith, sets the newly religious ex-con Stew Pot Reeves back in the South Side neighborhood where he grew up--a neighborhood which, May told the Chicago Tribune, is based on his own native Morgan Park. In her own entree into the form, Kathleen Rooney takes on a higher-profile part of the city's landscape in O, Democracy!, the tale of an aide to Illinois's Democratic senator (not that one) watching the events of 2008 unfold from a surreal distance. Lynne Raimondo's Dante's Poison--the second in her Mark Angelotti series--amps up the drama with a murder mystery concerning a controversial psychotropic drug. Finally, Kodi Scheer breaks from realistic convention in her volume of stories Incendiary Girls, filled with humans morphing into animals and even less-recognizable beings.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Tue May 06 2014

Megan Milks and Cris Mazza at Women & Children First

9780989473606.jpgWriters Megan Milks and Cris Mazza both have ties to UIC, but more importantly, they both do strange things with genre. In her debut collection, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, Milks gets messy with forms including erotica, choose-your-own-adventure books, and the Sweet Valley High series, just to name a few. On Thursday, May 8, at 7:30pm, she'll join Mazza for a reading at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. As for Mazza, she's celebrating a new edition of the novel Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls and this year's Something Wrong with Her, a "real-time memoir" exploring anorgasmia through musical scores and a companion CD in addition to more straightforward diary entries. Audiences shouldn't be surprised if the evening strays a bit from the standard literary reading.

Daphne Sidor

Books Wed Apr 30 2014

Chicago Romance Novelists Tease and Titillate

lady-of-winter-_bg_042.jpg"It's hard not to think about other things," she said. We're exposing ourselves, she had mentioned, and the other women had laughed. Their husbands had laughed, too, maybe a bit less emphatically. They've certainly noticed each other, being five, in total; and they are certainly husbands, though one wiry twenty-something had been standing in a corner with his hands in his pockets, slouching like a deflated Fabio in a graphic tee. He had the hair, though. He looked hungry where these husbands looked proud, and careful.

"We're exposing ourselves..." began Shannyn Shcroeder, author and the night's organizer. "Exposing" got a laugh. Shannyn couldn't help herself. "It's hard not to think about other things." She's right about that. In general, since grade school, it's hard not to think about other things. But we were all sitting in the company of Chicago's premiere romance novelists. We were looking for other things. Regardless, Shannyn shook her head, "it doesn't have to be body parts! It could be secrets." This elicited a laugh, as well; it's true that not all romance writing is lusty members and taut buttocks, but Sheffield's had a playful tension that no one could call tame. It wasn't the barbeque, though the wait staff didn't quite know what to do.

"Shots?" they whispered. The bartender poured Jameson into three glasses. "Cheers," they mumbled, and made a broad gesture of discretion before gently throwing back their necks.

An earnest MC took the small stage and announced a few rounds of earnest romance novel Bingo (only one was scheduled, but it went by so quickly a second round was demanded - all the cards were the same). Instead of numbers there was a five-by-five grid of the sexy men and pearl necklaces that graced the covers of each authors' novels.

"Great cover," someone murmured.

"Lots of man chest." Laughter. The authors do not choose their own covers. They come to publishers with ideas and are often present at the photo shoots, but rarely do they have a say.

"Honey, how old are you?" asked Julie Ann Walker, at one such photo shoot. "19," he replied. The room groaned. She nodded knowingly and seemed to wink at the husbands present. "Of course only a 19-year-old has abs like that."

Next were readings from each published author. The atmosphere of the optimistically titled "Spring Into Love With Chicago's Romance Authors" (it's snowing in April) was like a modestly-sized sleepover. There was a conspiratorial edge to pronouncements of each author's style and personality, a bit of a hierarchy between published and debut authors that felt like the sort of sniping and smiling begrudging that goes on between eager underclassmen and their wise contemporaries.

"I don't have an assistant," declared Sonali Dev, who began writing romance novels after her first grey hair appeared. Adrienne Giordano and Julie Ann exchanged knowing glances that doubled as scoffs. "Once you sell, you're on deadline," said Kate Meader. "Take as much time as you want on that first book..." She trails off as if to prove her point. Being a romance novelist is like being a small business, selling oneself. Nobody snickers at this double entendre.

It seemed to me that the romance novel was the catch-all of a distinctly heroine-based genre, rather than a distinctly trashy or accessible one. Authors write what they want, in most cases (though Harlequin romance, among others, has a very specific brand that doesn't fit for many of the authors I heard read at Sheffield's).

Julie Ann Walker warned (or invited) before her reading, "there will be nipples involved!" A glance at the microphone, coupled with a certain bemused smile, was enough to lubricate the audience.

Julie Ann's selection was eloquent and coy. The heroine, boldly sexual, remarks at one point that "if it wouldn't have ruined the mood, she would have pumped the fist." Julie Ann demonstrates. "Heavy pectoral muscles," and "wonderfully crooked noses" though expected details, are rendered in a conversational and semantically aware prose that rides along smoothly like a backpack Henry Miller.

Kate Meader, on the other hand, is literally a sexy librarian. She has a bachelor's in law ("useless", her website declares), a master's in history ("not-as-useless") and another master's in library and information sciences ("yay, using!").

Her excerpt was a sexualized childbirth scene. The soon-to-be mother imagined her husband longing at her "ballooned" and sensitive breasts, "visible from the International Space Station". I described this in my notes as a "sexy-surprising" pregnancy. Some clever allusions were made; to silent screaming, pushing, the second reader, Kate was diversifying, to say the least. With no facetiousness, I began to see the niche and clichés I expected expand before my eyes. Crown, if you will.

Jennifer Stevenson took the stage with the promise to "find new uses for old sex demons." I didn't know what this meant, and still don't, but her cathartic and violently sexual reading centered around a "slacker demon" whose tongue is large enough to attack two nipples at once. His "Greek sledgehammer" came out only after an elongated, inspired sequence wherein a tiny woman is dipped into a lobster pot full of dark chocolate and licked clean. Or dirty, I suppose.

The romance novel's world is a world unconcerned with political correctness, describing work as "European-lite", or a dog as a "Buddy the Wheaton Terrorist"; its authors are highly educated, though - often in fields as diverse as architecture, communications and political science (not to mention, in Kate Meader's case alone, degrees in law, history and library sciences).

Their processes are diverse and self-aware. Sonali Dev ("super-mom", "domestic goddess" and "world traveler") tells nonsexual stories of true love and Indian culture. Remi Hunter, a tenured Chicago police officer, writes Windy City Heat, an opportunity, she says, to "be someone else." Adrienne Giordano uses screenplay structure to achieve an energized momentum; she's cofounded the Romance University Blog and a salon in Naperville that reminded me, typically, of Gertrude Stein's own gatherings. Shannyn Schroeder writes the O'Leary series, "contemporary romances" that center around a large Irish-American family in Chicago. There's romance in all, but the genre seems designed more for the sake of selling books rather than writing them. The freedom of expression on display is staggering, as well as the freedom from pretension and "literary" expectation.

Jennifer Stevenson, the night's most explicit reader (of the sex demons), spoke about her "phoned-in" heroines who slowly turn into "raging bitches" because "I would never be so stupid as to get into the situations they do." After writing "in order of explosions" she inevitably throws out the first 100 pages.

Kate Meader "fast-drafts", pounding out the first iteration of a story within weeks. They all spoke on Julie Ann Walker's hat. "What's with the hats?" asked an audience-member. "Do you wear it in the bedroom/when you write?"

Even with a hat, it was hard not to think of other things. It was easier to imagine these women living the lives of their heroines, under covers and behind automatic weapons, diverse and empowered as they were. It was harder to imagine them writing for 8 hours a day, as many of them do.

I walked out of Sheffield's with a copy of Kate Meader's "Hot in the Kitchen" series and a novel with prominent pearl-imagery on its cover. As I checked my dating profile at the bar, I wished that the openness and camaraderie I'd seen inside - double gin and tonics, dark chocolate and all - were on display here, in the palm of my hand.

There was something very 1984 about my OKCupid profile and its percentages, micro-rejections and mass-objectification. There was something undeniably modern about a group of female authors speaking about their preferred forms of empowerment, something very Anais Niin about these women of romance, secret Dostoyevsky's of Chicago, working through sex-demons between baked cookies and family dinners. Running s-corps and readings with "nipples involved."

I brushed past a familiar face down the bar and realized I'd swiped her "right" on Tinder. She hadn't swiped me back, I guess. Maybe if my nose was pressed between the pages of a romance novel instead of my iPhone, I thought. Maybe I'd give a better, more worldly impression of my interests. It would be hard, then, not to think of something else.

Alex Thompson

Events Mon Apr 28 2014

May Comes In With A Kapow! With Free Comic Book Day

On the heels of World Book Night and C2E2 comes Free Comic Book Day: founded in 2002, Free Comic Book Day is celebrated in participating comic book shops across North America (and around the world), and is observed on the first Saturday of May (May 3 this year). And it's Stan Lee-approved!

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Danette Chavez

Events Mon Apr 21 2014

Giving You The World, One Book At A Time

April 23 is a hallowed day for the literati: it is the (observed) birthday of William Shakespeare, and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Book and Copyright Day. It is also World Book Night. First celebrated in the UK and Ireland in 2011, World Book Night aims to spread the love of reading, from person to person, with an emphasis on sharing books with casual or non-readers in your community.

The event is the result of efforts from individuals involved in every part of the publishing and reading process: the books are chosen by an "independent panel of librarians and booksellers"; authors waive royalties, publishers cover the costs of specially-printed World Book Night (US) editions; and bookstores and libraries volunteer to host the volunteer book givers. This Wednesday will see 25,000 volunteers give out half a million books in 6000 towns and cities.

You can see the complete list of books being given away here. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled for book givers while out and about, especially after 4pm (this is, after all, World Book Night). You can also check out one of these events right here in Chicago:

Finally, follow World Book Night US on Twitter and Facebook, and share your volunteer experience--or good fortune as a recipient--with #WBN2014!

Danette Chavez

Author Sun Apr 13 2014

Two Bulgarian Writers, in Translation and in Person

It's safe to say that practically none of us in the U.S. are reading enough literature in translation. And should you protest, well: what's the last novel you read from, say, Bulgaria? (For real, tell me about it in the comments!) This Friday, April 18, at 6pm, Seminary Co-op Bookstore (5751 S. Woodlawn) and the University of Chicago's Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies bring together two prominent Bulgarian authors with their translators. In addition to reading from their novels, Virginia Zaharieva and Albena Stambolova will discuss what it was like to collaborate on their translations with Angela Rodel and Olga Nikolova, respectively.

18406293.jpgZaharieva's Nine Rabbits came out in Bulgaria in 2008, and immediately won praise for its eclectic blend of memoir, feminist meditation, and even recipes, letting ambitious readers can experience the story in a sort of taste-o-vision. It tells the story of a middle-aged artist and her childhood being raised by her grandmother, a woman of "monstrous energy," on the coast of the Black Sea.

Stambolova is a somewhat weirder writer. Her debut novel, Everything Happens as It Does (originally published in 2002), does the opacity of its title justice with quotations from Wittgenstein, psychoanalytical archetypes, and elements of fairy tales. Her prose, at least as filtered through Nikolova's, is both destabilizing and humorous--for instance: "Wearing glasses had the effect of calming the vague fears the family harbored about Boris. Not that now they knew him better than before. But an introvert boy with glasses was less worrying than an introvert boy without glasses." It ought to be a joy to hear in person.

Daphne Sidor

Bookmarks Fri Apr 04 2014


Tonight! The Interview Show comes to The Hideout for its April installment, and the lineup this month looks dee-lightful. 6:30 pm, $8 at the door.

Saturday! Alexander Eisenschmidt and Jonathan Mekinda discuss Chicago's architectural future through their essay, "Chicagoisms," at the Graham Foundation, 2 - 4 pm.

Saturday! Make your way to City Lit Books to join author Scott Jacobs as he discusses his latest book, Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin (And Other Delusions of Grandeur), 5 pm.

Saturday! The Book Cellar presents the second annual "Ladder to the Moon" reading, featuring readings by Andrew Squitiro, Naomi Washer, Howard Simmons, Amy Giacalone, and Joe Meno, 7 pm.

Sunday! Stop by Logan Squre's Uncharted Books to lend an ear to Napkin Poetry, an open mic and reading, surrounding this month's theme: "EXILE." 7 pm, free.

Sunday! Stage 773 brings you another installment of LiveLit series and potluck, "Here's the Story." Listen up and then chow down with featured readings from Irv Levinson, Angelique Nelson, Nick Johne, Kelsie Huff, and Tim Witting. 8 pm, $8 OR free with a potluck dish!

Miden Wood

Chicago Public Library Sat Mar 29 2014

Dayo Olopade Talks About How Africa Gets Stuff Done

tumblr_inline_n0ib7rqHpm1qdh5ld.jpgIn The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade trains her sights on "the gap between foreign perception and African reality." In the Western media, Africa often exists primarily as an "underdeveloped" destination for foreign aid, with little attention paid to the ways in which Africans are already shaping their countries. From a temporary home base of Nairobi, Olopade spent time observing everyone from modest urban farmers to Ushahidi, a Kenya-founded company that develops web tools for communities to map things like incidents of violence or election fraud. Indeed, The Bright Continent frames what she learned in terms of various "maps"--the different kinds of networks that give modern African ingenuity its character and context.

On Thursday, April 3, at 6pm, Olopade will visit the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, to discuss what the rest of the world might be able to learn from these novel methods of progress. Admission's free, and books will be available for signing afterward.

Daphne Sidor

Author Fri Mar 28 2014

A Bon Motley Crew Joins LA Author Amelia Gray at Cole's this Sunday

We may not be able to import West Coast temperatures, but we can certainly "borrow" some of their talent. LA writer Amelia Gray visits Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave., this Sunday and joins some great local authors for a night of readings. Gray is the author of the story collections AM/PM (featherproof) and The Museum of the Weird (FC2), which won the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. Her first novel, Threats (FSG Originals), was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner award.

Lindsay Hunter (Don't Kiss Me) hosts the event and describes Gray as "brilliant and insane. She's mesmerizing. She's fashionable and a huge nerd. She's a bona fide literary celebrity who'll flick her eyes at a new zit you're cultivating in the same way your own mother would, then offer you the perfect salicylic-acid soaked organic face-moisturizing cloth. No one writes like she does. She knows the right word for everything you could imagine. I've selected local writers who I think have a prayer of keeping up with her--the surreal and crazy charming Beau Golwitzer and the hilarious, surprisingly-soulful-at-times, great-haired Mason Johnson. And me, the Midwestern-by-way-of-Florida mom-writer who can't wait for Sunday. It's going to be a very fun reading, Chicago."

The event is free and starts at 6pm. 21+.

Danette Chavez

Author Tue Mar 25 2014

Book signing by former President Jimmy Carter at Swedish American Museum

Women and Children First hosts former President Jimmy Carter for a signing of his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St. on Thursday, March 27 at 6pm.

Mr. Carter has spent much of the last thirty years on diplomatic missions and in humanitarian work. He is also the author of over twenty books on subjects such as his presidency, his faith, and his work in the Middle East. His latest book, A Call To Action, focuses on the subjugation of women, which he deemed the "worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on Earth" in a recent interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell.

Please note that this is a book signing only; Mr. Carter will not be giving a talk. Pre-order the book online for admission to the event, or call 773-769-9299.

Danette Chavez / Comments (2)

Events Tue Mar 25 2014

Of Gertrude Stein & Chicago Zine Fest

drugwar.jpg"I am afraid that I can never write the Great American Novel," she wrote. Her characters were "very simple and very vulgar and I don't think they will interest the American public."

She is Gertrude Stein, author of the Great American Novel Three Lives,and many others, many greater. She wrote "Three Lives" in Paris, inspired and nested amongst contemporaries and peers Pablo Picasso, Gustave Flaubert and Paul Cezanne. She was hostess to the Parisian salons of our bourgeois dreams; she was Ernest Hemingway's dear friend and first editor. She was of the cultural class that added the "ing" to vacation; promoting a new flavor of leisure that seemed to go on and on, continuously. Her life was large, but intimate.

Unable to find a dedicated publisher, Stein published 1,000 copies out-of-pocket, only 500 of them bound, in July 1909. By February 1910 only 75 had been sold, less than the number she had distributed on her own to reviewers, friends and idols. I would posit that, including postage, she made perhaps enough profit to buy Cezanne a new paintbrush.

Stein was entering into a genre, but only in its physical form — the loose-fitting genre of "books," rough pages bound together by clothette, stiches and glue. In all other ways, though, she was in a classification of her own — a niche-less niche, really, since she was the only one who occupied it. There was Gertrude Stein, and there were those who read Gertrude Stein. She did not confer with a movement; her most influential contemporary was Cezanne, a painter who's brush strokes she imitated in her clipped and repetitive prose and her desire to "use everything."

I was reminded of Ms. Stein last weekend at Chicago's own independently run Zine Fest.

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Alex Thompson

Reviews Sun Mar 23 2014

Guns and Steel: John F. Hogan's The 1937 Chicago Steel Strike

9781626193437_2ca3147183d747298cdb7765165bd50a.jpgJohn F. Hogan establishes a couple of his credentials right at the outset of his new book: "I come from a police family and worked a summer break from college on the open-hearth furnaces at Republic Steel's South Chicago plant," he writes. Even given this background, though, he says it took years for him to first happen across the 1937 Republic strike's essential stats: 40 men wounded by police fire; 10 killed, most shot in retreat; dozens more beaten by clubs. In The 1937 Chicago Steel Strike: Blood on the Prairie, he reminds us of this deadly episode in labor history and opens a window into a time when any given strike was not just a bargaining tactic but potentially a life-and-death battle.

Metaphors of war are not even a little hyperbolic here. As steel companies and other manufacturers quaked before the tide of union organization rolling through the 1930s, they accumulated massive arsenals of clubs, live ammunition, and, especially, the then-recent innovation of tear-gas grenades. These armed not just the plants' guards, but often the local police forces as well, in line with a cooperative spirit that also occasionally found police enjoying free lunches and other perks at the expense of the companies they were protecting.

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Daphne Sidor

Author Wed Mar 19 2014

The Open Door Series: March

The reading room at the Poetry Foundation is filled a quarter-way with quiet reverent conversation.

It is March's Open Door Series, featuring Brett Foster and Srikanth Reddy and the room seems intentionally wanting. An open podium stands dramatically lit at its head; scattered lights give the illusion of luminescence but it's a dim, half-hearted brightness, and the blue dusk outside seems brighter.

Beyond the podium stands a courtyard of saplings that further indict anticipation itself as the prologue to the evening. Beyond that, an impossible wall of books.

Under their seats, the March issue of the Foundation's poetry magazine. A cleaner exits a distant doorway guiding a wheeled trashcan and disappears once again, marring and complicating the shelf of numerous journals and novels and anthologies and likely many editions of To the Lighthouse.

When Robert Polito, the Poetry Foundation president, took the stand to introduce Mr. Foster and Mr. Reddy, we were at attention.

The monthly Open Door series is a means of focusing the community and celebrating specific mentors and students from Chicago's many graduate and undergraduate programs. Tonight's event attracted a fair crowd -- the applause was loud and filled the space; the laughter was real and complete; the silences were heavy and concentrated. There seems no better mascot for events like these than the Pegasus of the Poetry Foundation's logo: muscle, winged and flying.

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Alex Thompson

Events Sun Mar 09 2014

AIDS Activist Sean Strub Stops Through Town with a New Memoir

cvr9781451661958_9781451661958_hr.jpgOne of my earliest memories of consuming media is watching barely-understood but scary news reports about AIDS in the late 1980s; today, it's conceivable that many young people might not learn about the disease until they have to take sex ed. The lower profile of AIDS today is, of course, due largely to vastly improved treatment options, but it's also dangerous, says activist Sean Strub in his new book, Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival. He contracted HIV right around the time the epidemic hit America, and spent the next years simultaneously battling the disease and, through activist organizations such as ACT UP (where, as he puts it, "high camp and high seriousness [were] uniquely compatible"), the indifference or hostility of the institutions that might have been able to help. As he sees it, allowing this history to fade from view interferes with effectively treating a disease that is still far from cured.

Body Counts is more given to lively narrative than to polemic, but Strub's seriousness of mission is clear even in his choice of reading venues: on Wednesday, March 12, he'll discuss the book at Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted, at 2pm) and then at the Test Positive Aware Network (5050 N. Broadway, at 6:30pm). Attendees can expect to hear not only about the battle against AIDS, but about the contours of an energetic life that's included working the elevators at the U.S. Capitol, running as the first HIV-positive candidate for the U.S. Senate, and crossing paths with figures as diverse as Keith Haring and Jesse Helms. Both events are free.

Daphne Sidor

Reviews Sun Feb 16 2014

A Pocket Death: The Desert Places, by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss

The Desert Places.jpgThe cover might tip you off anyway, but still: you should not read The Desert Places over breakfast. Nor on the bus or train, if you're at all prone to motion sickness. When, then? Perhaps after having battled through a rush hour in which the city seems a nest of hostilities and indignities, or after clicking off the television in weary disgust after too much of something awful: news reports of environmental disaster, maybe, or a long commercial break.

I don't mean to say that The Desert Places will comfort you on these occasions. It will not. It's just that the book may be most bearable if black bile is already close to your surface, if you start off feeling more or less ready for apocalypse. The subject and protagonist of this small book--collaboratively written by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss, illustrated in dripping, furrowed black and red by Matt Kish, and published by Curbside Splendor--is evil, or Satan, or death, never quite named but always recognizable. The story starts in the Old Testament but takes some liberties. For instance: God's probably still hanging around the joint, but it's hard to say where.

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Daphne Sidor

Books Mon Feb 10 2014

Pioneer Press: Writer and Editor Publishes Book of Real-Life Travel Tales

Thumbnail image for TPWB_front-cover-image.jpgWhile on a class trip in Cuba, college junior Asha Veal Brisebois' camera died. The year was 2003, so phones were not yet the Swiss army knives of capture they are today, and finding a replacement battery proved impossible. Without an instrument to record her experiences visually, Veal Brisebois picked up a pen.
"I started writing travel stories--nonfiction--about our group's time there," she said. "At the time I was really into literary journalism, on-the-road pieces, and nonfiction work about place. I was a total devotee of Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem."

Veal Brisebois' experience certainly wasn't the first time necessity became the mother of invention, but it may have been the first time a dead battery led to a publishing company.

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Lara Levitan

Events Sat Feb 08 2014

Lynn Povich Talks Gender Bias in Journalism with The Good Girls Revolt

book_jacket-210.jpgLynn Povich started work at Newsweek as a secretary fresh out of college in 1965, when a woman's career trajectory in journalism might take her from the mailroom to the fact-check department, but rarely further. Increasingly fed up with the magazine's continual refusal to promote women, in 1969 she and some fellow female colleagues sought the help of the ACLU and got (young, black) attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton to represent them. (Norton's a fascinating figure in her own right: having come of age as a civil rights activist before becoming a lawyer, she's been the District of Columbia's delegate to Congress since 1991.) The group sued in 1970, and one measure of the suit's success is the fact that five years later Povich became Newsweek's first female Senior Editor.

Now Povich has written an account of the experience, entitled The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. On Thursday, February 13, she'll appear at Kirkland & Ellis (300 N. La Salle Dr., 6th floor) in a reading and discussion sponsored by Women Employed. She won't be presenting the Newsweek 46's fight against gender discrimination as a fight that's been fully won: former Newsweek writer Jesse Ellison will join Povich to discuss the subtler forms in which sexism impacts journalism and other careers today.

The event runs from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, with time for drinks and hors d'oeuvres included. Admission is $10, or make it $25 and get a copy of the book to boot.

Daphne Sidor

Author Tue Feb 04 2014

Gina Frangello Discusses A Life in Men @ Women & Children First

gina.pngGina Frangello is something of a powerhouse in Chicago's literary scene. She's co-founder of Chicago-based publisher OV Books, where she's edited novels by local authors like Zoe Zolbrod and Billy Lombardo; runs Other Voices Querétaro, an international writing program; is the Sunday editor for The Rumpus and the fiction editor for The Nervous Breakdown; teaches at Columbia College and Northwestern University; and is writer of three works of fiction, the novel My Sister's Continent, the short story collection Slut Lullabies, and her latest novel (published today), A Life In Men.

Impressed? Or at least curious about how she does it all? You can ask her in person this Friday, February 7 at Women & Children First at 7:30pm for a release party for A Life in Men, a book that explores love, sex and illness through the lens of best friends Mary and Nix. Refreshments will be served.

Image courtesy of the author's website.

Lara Levitan

Reviews Tue Jan 28 2014

Trouble in the Ghetto: Alex Garel-Frantzen's Gangsters & Organized Crime in Jewish Chicago

9781626191938_eaf3665bc64fc8592dad158a3f847a0d.jpgAs I was reading it or mentioning it to friends, I kept forgetting what, precisely, debut author Alex Garel-Frantzen's new book was called. It does feel a bit like a subtitle in search of a title, an absence of flash that's emblematic of the style of Gangsters & Organized Crime in Jewish Chicago, now out from The History Press. The writing is reminiscent of a masters thesis, although apparently it's not; the precocious Garel-Frantzen is a law student at the University of Illinois. His core assertion--that organized crime shaped the development of Chicago's Jewish community from the mid-19th century through the 1920s--is a modest one, made methodically. Fans of, say, Devil in the White City-style dramatization and trans-temporal mind-reading will not find much to engage them here.

But if Garel-Frantzen is more the meticulous academic than a natural-born storyteller, his brief volume still touches on a number of striking stories. Rather than focus on characters affiliated with big shots such as Al Capone who simply happened to be Jewish--and there certainly were a few--Garel-Frantzen spends most of his time examining forms of organized crime that were particularly bound up with Jewish community life, first in the Maxwell Street ghetto on the near South Side, and later in Lawndale.

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Daphne Sidor

Events Wed Jan 22 2014

First Up at the Cliff Dwellers Book Club: The Cliff-Dwellers

cdbooks.jpgThe Society of Midland Authors has made something of a specialty of celebrating lesser-known corners of the Midwest's literary heritage, and with the new Cliff Dwellers Book Club series, they open up a few more--not least of which is the penthouse digs of The Cliff Dwellers (200 S. Michigan), where meetings will be held. Since 1907, the private club has been an aerie above the city for makers and supporters of literature and the arts.

Only natural, then, that the first meeting--slated for Saturday, January 25, from 11am to 2pm--will focus on William Blake Fuller's 1893 novel The Cliff-Dwellers. Fuller did not find the cliffs and canyons of Chicago's ever-busier streets particularly hospitable, and in the book he catalogues the inhabitants of one particular skyscraper with a sardonic eye.

The novel, being in the public domain, is available for free on Google Books if you don't have a copy lying around. But if you miss this meeting, you'll have other chances: the club's set to meet monthly, with upcoming reads from the likes of Ring Lardner and Richard Babcock; selected authors who are still living will be invited to attend. Throughout the series, Cliff Dwellers member Richard Reeder will keep the discussion rolling. Attendees may reserve a spot by emailing

Daphne Sidor

Chicago Public Library Sun Jan 19 2014

Radiance of Tomorrow, Tuesday

ishmael_beah.jpgIshmael Beah's Radiance of Tomorrow is a return in a few different ways. It's the Sierra Leonean's second book; it revisits the war-torn homeland he first wrote about in memoir A Long Way Gone; and it tells the tale of Sierra Leoneans coming back to their country and trying to rebuild. This time around Beah's working with fictional characters rather than his own incomprehensibly brutal adolescence, and as the title suggests, there's more room for optimism. In interviews, he's suggested that former child soldiers like himself may gain less from forgetting and "rehabilitation" than from simply refocusing the survival skills they've had to learn.

In the intro to Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah mentions being inspired by his homeland's oral tradition--making the public reading a natural form for him. He'll talk about the book on Tuesday, January 21, at 6pm at the Harold Washington Library Center's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State. Audiences will get a glimpse not only into Sierra Leone's tragic history, but into the arresting beauty of its native narrative forms--for instance, Beah notes, "In Mende, you wouldn't say 'night came suddenly; you would say 'the sky rolled over and changed its sides.'" Admission is free, and Beah will stick around to sign books afterward.

Photo of the author by John Madere.

Daphne Sidor

Reviews Fri Jan 10 2014

Book Review: So Big

Chicago's Favorite Chicago Books is a series of reviews of fiction by Chicago authors. These books are chosen by YOU (and, well, me). To suggest a title I should review, comment here, tweet me @edenrobins and/or use the hashtag #faveChicagobooks!

SoBig.JPGI'm pretty embarrassed about this, but for several impressionable teenage years, I read and reread Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead at least six times. Now, in high school I was about as bloodied a bleeding-heart liberal as you could get, dubbed a "feminazi" by male classmates (yes really), a rabid recycler, a fervent believer in philanthropy. So please believe me when I say that I never bought into her manic, hyper-conservative DIY OR DIE mentality. But there was something about the way Rand discussed integrity and the satisfaction of good work and the respect for beauty over greed that, well, for better or worse, it stuck with me.

Man oh man, I wish I had had known of Edna Ferber back then. Edna Ferber is Ayn Rand for people with a soul. Or maybe that's too harsh? Let's go with "conscience" instead.

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Eden Robins

Books Wed Jan 01 2014

What It's Like for Boys (in Chicago and Beyond)

In its mission statement, the website--and, more recently, e-book publishing company--Thought Catalog claims that "all thinking is relevant," which leads it to "a value-neutral editorial policy." What this vacuum of editorial values produces in practice is mostly insipid lists and first-person musings on such fresh subjects as the pitfalls of online dating and the plight of the American 22-year-old. But in a best-case scenario, such openness might instead result in something truly diverse--something more like the recent Thought Catalog Originals release Boys, an Anthology.

tc-store10.pngOf course, it helps that there's some actual vision at the helm here. (And proceeds from the book are being donated to the Lambda Literary Foundation, so no matter your feelings about Thought Catalog, you can plunk down your $5.99--or $11.69 for the paperback edition--in good conscience.) The collection was edited by Chicago writers-about-town Zach Stafford and Nico Lang, both of whom have long track records writing thoughtfully about LGBT issues on the personal, local, and national fronts. Broadening the cultural conception of what it is to be a young gay/queer/trans man is foremost on the book's agenda. "When we begin to ask where we are now and what our community really looks like, we must first address the way that community is represented--which is usually urban, middle- to-upper class and white," the editors write in a foreword.

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Daphne Sidor

Books Fri Dec 27 2013

Twelve Fascinating Facts about Chicago from the 2014 World Almanac

WA_Cover_3D.jpgBuilding Most Likely to Have a Napoleon Complex: 200 South Wacker Drive, listed as the shortest tall building in Chicago.

Demographic Ventra Customer Service Representatives Belong To: The 2% of American Internet users that never check their email.

Fact that Will Make Both Republicans and Democrats Collapse into Hysterical Laughter: Rahm Emanuel is, technically, nonpartisan.

Amount of Days Chicago Had That Not-So-Fresh-Feeling: 10. That's the number of days it failed to meet acceptable air-quality standards.

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Ines Bellina

Books Mon Dec 23 2013

Housing History Repeats Itself in Lawrence J. Vale's Purging the Poorest

Cabrini_Green_Housing_Project.jpgI've been paying closer attention, lately, to the tail end of my morning commute: west along North Avenue from the lake to Larabee, then south. Of course, I'd always noticed the yellow-brick row houses of the Cabrini homes hunched across from my office building, behind the luxury condos and parking garages--fewer than 150 of them occupied, since the Chicago Housing Authority cleared hundreds of the units with an as-yet-unfulfilled promise that residents would return to a full-scale renovation. And although it's not on my way, the former site of the William Green Homes' last towers still shocks me with its emptiness when I happen to pass by. Lately, if I approach from the east past the shiny new Target, it even takes a moment for me to remember what that land was emptied of.

But thanks to Lawrence J. Vale's Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities, these days I've been looking not just at the negative space of the former Cabrini-Green area; I've also been paying attention to what, and who, has filled in the blanks. There's a strange feel to these mostly market-rate developments, swept clean of the obvious history that permeates the built environment of the other central neighborhoods. There are not a lot of public spaces and not a lot of people on the residential streets, just stretches of new brick and still-raw-looking landscaping occasionally punctuated by the profounder silence of a grass or gravel lot. The facades seem almost part of a set, unobtrusive scenery to sail past as our main characters take a drive downtown.

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Daphne Sidor

Reviews Mon Dec 23 2013

Book Review: 8-Bit Christmas by Kevin Jakubowski

18730452.jpgWhen I was 9 years old, I got Super Mario 3 for my birthday. My sister, brother and I spent the rest of the day in a Nintendo-induced stupor as we unlocked one Koopa-invaded world after another. At some point, one of us--it doesn't matter which one, the details are long gone in the annals of my family history--dared to break our "die-to-die, level-to-level" rule for taking turns. This caused a full-blown war with many declarations of eternal hatred that only ceased when my parents sent us to our rooms and forbade any more gaming for the rest of the day. The three of us quickly made up, united by a common enemy: our evil parents who just did not understand the allure and magic of NES.

It is this old-school craze that Kevin Jakubowski is fleshing out in all its '80s glory in his debut novel, 8-Bit Christmas. A scriptwriter who has worked for both Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, Jakubowski is keenly aware of the humor that arises from the many anxieties that plague childhood. In the case of Jake Doyle, a third-grader from Batavia, IL, there is nothing more panic-inducing that Nintendo, or the lack thereof. After enduring the tyranny of Timmy Kleen, the one obnoxious brat who owns an NES in town, Jake decides the only thing he wants for Christmas is the gaming system. The untimely death of Timmy's Shih Tzu, crushed by a forty-two-inch television set, puts a damper on his plans. Every parent in town blames video games for the tragedy, leading to a countywide ban of Nintendo. It's up to Jake to save Christmas--and get one of those prized possessions into his own hands.

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Ines Bellina / Comments (1)

Books Thu Dec 19 2013

Book Review: Liliane's Balcony: A Novella of Fallingwater by Kelcey Parker

LB_lores200.jpgI had never heard of Fallingwater before opening the pages of Kelcey Parker's new book, but a quick Google search was enough to make me ashamed of my lack of architectural knowledge. The National Historic Landmark is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most lauded designs, breathtaking even through my smudged laptop screen. Built over a waterfall, the house manages to combine the sleek exterior and the sinuous drama of its natural location. It's a fitting setting for Liliane's Balcony, a novella that explores the contradictory relationship between a person's façade and the complicated interior life that lies behind it.

The marriage between Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, the real-life owners of Fallingwater, is at the core of the novella. Their union was marred by Edgar's infidelities, and the series of heartbreaks that Liliane suffers will eventually lead to her suicide. The novella alternates between this tragic event and the fictional lives of four tourists: the wife in a struggling marriage, a young woman grieving for her father, a man's man on the brink of love, a clairvoyant 10-year-old. Each storyline is brought to life by the distinct narrative voices of each character that are interspersed throughout the book.

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Ines Bellina

Book Club Mon Dec 16 2013

Chicago Writers Association 3rd Annual Book of the Year Awards


The Chicago Writers Association has announced the winners of its 3rd Annual Book of the Year Awards. Categories included Traditional Fiction; Non-Traditional Fiction; Traditional Non-Fiction; and Non-Traditional Non-Fiction.

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Kathryn Pulkrabek

Events Tue Dec 03 2013

Crime Writer Jeffrey Siger in Discussion @ National Hellenic Museum

You may not be able to jet over to the Greek island of Mykonos anytime soon, but international mystery writer Jeffrey Siger's latest novel, Mykonos After Midnight, just might be the next best thing. (As Mary Schmich said, reading is your discount ticket to anywhere!)

Siger will be in town on Thursday, Dec. 5 to promote Mykonos at the National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted St., 6:30-8pm.jeffrey siger.jpg

The novel is the fifth installation in the author's series featuring Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis. (The first, Murder in Mykonos, was Greece's #1 best-selling English-language novel.) After the murder of a legendary Mykonos nightclub owner, Inspector Caldis must prove there's a far more complex solution to the murder than robbery. Caldis's ensuing struggle with a powerful, clandestine international force mirrors Greece's own struggle, amid its economic crisis, between its past and present.

Siger, a former New York lawyer who graduated to writing full time about Mykonos, is also a weekly contributor to Murder is Everywhere, a blog about the venues where ten mystery writers place their novels. (Read his post on Greek Thanksgiving cooking. Octopus and potatoes? Yes! I think?)

The event is free with museum admission ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors, faculty, students and museum members are free), light refreshments will be served, and books will be signed. Make your reservation here.

Photo of Jeffrey Siger courtesy of

Lara Levitan

Author Tue Nov 26 2013

A Review of Survived by One: The Life and Mind of a Family Mass Murderer and Interview with Author Dr. Robert Hanlon

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I'd like to point out my new favorite true crime book: Survived By One: The Life and Mind of a Family Mass Murderer by Robert E. Hanlon with Thomas V. Odle. It's much more than a true crime book. After my thoughts, please read on for an interview with Dr. Hanlon.

survived by one.jpgIn 1985, Thomas Odle killed his parents and three siblings at the age of 18 in southern Illinois and is now serving life in prison. This book is from the perspective of both Dr. Hanlon, a neurologist, and Tom Odle, the murderer himself. Tom reflects on his childhood in a first person point-of-view, while Dr. Hanlon assesses Tom's life experiences and how they led him to murder.

This book is haunting. Tom Odle's childhood was hell. His mother abused him, chained him to his bed, made him raise his three younger siblings, and constantly told him how much she hated him and how she wished he'd never been born. He wasn't allowed to go anywhere other than school and wasn't allowed to have anybody over, so his social skills lacked heavily. In kindergarten, Odle went to school with a shirt soaked in blood from the whip marks on his back. It wasn't until he was strong enough to fight back that she stopped the physical abuse, but the emotional and verbal abuse never ceased. Tom never had confidence or self-worth. His dad stood by and did nothing, as if he too feared Tom's mother.

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Mikaela Jorgensen

Reviews Sun Nov 24 2013

A Thriller in Black, White and Green from E.C. Diskin

Abby Donovan, protagonist of first-time novelist E.C. Diskin's The Green Line, is a youngish, rather naïve white lawyer transplanted to Chicago from Georgia. She is so overworked and easily confused that when she tries to take the train home one evening she accidentally gets on the Green Line instead of the Brown Line that would whisk her to her Wrigleyville townhouse, and promptly falls asleep.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kindle-5cover050813.jpgWithin minutes of waking and disembarking at the Cicero stop in a panic, she encounters a diverse assortment of black people. They include:

  • An old woman ranting about how she would like to shoot all white people

  • Two leering "thugs" in "tattoos, gold chains, and baggy clothes" who immediately start to menace her

  • A crowd of 10 young black men, also wearing the telltale gold chains and baggy clothes, who also begin pursuing her at once

  • A couple of drunks

  • A drug-addicted prostitute, soon to be murdered

Add in some pregnant teenage welfare queens, and the ultimate nightmare fantasia of the white urbanophobe would be complete.

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Daphne Sidor

Reviews Wed Nov 20 2013

Self-Interested Vegetarianism: Eating Animals Isn't Just About Animals Anymore

eatinganimals.jpgWhen I tell my friend Laura that I’m reading Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Eating Animals — an investigative examination of factory farming and the ethics of meat-eating — she recoils. “Agh, don’t tell me,” she says. “I don’t want to know!”

At his talk-back lecture for the Chicago Humanities Festival, Safran-Foer confessed that the response is pretty common, citing the countless times he’s seen book store patrons pick up his book, scan the back for its contents, and hurriedly shove it back on the shelves.

You can hardly blame them. As the woman sitting next to me put it, the book is brimming with “stuff you can’t un-know.” Considering that knowing prompted her to not only change her diet, but fly all the way from Florida to Chicago just to hear the word from the horse’s mouth, reading-reluctance is understandable. It’s a life-changer. The moment that I first cracked open Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Eating Animals, a server was setting a plate of fish tacos down in front of me. By page 197, I was munching on a vegan tofu wrap.

There’s no small amount of guilting involved in the traditional meat-is-murder argument; enough to spook any omnivore away from a whole 300-something pages of it. And sure, I could easily take this time to bombard you with descriptions of living conditions, disease, and disturbingly systematic deaths that these animals endure; but that is an old argument, growing ineffective with repetition, and there are less-trafficked points to be made. (That isn’t to say that such arguments are in any way invalid; just that a quick YouTube search will prove much more effective than any description I could write.)

You don’t have to feel anything looking into the eyes of a battered, confined, sickly pig. The fact of the matter is that whether or not you believe animals suffer, factory farming is not sustainable; it’s a hot-bed for disease, the number one cause of climate change, and participates in a whole range of human rights violations.

Vegetarianism need not be about sentimentality, or even ethics; it’s about preserving our planet while we still can.

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Miden Wood / Comments (2)

Readings Thu Nov 14 2013

Dr. Quentin Young Discusses Social Justice and a Single-Payer System at Powell's

QDY_Obama.jpgThat medicine is highly political stuff is no secret to anyone who happened to glance at a news source during the past autumn's government shutdown. But few people know it as viscerally as Dr. Quentin Young. Now 90 years old and still going strong as one of Chicago's foremost public health experts, Dr. Young's commitment to merging healthcare with social justice dates back to treating fellow workers during the Freedom Summer of 1964 and even, at one point, working as personal physician to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the last several decades, he's been most active as a tireless advocate for a single-payer national healthcare system. And, as it turns out, putting some of his vast life experience on paper: in September, he published Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause. On Saturday, November 16, at noon at Powell's Bookstore (1218 S. Halsted), Young will read from the book; one imagines he'll also be open to some spirited discussion of the current state of healthcare legislation.

Photo of Dr. Young and then-Senator Barack Obama courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Daphne Sidor

Reviews Sun Nov 03 2013

Sergio de la Pava's Strange Personae

rsz_personae.jpgOn Sept. 30, the University of Chicago Press published Personae, the ambitiously genre-blending, polyvocal second novel by Sergio de la Pava, author of last year's award-winning, 698-page surprise hit A Naked Singularity. Initially self-published, ANS became the first novel the UCP has reissued in the entirety of its prestigious 100+ year history. And so, this second novel's publication strikes at least one curious Chicagoan as significant, since UCP had all but sworn off altogether risky indie fiction reprints.

"This is it," Levi Stahl, a publicity director at UCP, had promised his editorial staff, according to a longish review in the Trib. A Naked Singularity was brilliant, sure, but a fluke nonetheless. "This doesn't change anything," Stahl says, in an invented movie version of events (perhaps scripted by De la Pava, himself). Initially, Stahl discovered De la Pava's debut via literary critic Scott Bryan Wilson, who reviewed ANS over at The Quarterly Conversation, where Stahl serves as a poetry editor. Stahl handed the manuscript to UCP editor Maggie Hivnor, also a fan of the book, who then faced the task of convincing the imposing Board of University Publications that De la Pava's scrappy, sprawling, self-published first novel indeed carried literary merit. Fortunately, the case had quite a few things in its favor: an additional favorable review by Steve Donoghue, support from critics Steven Moore and Brian Evenson, plus the author's own unlikely back story.

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Diego Báez

Author Wed Oct 30 2013

Who to Read Next: Kiese Laymon, Essayist and Author of Long Division


Mississippi author Kiese Laymon walked away from the would-be publisher of his audacious debut novel, Long Division, because, according to his editor, its racial politics were too explicit.

"I felt like a failure," Laymon says of hearing her reaction. "And then I felt angry. And then I felt compelled to prove her wrong."

And prove her wrong he did. Evanston-based publisher Agate had published work by National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward, a fellow Mississippi writer and inspiration to Laymon. "[Knowing that], I knew they'd at least partially get what I was trying to do," he said. This year Agate released not only Long Division, but also Laymon's essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, the title essay of which went viral after it was posted on Gawker last year.

"I think [Agate's] surprised the books are doing so well," Laymon said. "They believed, but I know they're shocked at some of what we've done. That's a good thing. I like shocking people who care for me."

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Lara Levitan / Comments (1)

Author Fri Oct 18 2013

A Review of The Waiting Tide, Poetry by Ryan W. Bradley

Waiting_Tide_Front.jpgI have to be honest--it's been awhile since I've read an entire collection of poetry, but The Waiting Tide, the first book published by Curbside Splendor's poetry imprint, Concepción, was so worth it. I read it in one sitting. Twice, actually.

In the introduction, Bradley says, "I found myself compelled to write about love, lust, and the sea. All forms of escape, all symbols of our primal wishes. I found myself in dialogue with the master of love poetry." This book is a conversation with Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

The books is split into four sections: Waiting Tides, Love, Desire, and Your. Bradley's poems no doubt evoke feelings of love, longing, and lust. Bradley said in an interview, " embarrassed as
 my wife gets that people are reading poems that are at times very intimate and are written by her husband, they are really a testament to her and her inherent ability to keep me alive and kicking." The poems are affectionate and sensual and intimate, but written in a way that only a poet can write about these things. You'll read this collection and wish that someone would write poems like this about you.

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Mikaela Jorgensen

Chicago Public Library Thu Oct 17 2013

When Was the Last Time You Went to the Library?

imagescpl.jpgWhen you think about it, the library really shouldn’t have to advertise. Essentially it’s an institutionalized version of that friend who’ll always loan you a good book, except in this case that friend has the best book collection ever. Harold Washington alone houses 9 stories of resources, both literary and technological. And have I mentioned the entire operation is free? Yet findings continually show that between the ages of 22 and 40 library patronage plummets.

So what is it going to take to put libraries back on the map for post-grads? Chicago Public Libraries have found a young-adult-advocate in the Junior Board, a sect of the Chicago Public Library Foundation composed of volunteers dedicated to bringing young professionals back to the library. Acting and founding president Suraj Patel helped to concoct the idea during consulting work he did for the Foundation. “I did a year-long project with them, and then we were asked for a five-year strategic plan,” he says, “and part of that plan was to create the Junior Board.”

“I think a lot of people use the library when they’re students, when they’re in school, and then they don’t for a while,” says Paul Bruton, Junior Board president-elect. “Then they use the library again because they’ve got kids. But in between, there’s people who aren’t taking advantage of all the library has to offer… [The Junior Board is] trying to raise awareness about the programs that the Foundation promotes, and also getting young professionals or twenty-and-thirty-somethings involved in library programming.”

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Miden Wood

On the Web Wed Oct 16 2013

Find Your New Favorite Local Bookstore

bbr.jpgThose who love books must also, by the rule of logic, love bookstores. And Chicago has some of the best independent bookstores in the country, at least as far as I'm concerned. It looks like I'm not the only one -- there is, in fact, a Tumblr account dedicated entirely to becoming "a comprehensive list of experiences at the 100+ small and independent bookstores in the city of Chicago."

Be still, my heart.

Bookstores of Chicago has pictures, information and comprehensive reviews of what one might expect in each of these bookstores. And the most recent review is one of my personal faves: Logan Square's terrific speculative fiction and punk rock bookstore Bucket O' Blood Books and Records. So find yourself a new bookstore, and read more books!

Photo courtesy of

Eden Robins / Comments (1)

Chicago Public Library Sun Oct 13 2013

John Freeman, Aleksandar Hemon Talk About Novelists, The Novel

There's clearly an accord between John Freeman (until recently editor of Granta) and Aleksandar Hemon--the latter gets one of the longest profiles in the former's new collection of interviews with modern authors, How to Read a Novelist. On Tuesday, October 15, at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State) at 6pm, the two will convene to talk about the book and other literary matters. Of course, any book entitled How to Read a Novelist is bound to touch on the question of why to read a novelist, and Freeman plans to make a forceful case for why "the novel is far from dead"--if the presence of the masterful author of The Lazarus Project wasn't evidence enough.

Daphne Sidor

Author Thu Oct 10 2013

Jhumpa Lahiri Discusses New Novel The Lowland @ Printers Row

An audience of around 500 people gathered last Tuesday to hear Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri discuss her new novel, The Lowland. Lahiri, whose works include The Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies, and Unaccustomed Earth, spoke at the Palmer House Hilton as part of Printers Row, a year-long series of literary programming offered by the Chicago Tribune. Lahiri was interviewed by her fellow Pulitzer winner, Tribune columnist Mary Schmich.

Cultural duality is a common theme in Lahiri's work, and The Lowland is no exception. The Lowland follows the divergent paths of two brothers who were once inseparable, one an earnest college student who ends up in the U.S. and the other a revolutionary with the Naxalites, a far-left radical communist movement originating in West Bengal. Lahiri's inspiration for the novel came from a story she heard as a teen from her father about a pair of brothers who were killed due to their Naxalite affiliation. The movement was particularly active -- and violent -- in Kolkata, where Lahiri often visited relatives and would overhear gossip about the Naxalites.

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Kathryn Pulkrabek

Books Thu Oct 10 2013

Local Small Press Raises Funds for Antique Letterpress

Meekling Press is a very small press in Chicago, and they're looking to subtract the "very" from their description. With their focus on aesthetically pleasing hand-crafted books--collaborations between the author and the publisher, always--Meekling has put out three titles to date. A fourth--Erin Kautza's Muscles Involved, a book which will resemble an accordion--is on the way, and so are many, much huger projects, they hope.

Enter Kickstarter. Meekling has stumbled into a rare, 120-year-old letterpress, and seeks the help of all generous denizens of literary artistry in order purchase and maintain it, so they may produce grander products yet. Donation incentives include subscriptions to the press's releases and (make sure you're seated) a printer's hat. Watch the video below for more details.

John Wilmes

Books Tue Oct 08 2013

Book Review: Chris L. Terry's Debut Novel Zero Fade

Thumbnail image for Zero Fade - Front Cover Draft.jpgChris Terry has been a writer and performer for most of his life. He's been a touring musician, he self-published the zine Gullible, he co-hosted the now-defunct literary reading series Neutron Bomb, and he received his master's degree from the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College.

His first novel, the young adult story Zero Fade was released this fall on Curbside Splendorand has been garnering some buzz. Terry has been pulling out all the stops to support it. He's already hit the road for a book tour (read his tour diary on Gapers Block) and taken the stage at readings across the city, such as Reading Under the Influence and Words + Music.

The book is a perfect read for the back-to-school season (whether you're in class or just have fond memories). The story captures a week in the life of 13-year-old high school student Kevin Phifer in Richmond, Virginia in the mid-nineties, and it tackles all of the hardships that teenagers face: dating, rebelling, developing an authentic personality.

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John Wawrzaszek

Author Sun Oct 06 2013

Barry Gifford Dishes on Working with David Lynch, Then Shares His Own Stories

Thumbnail image for RoyStories_TEMP_large.jpegIf you convened a Barry Gifford fan club, the members might not have much to say to each other. Throughout his long career, the Chicago-born writer has worked in many different--sometimes startlingly different--modes. He's probably best known for the surreal American violence of the seven-book Sailor and Lula saga, the first of which, Wild at Heart, caught the eye of David Lynch and sparked a collaborative friendship that went on to produce the screenplay for Lost Highway.

It's this side of Gifford audiences will see on Wednesday, October 9, at 8:15pm when he stops by the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State) for a screening of the two episodes of Lynch's miniseries Hotel Room he wrote. Mysterious deaths, dark secrets, and mistaken (or are they?) identities will abound. After the screening, he'll stick around for a Q&A with Huffington Post arts writer Elysabeth Alfano, then sign books, including the recently collected Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels.

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Daphne Sidor

Books Thu Oct 03 2013

'Operation: Book Drop' Donates Thousands of Books to CPS Schools

book-drop.jpgMore than 40% of CPS elementary schools and 56% of district-run high schools do not have a librarian, which, by CPS definition, means they do not have a library. These numbers are a troublesome increase since even 2011, when 30% of elementary and 28% of high schools lacked libraries, according to the Chicago Teachers Union.

In response, the CTU has put together Operation: Book Drop, "to keep the appreciation of literature at the forefront of education in schools." Today, October 3, they plan to deliver more than 5,000 books to South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School, Hyde Park Academy, South Shore International College Prep, and the much-embattled Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen.

Photo courtesy of the CTU website

Eden Robins

Books Wed Sep 25 2013

Daniela Olszewska Introduces Citizen J, Artifice Books' Newest Title

citizen J cover.JPGCurbside Splendor is taking the lit scene by storm with a massive number of releases hitting (or soon to be hitting) bookshelves this fall. On the roster is Daniela Olszewska's poetry collection Citizen J, Artifice Books' first release since becoming an imprint of Curbside. Olsezewska comes to Chicago by way of her birthplace, Poland. She's made a name for herself as associate poetry editor at Another Chicago Magazine and board member of Switchback Books. Citizen J is her third poetry collection (with a fourth coming in 2014).

The collection is broken into six interconnected parts exploring the protagonist: the ambiguous Citizen J. Olszewska's J is an everywoman, but epicene. Citizen J is a wife, a revolutionary, a criminal, a husband, a soldier, an addict, a pirate. She's looking for love or acceptance pretty hard. She has twelve husbands and wives (playa!). J is seemingly confused about the path she follows and allows the reader to be a passenger on her endless adventure.

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John Wawrzaszek / Comments (1)

Books Tue Sep 24 2013

Book Review: Barrie Jean Borich's Body Geographic

BodyGeoCOVER-copy-11-240x370.jpgBody Geographic by Barrie Jean Borich is concerned with maps and middles and maps of middles: the Midwest, middle age, the middle class, even a city skyline tattoo inked across the author's back. And some actual cities, too. Borich grew up in the steel-mill neighborhoods of Chicago's southeastern edge, was educated partly in Champaign-Urbana, and now splits her time between Minneapolis and Chicago, where she teaches at DePaul.

She lives, it seems, a comfortable lesbian academic life--complete with avid antique shopping and couch sex interrupted by dogs with names like Miss Dusty Springfield--and mostly has done so, save for a troubled spell as a young, alcoholic college dropout. If this does not sound too thrilling, well, the Midwest is not known for its captivating geography. But Borich is mainly concerned here not with travelogue or zippy plotting; metaphors are her great love. Her poet's sense of yearning haunts the heart of an ever-eager English major.

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Daphne Sidor

Author Tue Sep 24 2013

Extraordinarily Ordinary: Author Alice McDermott @ Music Box Theatre

someone-photo.jpgIf you’re anything like me, you’ll pounce on any chance to set foot in the awesomely elegant Music Box Theatre. But, seeing as you’re here perusing Book Club, you may think that you’d rather cozy up with your latest tome than sit in the dark and watch a movie.

Well it’s time these worlds collided! This Thursday, September 26, at 7:30pm The Book Cellar will be hosting National Book Award recipient Alice McDermott at none other than the Music Box Theatre. McDermott will be discussing her latest book, Someone, a chronicle of protagonist Marie Commeford’s lifelong search for, well, someone. The book has been hailed as masterful in its account of human life as at once ordinary and miraculously intimate; to quote The New York Times, “Almost pointedly unremarkable”. Devoid of bells and whistles, the narrative is a refreshing diversion from novels overwrought with twists, turns, and the occasional vampire.

Sound like a good read? Grab a copy of Someone at the event, available for purchase courtesy of The Book Cellar. Tickets are a well-spent $5.

Miden Wood

Author Tue Sep 24 2013

Who to Read Next: Local Author Hannah Pittard

"It was like swimming with a whale shark."

This is how Hannah Pittard describes learning that her first novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, (Ecco, 2011) was being published. Sounds dangerous, but Pittard is a dangerously talented writer.

Fates tells the story of a missing teenage suburban girl and the group of neighborhood boys who becomes enraptured by her disappearance. It's been compared to The Lovely Bones and The Virgin Suicides (not bad, especially for a first novel).

Pittard's fiction has won several awards. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, got her MFA at the University of Virginia, teaches at DePaul, and is currently at work on her second novel, Reunion, (Grand Central) out in 2014. Read on, and get to know Hannah Pittard.

Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia
Star sign: Sagittarius

What drives you to write?

A feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling in my chest. You know that time of night when it's pink? It's not every night, but some nights there's this pinkness in the air and I can feel it my chest -- this bigness, this need to capture it. Which isn't to say I'm trying to capture the night or its beauty. There's just a similarity between that feeling of pinkness and the need to write.

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Lara Levitan

Book Club Tue Sep 24 2013

I Came By Bus From San Juan: 7Vientos Rescues Caribbean Fiction


In the foreword to Manuel Abreu Adorno's posthumously-published novel No todas las suecas son rubias (Not all Swedes are blonde), globetrotting professor and crazy prolific writer Saúl Yurkievich celebrates the "distinctly Caribbean accent" of Adorno's work, the raw tenor of his talent, the strong appetite for recognition in a marketplace dominated by North American surnames. So it's only fitting that Adorno made his U.S. debut via local translating house 7Vientos, since it shares so many of these traits.

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Diego Báez / Comments (1)

Events Wed Sep 18 2013

What's Next for the Rust Belt? Three Chicago Authors Discuss

september.jpgAs a Chicagoan of about six years' standing and a Michigander by birth, I've lived most of my life on the slightly shinier edges of the Rust Belt. That's meant watching with interest as some of its old industries have coughed out their final breaths and others (tech for Chicago, medicine for Grand Rapids) started to gain force. The institutional memory of The Society of Midland Authors, of course, reaches back much farther--all the way to 1915, when it was formed by a Chicago-centered group of writers including Clarence Darrow, Harriet Monroe, and Vachel Lindsay. On Thursday, September 19, at 6pm, president Robert Loerzel brings together three writers with a lot to say about the region's economic machinery at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, in a discussion on the theme "Reviving the Rust Belt: The Future of the Industrial Midwest and Chicago."

Longtime Gapers Block readers might recognize panelist Edward McClelland--in 2006, parts of his book The Third Coast were serialized here. His most recent release is Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland, which traces not only the Midwest's industry but the way it's shaped the character of its residents. Larry Bennett's The Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism uses a similar lens to focus more closely on the town whose very nickname evokes reinvention. And going broader than either of the two, Edward E. Gordon's Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis looks for the root causes of the entire country's declining economic power and finds it in a failure to educate workers for the kinds of jobs that are most needed now. With Loerzel as moderator, the three authors will combine their perspectives to try to sketch a picture of the Midwest's economic landscape as it will look in future decades.

Daphne Sidor

Events Wed Sep 18 2013

Hollywood Said No!: Bob and David Do a Book Tour

mrshow.jpgYou young whippersnappers might be most familiar with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk from Arrested Development and Breaking Bad (respectively), but us old fogies know them best as comedy duo Bob & David from the glorious mid-'90s HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show with Bob and David. You wee toddlers may think it strange to see Tobias and Saul hit the road together on a book tour, but we octogenarians are squealing and clapping our hands like little children.

Cross and Odenkirk and Mr. Show guest star Brian Posehn are coming to Chicago to promote their book Hollywood Said No!: Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show. The subtitle says it all, really. Lovers of Mr. Show will undoubtedly enjoy the comedy stylings of rejected film scripts Bob and David Make a Movie and Hooray for America! as well as sketch ideas that never quite made it to production... not to mention the incomparable joy of getting to see Bob and David together on stage again.

The Hollywood Said No! tour will be at UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave, 3rd floor, on Saturday, September 21 at 1pm. Doors open at noon. Tickets are $22 and include a copy of the book.

Image courtesy of Ain't It Cool News

Eden Robins

Events Tue Sep 17 2013

Three Feminist Writers Talk Fashion @ Women & Children First

Thumbnail image for Women-Employed-Panel-March-2013.png"Feminism--and feminists--have a bad rap when it comes to fashion," notes Marjorie Jolles in the 2012 collection of essays Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style (co-edited with Shira Tarrant). But whether she assiduously follows current feminine trends or tries to distance herself from them entirely, a modern American woman has no real way to opt out of the world of fashion--any look is invariably read as a statement. The writers in Jolles' and Tarrant's collection touch on the statements made by subjects ranging from Andrea Dworkin's trademark overalls to Japan's "Lolita" subculture to the plight of the nontraditional bride. At a talk titled "Gender and Style, Fashion and Feminism" at Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) on Thursday, September 19, at 7:30pm, Jolles will join fellow panelists and writers Deborah Siegel and Veronica Arreola for an equally wide-ranging "conversation about the politics of what we wear, from birth on."

Siegel is equally steeped in the gender symbolism of clothing--the writer and public speaker's current project is called Tots in Genderland, a multimedia rethinking of the way children's genders are (over)determined by their guardians and cultures from infancy on. (As she related in a TEDx talk and an interview with Gapers Block earlier this year, her thinking has been informed by her own kids--twins, a boy and a girl.) The third panelist, Arreola, has been blogging for more than a decade on Latina feminism, currently at Viva la Feminista.

Photo of Deborah Siegel courtesy of the author's website.

Daphne Sidor

Author Mon Sep 16 2013

Radley Balko Talks Cops @ Roosevelt University

MeWebsite-200x300.jpgIt's not some post-apocalyptic sci-fi sequel. The setting of Huffington Post criminal-justice reporter Radley Balko's new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces is the streets of America's average, present-day cities, where he's noticed police being trained to use ever more-aggressive techniques. He's noticed it in the war on drugs, in which raids not infrequently turn fatal, and in responses to political protests, in which riot gear is de rigeur no matter how the crowd behaves. On Wednesday, September 18 at 6:15pm, Balko will discuss the book at Roosevelt University Library's Angel Reading Room (430 S. Michigan).

If you find yourself inspired to action by the book's arguments, you'll have a few guides on hand. The event will conclude with a panel of local activists from community organizations including the People's Law Office and Women's All Points Bulletin. Admission is free.

Photo courtesy of the author's website.

Daphne Sidor / Comments (1)

Chicago Public Library Sun Sep 15 2013

Calling All Lady Leaders: Women in Politics Panel @ Harold Washington Library Center

Politician and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”

Fictional Parks and Recreation politician Leslie Knope once said, “Maybe it’s time for more women to be in charge.” And then probably said something about waffles.

While perhaps the real-world influence of these two women is disparate (one a fictional* television character, the other a diplomat who has traveled to and managed relations in over 112 countries), the messages of both ring true. As of 2011, only 18.3% of the seats in Congress were held by women; a percentage whose growth has slowed significantly over the last decade. Considering that women constitute more than half the U.S. population, it’s past time that we achieved proportionate representation.

Looking to be a part of the change?

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Miden Wood

Author Thu Sep 12 2013

What Are Your Live Lit Pet Peeves?

If you're an avid reader of the GB Book Club, you probably are a fan of storytelling and live lit events in Chicago. Perhaps you also read memoirs and creative nonfiction, or enjoy storytelling podcasts like The Moth and This American Life.

But with a love of live literature and personal storytelling, there also comes an aversion to certain topics. We've all been there. One minute you're laughing along to a hilarious, madcap story from a talented storyteller, the next you're rolling your eyes and uncomfortably shifting in your seat while someone blubbers creepily about stalking their ex-boyfriend or describes a bodily function in stomach-churning detail. Whether we are sick of a topic because it is too common or because it's just personally off-putting, we all have some storytelling pet peeves. So let's talk about a few, and then open the floor for you to share yours in the comments.

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Erika Price / Comments (7)

Reviews Tue Sep 10 2013

'Chicago's Favorite Chicago Books' Review: Crossing California

Chicago's Favorite Chicago Books is a series of reviews of fiction by Chicago authors. These books are chosen by YOU (and, well, me). To suggest a title I should review, comment here, tweet me @edenrobins and/or use the hashtag #faveChicagobooks!

CrossingCA_300_450.jpgI can't help it, I love books about Jews! Maybe I'm always looking to make sense of my own Jewishness, or maybe I just love the idea of inside jokes that the rest of the goyische world won't get. Give me more Purim jokes! And oh man, that Tu B'Shevat, amirite?

Point is, I was really stoked to read Adam Langer's Crossing California - so many Jewish inside jokes to chuckle at! And it takes place in Rogers Park! Andandand there's historical context too, as the novel spans the length of the Iranian hostage crisis to the inauguration of Reagan in 1981. I deeply admire fiction that weaves itself into actual historical events. Plus, it's a bildungsroman! And I just love saying bildungsroman. (Translation: Coming of age novel. Remember it and impress your friends!)

But there's a "but". I just wasn't crazy about this book.

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Eden Robins

Author Sat Sep 07 2013

Romance Writers' Collaboration was Written in the Stars

Thumbnail image for WrittenInTheStars_HighRes.jpgAs veteran authors of the romance genre, Chicago-based Sherrill Bodine and Patricia Rosemoor have been crafting entangled love affairs for over two decades. Rosemoor has written 90 (that's right, 90) novels, many for the Harlequin Intrigue imprint (among others); and Bodine has written 19 novels, as well as a co-written comic book called Whispers From the Void.

In celebration of the release of the authors' first co-written novel, Written in the Stars (available in ebook format only), the duo will host a digital launch party at McNamara's restaurant (4328 West Irving Park Rd.) on Tuesday, September 10 at 6pm. The free event will also be streamed online, and viewers may download their copy at the same time (the goal is to reach 5,000 downloads in one hour.) To watch online, tune in here at 6pm on September 10.

Book Club caught up with Bodine and Rosemoor before the big event.

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Lara Levitan / Comments (3)

Author Thu Sep 05 2013

Bitches Gotta Laugh: A Discussion of Meaty by Samantha Irby

meaty.jpgSamantha Irby's much anticipated collection of essays, Meaty, is out today. If you're not sure whether or not to purchase it, read contributor Alba Machado's and my discussion below! (Hint: Buy it.)

Mikaela: As somebody who had never read Samantha Irby's blog, Bitches Gotta Eat, I didn't know what I was in for, though I quickly found out. I feel that I know Samantha Irby better than I know most of my friends after reading this book, from her bowel movements and sex life to her experiences and hopes. I laughed a LOT and felt a bit emotional during some of the more serious essays. What was reading Meaty like for you, as someone who has read her blog?

Alba: I discovered Samantha Irby a couple of years ago, when she read for the Funny Ha-Ha series at the Hideout. She made me blush in the best way ever. It's a talent she has. It's not just that she talked about peeing on a man's face; it's that she did it in this absolutely candid, intimate check-this-freaky-shit-out kind of way that made her story seem somehow as ordinary as it was outrageous--something casual, something you'd laugh about over coffee. She has the gift that Toni Morrison says is the true test of a writer's power, to "familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar." Since then, I've gobbled up her online work, first the joke advice column that she wrote with Ian Belknap at, "advice for jerks, written by assholes," then Bitches Gotta Eat. And of course, I was really excited to read Meaty. It did not disappoint. Laughs were had. Numerous times. But the book also veered into unexpectedly tragic terrain, and for that, I would have liked to have read it at a slower pace, given myself time to process and reflect on one chapter before moving onto the next. Meaty seems an appropriate name. You need time to chew on it!

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Mikaela Jorgensen

Book Club Thu Sep 05 2013

Chicago Architecture Foundation Partners with One Book, One Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is offering a series of discounted tours and free lectures in collaboration with One Book, One Chicago through spring 2014. The tours and lectures are in support of the 2013-14 One Book, One Chicago selection, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and the theme, "Migration - how has it shaped Chicago?"

The first tour is a Ukranian Village Walking Tour on Saturday, September 21, at a discounted rate of $5, while the first free lecture is a Discover Pilsen Talk on Saturday, November 16. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Chicago Architecture Foundation or One Book, One Chicago.

Kathryn Pulkrabek

Author Tue Sep 03 2013

Book Club with a Twist at Oak Park's Buzz Café

Cicero_Green_Line (1).jpgEver been embroiled in a book-club debate and wish you could just call up the author to ask what she was thinking? Oak Park's Buzz Café (905 S. Lombard) will go you one better: why not simply invite the author to the book-club meeting in person? On Thursday, September 19, at 7pm, the inaugural Community Book Club Night welcomes local author E.C. Diskin to chat about her Chicago-based legal thriller The Green Line with readers.

As readers nibble on a spread of appetizers and desserts, they'll delve into a discussion of naive lawyer protagonist Abby's quest to unravel a mystery she stumbles into late one night when she accidentally gets off the train in the Austin neighborhood. $10 gets you admission and snacks, or stop in ahead of time and pick up the book for an extra $14. The plot moves along at a clip, so attendees should still have plenty of time to read up.

Photo courtesy of Zol87/Wikimedia Commons.

Daphne Sidor

Books Mon Sep 02 2013

Book Review: Natasha Korecki's Only in Chicago

Thumbnail image for 93284100104290L.jpgI remember when I knew this Blago thing was officially huge. I was a relative newcomer to Chicago and had only recently started following its politics when a 10-year-old kid who lived at the high-rise where I worked wandered into the office one day and casually referenced Rod Blagojevich in conversation. Granted, he garbled his name in a way that I first mistook for something like "vaudeville voyager." Tough name for a kid to pronounce! But the character at the heart of the scandal wouldn't have been out of place on a Saturday-morning cartoon. Giant hair, froggy grin, panicked eyes. A villain in the comic mode for kids, sure to stay just this side of the line between risible and scary.

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Daphne Sidor

Books Mon Sep 02 2013

Bree Housley & Ophira Eisenberg Read Between the Wines

Housley_Eisenberg.jpgIn We Hope You Like This Song, author Bree Housley writes about the untimely death of her childhood best friend to preeclampsia. In Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, comedian and Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg chronicles her sexy journey to romantic commitment.

Catch both of these whip-smart memoirists on Wednesday, September 4 at The Wine Goddess, 702 Main St. in Evanston at 6pm. The authors will read from and sign books at an event appropriately titled Read Between the Wines; the $5 cover includes a glass of wine that pairs with the reading. Who needs cheese when you've got great lit?

Image courtesy of Bree Housley's website.

Lara Levitan

Books Tue Aug 27 2013

Book Review: Bob Hartley's Following Tommy

41ov5G9nX6L._SY346_.jpgAt first glance there's something sepia-toned about Following Tommy, the debut novel of former West Sider Bob Hartley. The photographs one imagines him working from could be hung on the walls of any old watering hole in town to add a whiff of authenticity. There's the working-class kid in a T-shirt on his front stoop with a paperback and a beer. There are the buttoned-up churchgoers passing by. There's the pretty girl behind the counter of a diner. And it's true that we don't get much more than snapshots of even the primary characters -- with the book barely breaching the hundred-page mark, there isn't time to go deep. The three boys at the center of the book can be pretty well summed up as the smart one, the mean one, and the dumb, fat one. Dad's a drunk holding onto his Irish accent and the memory of his dead wife. As for the women, they're sainted matriarchs, tough old broads, or friendly sexpots.

But if this vision of the Austin neighborhood in the early 1960s comes off as a little schematic, one quickly realizes that it is lit by no glow of nostalgia. This Chicago is violent, judgmental, and utterly driven by clout. Richard J. Daley's machine turns the gears of one major plotline, and its motions are omnipresent in the little details of voter fraud and straight-ticket loyalty to the alderman who kisses everyone's babies and sends envelopes of money to their weddings. At a crucial point, he also gets protagonist Jacky O'Day, his older brother Tommy, and his cousin Hippo out of jail.

The boys don't exactly deserve to be sprung loose. They really did rob that department store and break into that bar and accidentally poison that cop's dog. But they're set free because the ward is also intensely racist. The Austin neighborhood was 99.8% white in the 1960 census, but by the time the book's action rolls around, residents are as nervous about the block-busting techniques they've seen uproot other neighborhoods as they are about the actual prospect of having black neighbors. Enter the need for a few local thugs to keep things under control.

Whatever their deeper motives, most of the neighbors are happy to cheer on Tommy as he wages a campaign of harassment against the first black family to move in, fueled by dreams of joining the comfortably corrupt and winning a job that exists on paper and paycheck only. For Jacky, too, it feels good at first: for the first time since their mother died and their father lost his job, the boys are buoyed by the neighborhood and its political establishment. Suddenly, they begin to reap the full benefits of white privilege that had previously been blocked by their poverty and criminality.

But Jacky's moral compass hasn't been entirely smashed by his hard adolescence, and eventually, he makes moves to extract himself from Austin's manicured mean streets. We're not sure what life will hold for him at the end of the book; he's just barely better than his surroundings, and things might go okay or might not. For the neighborhood he's leaving, things will not be okay at all. Years of racial tension and decades of poverty await.

The Chicago Hartley writes about, it turns out, is my grandfather's Chicago. When I moved here as an adult, I was intrigued to learn of his connection to the city, eager to hear about the old days. Though he wasn't born here, it turned out he'd spent some time staying with friends and relatives as a young man -- mostly, I came to gather, on the Lithuanian South Side where white fear was driving the people he knew farther south and southwest. He has talked a little about that, and about the Maxwell Street Market that the O'Day boys visit to hawk their stolen goods; he has talked about these things in casually, appallingly racist terms. (I should note he is somewhat impaired by old age and poor health; he might otherwise be a better man, but he might not.)

It shocked me, but it shouldn't have. I was looking for some cool stories that would make me feel as though I had some insight into Chicago's authentic past. I got something authentic, all right, but it was nothing I could repeat to my friends. Nothing to celebrate.

Can I say, then, that Following Tommy is a good substitute for a racist grandpa? I don't mean that as an insult. I just mean that it leaves you with the same bracing and valuable realization: for outsiders of any stripe, the past has rarely been a hospitable neighborhood. If the book's prose occasionally seems a bit short on charm, that might well be an ethical, rather than an aesthetic, choice.

Daphne Sidor / Comments (3)

Reviews Thu Aug 22 2013

Book Review: Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

This is the first in a series of reviews of fiction by Chicago authors. These books are chosen by YOU (and, well, me). To suggest a title I should review, comment here, tweet me @edenrobins and/or use the hashtag #faveChicagobooks!

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from MarsWhen I was a kid, the world was kind of a disappointment. Back then, playing pretend was serious. It was boot camp. It was the training I knew I'd need to one day inhabit the glorious, magical, hidden worlds that would inevitably reveal themselves. Any day, I thought. Any day.

I can't remember when I stopped searching for magical hidden worlds, but I think my life is poorer for it. And this is part of the reason why I adore Daniel Pinkwater. He unapologetically inhabits these bizarre, secret, magical worlds. Though it's ostensibly only for kids, I personally think every adult -- human, Martian and Venusian -- should read Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars.

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Eden Robins

Book Club Tue Aug 20 2013

For School the Bell Tolls: Book Club's Favorite "Back-to-School Books"

Beginning next week, Chicago public school bells across the city will ring in the beginning of a fresh school year. To celebrate this season of new beginnings (and to relive the excitement of that English class reading list), we at Book Club have compiled a list of our favorite "back-to-school books": stories that capture, with breathtaking accuracy, the friendships, romances and, in some cases, the cockroach butlers that fill the semesters of our characters' lives. Read on, and don't forget to comment on your faves!

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Book Club / Comments (2)

Reviews Mon Aug 19 2013

"Groveland," Two Decades On: Mary Pattillo Returns to Neighborhood of Black Picket Fences

9780226021195.jpeg Oh, the kids. They have trouble finding and then committing to a career. The ones who do graduate college often move back in with their parents. And instead of diligently pursuing the next milestone, they're likely to spend their time hanging out with friends and chasing after the latest expensive fashion trends.

They aren't the subject of yet another trend piece about the perceived failings of millennials. Instead, they're reaching adulthood in the mid-1990s, in a black, middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's far South Side pseudonymously known as Groveland. This is the terrain of Mary Pattillo's Black Picket Fences: Privilege & Peril Among the Black Middle Class, originally published in 1999 after Pattillo spent several years living alongside the close-knit neighbors whose struggles, compromises and triumphs the book chronicles.

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Daphne Sidor

Books Fri Aug 16 2013

Greenhouse Book Drive for Upcoming Drama Bookstall

The Greenhouse Theater Center is hosting a book drive on Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18 from 10 am-6pm to benefit the creation of a drama bookstall to be opened in October.

The idea for a bookshop that catered to the Chicago theater community was prompted by--what else?--a Facebook post back in June. When local writer, performer, director, and producer of The Gogo Show Mary Rose O'Connor asked on Facebook why there was no drama bookshop in the city, she received 60+ comments on the subject. Clearly, a niche needed to be filled. Fortunately for her (and all of us), the Executive Director of the Greenhouse Theater Center Jason Epperson expressed interest in housing the project.

"First and foremost, we want to serve as a literary hub for theatre makers in Chicago," said O'Connor about the bookstall's goals. "Right now, our biggest thing is making The Greenhouse Theater THE place where artists can access research materials, work, meet, rehearse, and hangout." In addition, she also hopes the bookstore is the first step to creating an academic environment where writers and directors can collaborate and foster new plays.

The Greenhouse is looking for gently used plays and books on theater, performing arts, film, dance, music, and design. Donation receipts are available. Free coffee and donuts will be served. The address for the Greenhouse Theater is 2257 N Lincoln Ave.

Ines Bellina

Author Wed Aug 14 2013

Chicago Lit Mags Currently Open for Submissions

Writers, rejoice! As the summer days dwindle, the dreadful season of literary magazine "reading periods" is finally ending, too. Usually spanning the months of May-September, reading periods give editors the opportunity to shutter their doors, shut down their online submissions pages, and catch up on the manuscript backlog. For aspiring authors, summer means a dry spell of no submission opportunities and numerous rejection emails from magazines they don't even remember sending work to.

But fear not! The following awesome Chicago-based lit mags are now open for business and accepting new work:

No Assholes! is a zine-like publication based informally out of DePaul, featuring poetry of all styles and the occasional smattering of fiction. The editors also hold relaxed, approachable reading events in their personal residences, and I've always been dazzled by the caliber of their work and the speed at which they churn out new issues. They are currently accepting submissions for their sixth and seventh issues; check out their Tumblr for more info.

Chicago Quarterly Review is a slightly more highbrow but still very accessible publication seeking full-length short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, and even photography! They've recently switched to online submissions and are now open, so float them a piece of up to 5,000 words.

Literary Orphans is completely online, but don't let that deter you: their taste is top-notch. Each month's issue is named after/inspired by a prominent author of days gone by (this month is Wordsworth), and the work they publish is contemporary yet classic. Submissions are always open for new flash fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and there is currently a call out for superhero-inspired stories.

Curbside Splendor is a gritty, witty press that publishes long works as well as its own monthly e-zine. In fact, they're about to release Samantha Irby's new book of essays, Meaty, in September (and eleven other titles this fall). This is definitely a wagon you want to hitch yourself to. Submission are currently open for their magazine, including poetry and fiction under 3,000 words.

Inkwell Mag is a relatively young lit mag that focuses each issue on a theme, and within that theme, anything (including medium) goes. This month's theme is Fantasy vs. Reality, and the editors are open to nearly anything that fulfills that theme-- including book excerpts, short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, illustrations, videos, and flash fiction.

Chicago Review is also welcoming new work, so if "traditional" literary fiction is your bag, it's time to polish up a story of under 5,000 words and ship it off for consideration. Since this magazine is among the top 50 literary publications in the country according to, it's definitely not one to pass up. Submit poetry and fiction under 5,000 words.

Of course, this is a small selection of the numerous fantastic literary magazines produced in Chicago. Which excellent publications (large or small) did I overlook? Any tips for writers looking to find a home for their work? Hit me up with comments.

Erika Price / Comments (4)

Books Thu Aug 08 2013

What Are Your Favorite Chicago Books?

windy.jpgLook up a list of "Best Chicago Books" and you'll find the usual suspects trotted out over and over again: your Nelson Algrens, your Saul Bellows. If you're lucky, you'll get a Richard Wright or even a Sandra Cisneros. And don't get me wrong, these authors are on this list for good reason. But we all know there is much more to Chicago literature. There is great science fiction and fantasy, thrillers and mystery, young adult fiction... and writers who have written worthy books, yes, in the past two decades.

So when I say I'm compiling a comprehensive list of Chicago's best fiction, you can believe that I mean comprehensive. And when I say I want this list to come from the mouths of Chicagoans, I mean I want you to tell me what should be on this list. So help me out - what are your favorite novels or short story collections by Chicagoans? (Don't be too strict - authors don't need to be born, raised, and buried here. I draw the line at poetry and picture books, however.) Once I've compiled a good list based on your suggestions (and, admittedly, my own favorites), I'll read and review every one of them for Book Club. It'll be like the literary equivalent of one of Chicago's famous food challenges, hopefully with less barfing. Leave your suggestions in comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @gapersblock @edenrobins #faveChicagobooks, and stay tuned for updates.

Image courtesy of the Chicago Parent website

Eden Robins / Comments (1)

Readings Tue Aug 06 2013

Art, Lit and Conversation Hook Up at Slippery Slope

If art is highbrow, pornography--conventional wisdom would have it--is so lowbrow as to be practically simian, a distant and disreputable evolutionary relative. And yet there's much in its cultural condition for any artist to envy. Art is looked at, literature is read, but porn is consumed. It commands and engages the senses directly and deeply; its utility, at least, is never in question.

Curated by writer, artist and sometime sex worker Robin Hustle, Slippery Slope takes porn aesthetics and plasters them on the walls of Woman Made Gallery (685 N. Milwaukee). The show's been garnering rave reviews since it opened in mid-July, and on Thursday, August 8, at 6 pm, it expands its gloriously messy genre-mixing in an event that will include a reading from Megan Milks, chats with multimedia artists Sarah Weis and Noelle Mason, and a screening of stag-film title sequences drawn from the Chicago Film Archives' collection.

Milks plans to read from her collaborative project-in-progress Traumarama, inspired partly by the collections of fluid-centric girlhood embarrassments familiar to any reader of Seventeen magazine. (The project will soon debut on Tumblr, adding to a body of work that so far has included the Sweet Valley High riff Twins and the short book/long story Kill Marguerite, which will anchor Milks' forthcoming first collection of fiction.) Stop by what she calls "a cool mixed-media, mixed-mode feminist/queer event" and get seduced, grossed out, or moved to thought. Probably all three.

Daphne Sidor

Books Mon Aug 05 2013

One-Legged Chicago-Area Parakeet More Famous Than You

nubsbook.jpg Last October, a one-legged parakeet named Nubs and 368 other birds were rescued from the clutches of a notorious bird hoarder in Aurora, Illinois, and nursed back to health by a team of diligent volunteers. In a true rags-to-riches story, Nubs himself immediately skyrocketed to Facebook and local FOX affiliate fame by becoming the star of a children's book called Nubs: A Little Bird with a Big Story and the focal point of a non-profit, also called NUBS (No Unwanted BirdS). The organization and the book, both created by rescuer Kristen Ludwig, aim to educate others about, presumably, proper bird ownership.

The book costs $12.95 plus shipping, and purchasing details can be found on the Nubs Facebook page. Proceeds from the sales of the Nubs book will go to the NUBS organization and to the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, Indiana, which generously adopted all of the rescued birds... except for lucky Nubs, who is now a certified therapy animal and is currently living the good life in a private home with his main squeeze, Freckles.

Photo courtesy of the Nubs Facebook Page

Eden Robins

Author Tue Jul 30 2013

Beautiful Fools Imagines Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald's Final Rendezvous

beautifulfools.jpgLast Wednesday night at Women & Children First, Chicago-area historical writer R. Clifton Spargo read from and discussed his latest novel Beautiful Fools, a fictional imagining of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's final vacation.

While the biography of the Fitzgeralds has been portrayed and probed by countless authors, Spago's book examines a lesser-visited moment in the couple's tumultuous, co-dependent history. Fools follows the couple on their final trip to Cuba, which occurred mere months before Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack. Since Zelda was institutionalized in the periods immediately proceeding and following the trip, the jaunt to Cuba also marks the last time the two saw one another.

While Zelda and Scott typically kept up a tireless and well-documented correspondence and happily courted the public eye, this trip to Cuba remains shrouded in ambiguity. As Spargo discussed at the reading, essentially no records of the couple's trip exists, and no letters between the two reference what occurred during their eight-day stay. This period, then, is ripe for creative exploration.

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Erika Price

Author Tue Jul 30 2013

Susan Hahn Named Ernest Hemingway Foundation's First Writer-In-Residence

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for susan hahn.jpg
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation named Winnetka poet and author Susan Hahn their first writer-in-residence. Along with bragging rights, the organization's writer-in-residence is granted use of the attic at 339 N. Oak Park Ave. for an entire year. The space, in what used to be Ernest Hemingway's childhood home, has been converted into a writer's office. Hahn is also expected to provide lectures, workshops, and other cultural programs in association with the Foundation.

A Northwestern alumna, Hahn worked at the university's TriQuarterly journal for 30 years. She's written numerous poetry collections including Incontinence, Holiday, and The Scarlet Ibis; a play titled Golf; and the novel The Six Granddaughters of Cecil Slaughter, which was published by Fifth Star Press in Chicago. She is the recipient of several awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Pushcart Prizes.

Photo by Jennifer Girard

Ines Bellina

Author Mon Jul 29 2013

Review: Heavyweight Champion of Nothing by Zak Mucha

Heavyweight Champion of Nothing is a novel by local author Zak Mucha and is published by local Wicker Park publishing company, Ten Angry Pitbulls.

The story, set primarily on the North Side of Chicago, is captivating and thought-provoking, capturing Chicago's vivid scenery. Johnny, our late-20-something narrator, is a gritty, blue collar guy employed by a moving company, alongside characters with names like Paulie, Dolly, and Irish Jay. While reading, I could picture every corner, dive bar, and neighborhood Mucha describes. The story mostly takes place in Roger's Park and Edgewater, just off Broadway Avenue, though you don't need to know Chicago to understand and enjoy, because Mucha details and captures every aspect of what Chicagoans already understand the neighborhood to look and feel like.

The unique story illustrates the blue collar lives of native Chicagoans, immigrants, poor people, and guys just trying to get by. An adult version of The Outsiders is what comes to mind, but now our version of Pony Boy is all grown up and telling his story from a new perspective. Mucha's real and captivating prose explores the universal themes of morality, the struggle to get by, family issues, romance, sex and guilt with a new and gritty spin.

Readers can identify easily with Johnny, the moral dilemmas he faces when broke and desperate, his relationship with his family, and most of all, his love and sometimes hate for Chicago as he tries to figure it all out.

Heavyweight Champion of Nothing is one of the best books I have read this year. Mucha deserves to be recognized far beyond my little review in Gaper's Block. I am looking forward to Mucha's next book, to be published later this year. Read this book, Chicago! Pick it up here.

Melinda McIntire

Author Mon Jul 29 2013

Poetry Review: H. Melt's SIRvival in the Second City

H-Melt-covertrimmed-3-14-72dpi-1.jpgTitle onward, the theme of H. Melt's SIRvival in the Second City: Transqueer Chicago Poems is not subtle. This is a book that is emphatically about being trans. But it is also about being cisgender. (For the unfamiliar: this is simply the counterpart to transgender. As trans people identify as a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth, so cis people identify as the same gender the delivery-room nurse dealt them.) As Melt says in the book's introduction: "It is not public knowledge that trans people exist. And that cisgender people exist as well."

I've chanced occasionally on a certain strain of Internet comment in which a cisgender person encounters this term for the first time and expresses deep outrage at its existence. The default state is suddenly delineated; it turns out that it has boundaries. Such commenters may feel that their gender is now subject to some unwelcome question, however tacit. What's the point of being normal if you have to think about it?

Too bad for them. Melt writes: "This book is my attempt to stare back at those who never question gender." And if such readers are ruffled by this, they may be further irked by the place from which they (Melt's preferred pronoun) stare: these very broad-shouldered streets, home of the regular guy.

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Daphne Sidor

Printers Ball Fri Jul 26 2013

Printers Ball Preview: BiblioTreka Mobile Library

biblioTreka3.jpgIt might look like an ice cream cart, but instead of soft-serve, BiblioTreka offers scoops of Chicago-related print media. Adopted by Read/Write Library after Gabriel Levinson's Book Bike project came to a halt, the pop-up library's goal is to showcase the city's cultural history. At Printers Ball, the BiblioTreka will present materials such as community newspapers, artist books, intriguing self-published books of cocktail recipes from the '30s, and much more.

"[We hope to] get the publications and the history out there directly in the form of the words and images of the people who created it," said Nell Taylor, founder of Read/Write Library. "The experience of interacting with the BiblioTreka and encountering media in an unusual, hands-on form is also important to making it feel more accessible to the public. Giving people something fun and approachable is a great way to get them interested in the kinds of materials we have-- things that they may never notice or value otherwise."

In addition to Printers Ball, you can catch BiblioTreka this Sunday at The Parlor, and most Sundays and Thursdays at Comfort Station Logan Square.

Photo by Amanda Meeks

Ines Bellina

Events Thu Jul 25 2013

Author Discusses Great Mexican Migration to Chicago as part of "One Book, One Chicago" Program

Author and scholar Michael Innis-Jiménez will discuss his book, Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago, 1915-1940, at the Vodak-East Side branch of the Chicago Public Library, 3710 E. 106th Street, on Saturday, July 27 at 1pm.

Innis-Jiménez's presentation of Steel Barrio, a history of the thousands of Mexican-Americans who lived, worked, and formed communities in South Chicago's steel mill neighborhoods in the 20th century, is sponsored in partnership with the Southeast Chicago Historical Society and the City's popular "One Book, One Chicago" program. This year's "One Chicago, One Book" selection, Isabel Wilkerson's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Warmth of Other Suns, explores the Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans moved out of the rural South to Chicago and other urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and West between World War I and the 1970s.

Innis-Jiménez is assistant professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on Latino/a immigration to the American Midwest and South, Latino/a labor, and urban studies.

Matt McCarthy

Book Club Mon Jul 22 2013

Acts of Love to Distribute 10K Books to Under-Served Chicago Neighborhoods

This Thursday, Acts of Love, an international book-giving charity, will be kicking off its second-annual "Love Young People" tour by distributing over 1,000 books to children and young adults in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. This event is the first of twelve such occasions slated to occur in Chicago throughout this month and August, in which 10,000 total books will be given to residents of various troubled communities.

Beginning at 6:30pm in Hamilton Park (513 W. 72nd Street), a team of volunteers will scour Englewood, one Chicago's most under-privileged communities, giving out book bags full of donated books to local residents. Adult residents will also be asked to take the "Acts of Love" pledge to support children in their communities and promote reading in their homes. According to the organization's Facebook page, volunteers for this kick-off are still needed, and are welcome to check-in at the Hamilton Park Play Lot at 6:30pm the night of the event.

In addition to its neighborhood visits, Acts of Love will have tents set up at several festivals in the next month, including Family Fun Fest and the Chicago Westside Music Festival. The organization will be accepting book donations at all these events, as well as distributing book gifts to local children and families in attendance.

Here is Acts of Love's full schedule:

July 25th - Englewood (Hamilton Park)
July 27th - Taste of WVON
July 28th - Garfield Park
August 1st - North Lawndale
August 9th - Humboldt Park
August 10th - Altgeld Gardens
August 11th - Roseland
August 12th - Washington Park
August 13th - Bronzeville
August 14th - Dearborn Homes
August 17th - Family Fun Fest
August 25th - Chicago Westside Music Festival

Visit the Acts of Love site for more information on the project or to make a donation of books or cash.

Erika Price

Author Thu Jul 18 2013

Kate Christensen Reads from Her Memoir, Blue Plate Special

On July 17th, author Kate Christensen read from her book Blue Plate Special at Women and Children First Bookstore. I'm going to be honest and say I've never read a food memoir. And again when I admit I've never read Kate Christensen's work, although she's published seven books now.

Attending readings is the perfect way to find out if you want to hear more of what the writer has to say, and when it comes to Kate Christensen, I most definitely do. Kate was engaging and hilarious. Before she began reading, she spoke about living in East Village in New York City. She was post-MFA, working crappy jobs and had no book published. Her thirtieth birthday was approaching and having accomplished none of the things she'd hoped for, she was depressed. This is when she began reading food memoirs, and she says reading about food made her feel safe.

Kate talked about the process of turning a blog about her life and love of food into a book, and about telling her story as if she herself were a fictional character. One of the chapters she read described her time in France as an eighteen year old. She was fresh out of high school and became an au pair to four boys. Learning to cook French food when she didn't know the language was a challenge. When baking a birthday cake, she put in salt instead of baking soda because she couldn't read French labels.

Kate told the audience, "My relationship with food has been rocky. It has gone back and forth from aestheticism to overindulgence many times throughout my life." She said Blue Plate Special is "what food has been and is for me."

This book is not just a food memoir. It's about the life of a passionate and funny writer struggling toward success. It's about family and being abandoned by a parent. It's about sex, alcohol, writing, and yes, it's about food. And who doesn't love food?

Mikaela Jorgensen

Books Thu Jul 18 2013

Review: Onward Toward What We're Going Toward by Ryan Bartelmay

Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward, an upcoming release by Chicago-based author Ryan Bartelmay, is as much an exploration of dependence as it is a novel. Following multiple protagonists as they struggle through decades of familial problems, Bartelmay presents human existence in units: the family, the couple, and the isolated. In so doing, his text constantly begs the question, What do people really want from people?

Protagonist Chic Waldbeezer is, externally, the pinnacle of 1950’s lifestyle: a plant worker (in the factory where his grandfather worked) who married his sweetheart, Diane, two years after he graduated high school. Internally, however, Chic is hopelessly lost, driven primarily by physical impulses. Detached from his family and lusting after his brother’s wife, Lijy, Chic seems to be in crisis throughout the entire text, attempting to negotiate his own desires with his expected identities as father and husband.

Elsewhere in Illinois lives Mary Norwood, the book’s second protagonist. Mary, like Chic, is directionless, but is instead driven by emotional dependence. (This is not so subtly conveyed when, toward the beginning of the text, she drunkenly asserts, “I need someone to take care of me. I need someone to take care of me. I need someone to take care of me.”) When her husband of less than a year (husband #10), Green Geneseo, suffers a stroke that leaves him paralyzed and unable to speak, the juxtaposition of physical and emotional dependence proves especially compelling.

The title of the novel is a strong indicator of its tone. Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward is at once playful and fatalistic, implicative of an aimless trajectory. Such directionlessness is the defining characteristic of the protagonists within, which raises the question: can a novel successfully be built around the theme of aimlessness?

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Miden Wood / Comments (1)

Books Tue Jul 09 2013

Book Review: The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni

Sarah-Bruni_THE-NIGHT-GWEN-STACY-DIED.jpgWhile reading Sarah Bruni's debut novel The Night Gwen Stacy Died, I remembered, quite wistfully, all the stupid things I did when I was 17. Granted, I was no Sheila Gower, Bruni's bored teenage protagonist who allows herself to be kidnapped at gunpoint by a restless, cab-driving stranger who calls himself Peter Parker (as in Spider-Man). But thanks to Bruni's thoughtful prose and carefully-drawn characters, I can understand why she goes for it, absconding with him for weeks in Chicago, where neither knows exactly what they're doing, or why (until a wild coyote Sheila is drawn to begins to clear that up for them).

I like Bruni's Sheila -- she has no friends (except for the equally marginalized Anthony Pignatelli ("The 'G' is fucking silent anytime it comes before an 'N'," he says; I wished there was more of him!), she works in a gas station in small-town Iowa, and she confides in a taxidermied museum coyote, whom she'll probably miss when she finally delivers herself to Paris after graduation. She's the quintessential unimpressed-romantic-loner-teenage girl, and if a movie based on this book is ever made, Christina Ricci should totally teleport the 1998 version of herself to play the role.

One of Bruni's deftest moves was her choice of title. The Night Gwen Stacy Dies is also the name of issues #121-122 of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series, in which Spider-Man battles the Green Goblin and -- spoiler alert! -- his girlfriend Gwen Stacy dies at the end. When Peter begins to refer to Sheila as Gwen Stacy and she goes along with it, even wearing a Gwen-esque dress and doing comic book-y things, my concern for her fate kept me turning the pages right through an unpredictable, impressionistic, and lyrical denouement.

You don't have to know the Spider-Man story, or even be curious about it, to enjoy this book. Read it if you have a soft spot for teenage loners and star-crossed lovers, or for coming-of-age novels that are not your typical coming-of-age novel.

You can pick up a copy of The Night Gwen Stacy Died this Friday, July 12 at 7:30pm at Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., where Bruni will read and sign books.

Photo courtesy of the author's website.

Lara Levitan

Author Wed Jun 26 2013

New York Writer Allison Amend Will Always Call Chicago Home

AllisonAmend.jpgI had never read any of Chicago native Allison Amend's work when she took over teaching my creative writing class for a legendary teacher on sick leave. Though she had rather large shoes to fill, she was unflappable, amazingly generous and available for her students. It wasn't until later that I found that that she's just as talented a writer as she is a devoted teacher. Her debut short story collection, Things That Pass for Love, won an Independent Publisher Book Award. Her first novel, Stations West, was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Her latest book, A Nearly Perfect Copy, is a brilliantly plotted character-driven novel involving con men, art forgery, DNA cloning, grief and loss.

Now an inhabitant of New York, Amend claims that Chicago will always be home. She answered a few questions about Chicago, research, and forgery.

You mention the Cubs in the first line of your official bio. Are you still a Cubs fan, and did that adequately prepare you for the pain and heartbreak that come with being a writer?

Once you are a Cubs fan, you are always a Cubs fan. It's in your blood, like that disease you caught in... like a regional accent. My grandmother was a Cubs fan until the day she died -- she did not live long enough to see the Cubs reach the World Series. I hope to live that long. And yes, the suffering of the Cubs fan, though, a unique and acute pain, does prepare you for the daily agony that is writing.

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Steve Gillies

Author Tue Jun 25 2013

Pulitzer Prize-Winner Sonia Nazario to Speak at DePaul University

EnriquesJourney.jpegImagine that you’re riding on top of a freight train. Behind you, rampant gang warfare, a constant threat to your life and your family. Ahead, a foreign country, where you know no one, have no prospects. You will most likely be put on trial and, if so, be expected to represent yourself.

Now imagine that you’re 15 years old. Younger.

These are the circumstances journalist Sonia Nazario describes in her recent New York Times article, “Child Migrants, Alone in Court”. The accounts within are just the latest in a long career of immigration research for Nazario, with particular emphasis on the international borders that all too often separate mothers and children. Her 2003 feature, “Enrique’s Journey,” details a Honduran boy’s Odyssean journey to find his mother in the U.S. The story earned her, among other considerable acclaim, the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Once adapted into a book, Enrique’s Journey went on to become a national best seller, as well as required reading at a number of colleges and high schools across the country.

Immigration is a contentious subject, especially now. What better way to gain a more informed viewpoint than to learn from the journalist herself? This Thursday, June 27 from 6 to 8 pm, DePaul University’s College of Education hosts Nazario in a public discussion on the subject of immigration. The talk is an installation in DePaul’s second annual Facing History and Ourselves Summer Institute, and will be held at Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St. Free!

Miden Wood

Author Mon Jun 17 2013

In Case You Missed It: Alan Sepinwall on the Golden Age of Television

Last weekend, Alan Sepinwall made an appearance at Printer’s Row LitFest to discuss his recent self-published book, The Revolution Was Televised. The book, an in-depth analysis of the recent evolution of small-screen entertainment, analyzes the factors that culminated to produce a higher standard of television entertainment. Such shows include “Oz,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men,” to name a few.

When it comes to television analysis, Sepinwall is certainly a reliable source. Stemming from his days writing “NYPD Blue” reviews out of a dorm room, he is credited with having created something of a revolution himself, having pioneered a paradigm shift towards more informed viewership. Where before TV critics were primarily expected to review pilots and finales, now, following Sepinwall’s style, reviewers pick apart episodes for trends, symbolism, references, and make predictions regarding the weeks to follow. This more in-depth analysis owes a great deal of its influence to the groundswell of fan communities fostered by the rise of the internet.

Though one can certainly argue that the internet played a major role in this revolution, Sepinwall argues that the golden age of television began even before the onset of internet fandom, beginning in the late 1990s.

“Everyone had cable in their homes, and everyone had more and more channels, and that was A) splintering the audience, and B) these channels needed original programming and started doing it, HBO first and foremost among them. And so HBO started doing things like ‘Oz’ and ‘Sex and the City’ and most importantly ‘The Sopranos’ and they showed that A) you can get a pretty big audience doing this, and B) you can break all sorts of traditional storytelling rules that we had to this point held sacrosanct. And people will watch this.”

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Miden Wood

Events Thu Jun 13 2013

Chicago Live! Encourages Chicagoans to 'Explore the City'

Living in a city, it’s sometimes easy to let an exciting event slip by unnoticed. I had heard of the TribunePress variety show Chicago Live! in passing, but it was mentally categorized in the column entitled “Should Go to That One of These Days.” Now, having attended the program firsthand at Printer’s Row Litfest, it has rightfully relocated to the “Must-See” list.*

With features ranging from live jazz to Second City sketches to political interviews, it’s hard to pinpoint which quality of Chicago Live! proved so engaging. Perhaps it was the nimble fingers of blues guitarist John Primer, or the refreshing candor on the part of interviewed Chicago Aldermen. Perhaps it was the wry musings of MC Rick Kogan, or his intermittent reminders to “keep in mind that it’s free” (thanks to sponsorship by Nielsen). So free in fact that you can watch a webcast of the whole show here!

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Miden Wood / Comments (1)

Books Tue Jun 11 2013

Preview: Jonathan Alter Talks Obama at Chicago Humanities Festival

With all the scandals the Obama administration has faced in the past several weeks, it might be hard to remember how exactly the President got re-elected seven months ago.

Tonight, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, author, ex-Newsweek columnist, and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter will be more than happy to give you a refresher on the recent history of how we got here, as he discusses and signs copies of his new book, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.

In his follow-up to the acclaimed 2010 book The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Alter draws from recent history and unparalleled access to the President's inner circle to delve into the events and political dramas that defined Obama's first term and led to his historic re-election.

Whatever your political views or personal opinions about Barack Obama, Alter is uniquely suited to the explain the hows and whys behind the man, executive, and administration.

Alter's lecture takes place tonight at 6pm at First United Methodist Church at The Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. CHF member tickets are $5, general public tickets are $10, and a limited number of student tickets are available for $5, and can be purchased at the CHF Box Office at 312-494-9509 or

Jason Prechtel

Books Mon Jun 10 2013

Anobium Press Seeks Writers for Two New Projects

Anobium, an alternative Chicago-based press, is seeking writers to participate in two upcoming projects that explore the potential of creative collaboration. The first of these projects, based in Chicago though open to writers worldwide, is Middle Ground. The collaborative project is dedicated to the exploration of space, our experience of environments both virtual and actual, and the way in which such spaces inform the written word.

Anobium Editor Benjamin van Loon describes the process in his own words: “So you have a location: Middle Inlet, Wisconsin. Writer 1 will write up to 500 words about Middle Inlet, and then he/she will move onto a different ‘location,’ where 500-some words have already been written by a different writer. At the same time, a different writer will be visiting Middle Inlet, Wisconsin, adding up to 500 more words to Writer 1’s original text. Make sense? So for Middle Ground, we have a target of 15 participants, which means 15 locations. It would be impossible for all writers to visit all places, so each writer will be visiting five places, such that at the end of the project, each text written about each place will be around 2,500 words, compiled by five people. It’s like we’re all taking turns.

“The best analogy I have is this. Let’s say we’re on a tour bus. We stop at a roadside bathroom somewhere, and each of us has a big, fat permanent marker. Bathroom User 1 uses the stall, and in his/her boredom, writes ‘SLAYER RULES’ on the bathroom wall. Bathroom User 2 uses the stall next, and in his/her boredom, adds ‘THE UNDERWORLD’ to BU1’s graffiti. Bathroom User 3 uses the stall next, and he/she is kind of a prude, so he/she strikes through ‘S̶L̶A̶Y̶E̶R̶ ̶R̶U̶L̶E̶S̶ ̶T̶H̶E̶ ̶U̶N̶D̶E̶R̶W̶O̶R̶L̶D̶’ and writes ‘Stop drawing on bathroom walls.’ And so on and so forth.”

The second project, which will be based in New York, is Rescriptions II. A reincarnation of a previous project, Rescriptions is dedicated to the revival of lost stories through the injection of fresh perspectives. The process is simple: each writer brings to the group an old, tired story; one that doesn’t seem to be working. That story is handed to a second writer, whose task is to enhance and embellish the story’s strengths. After Writer 2 has tweaked the piece, it is passed along to Writer 3, Writer 4, Writer 5 and so on. By project’s end, the once-washed-up story is alive with the varied styles of a multi-minded author.

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. van Loon a few questions about both projects, and gain insight on the value of collaboration, the importance of place, and why you should get involved.

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Miden Wood

Reviews Mon Jun 10 2013

Muscular Prose about Muscular Men: Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland

nothin_but_blue_skies.jpgBy Jenny Gavacs

If you want an authentic history of the Rust Belt — told by UAW members, not East Coast pundits or DC politicians — read Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland by Edward McClelland. McClelland is a native son (from Lansing, MI) and writes about the rise and fall of manufacturing in the Great Lakes region through the eyes of people who were there. It's the on-the-ground, gritty reportage this saga of sweat and tears deserves.

Nothin' But Blue Skies is a tapestry of vivid writing and living moments. Like a tapestry, the narrative isn't always clear — the book betrays its beginnings as a collection of articles spanning McClelland's career — though there's a general chronological arc from the 1930s to the 2010s. The single-article roots probably caused some of the seeming contradictions throughout the book (in separate places it calls both Detroit and Flint, MI America's murder capital), and claims that seem shallowly researched (where did McClelland find evidence that "Cleveland swiped [the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame] from runner-up Memphis by stuffing the ballot box"?). But the bumpy narrative ride is worth it for sections where humanity pours forth from people like Oil Can Eddie, ex-president of Steelworkers Local 65 in south Chicago; Moose, the Flint worker Michael Moore wronged on camera; or spitfire Mayor Betty of Homestead, PA. This book takes a line worker's-eye-view, and a line worker would hate to get academic on the fine points.

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Book Club / Comments (1)

Author Thu May 30 2013

A Book-Club-Approved Book Club

gadfly.jpgEver been in the middle of your latest read and wondered, “What was the author thinking when they wrote that?” Well, now provides you with the rare opportunity to ask the author yourself! Shelf Pleasure invites you to join them in reading this month’s book club selection, The Year of the Gadfly, where they will be joined by the author, Jennifer Miller. Miller will be popping into the book club forum to discuss her debut novel through July 10th, when she will conclude the book club with a live chat at 6 pm E.T. (RSVP to the chat here.)

It is Miller’s personal goal to set the world record for most book clubs visited by an author in one month. Help her reach that record by visiting the Shelf Pleasure forum and following the “Summer 2013 Book Club” conversation thread.

Shelf Pleasure co-founder Kristen Weber says of Miller’s involvement with the site, “We are so excited to introduce our audience to Jennifer, and we know they will love The Year of the Gadfly as much as we did. This unique format will allow our site visitors to connect with Jennifer so that in addition to sharing insights and opinions with other readers, they can actually obtain insight directly from the author. We are honored that she agreed to participate and give our audience this special experience.”

Miden Wood / Comments (1)

Author Mon May 20 2013

Parenthood is Scary

“I won’t lie to you. Before your kid is born, you aren’t expecting it to be pretty. You know the birth will be a little messy. But it’s fairly shocking when the doctor holds up your baby and it looks like a prop from one of those horror flicks that gets called a ‘cult’ flick because 42 fat dipshits on the internet like it a lot. The baby was covered in blood, head to toe, screaming. Screaming, I assume, for a shower.”

Magary.jpgAccording to his first blog, Father Knows Shit, this is how, one day in 2006, Drew Magary became a father. And then proceeded to document said fatherhood in accounts both heartfelt and unflinchingly sassy*.

Though that blog has since been put on permanent hiatus, Magary’s parental musings took no such break. Rather—somewhere amidst two other books and extensive work as a writer for GQ and Deadspin—they’ve accumulated and make up his latest work, Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood.

When it comes to honest accounts of parenthood, Magary is fearless. He is the parent brave enough to admit that, yes, being a father is hard. Yes, your baby’s crying will be just as annoying as every other baby’s crying. Yes, the pressure put on parents is enormous, and spanking is pretty weird for everyone involved. It is that very candor that allows Magary’s work to be both eye-opening and entertaining.

This Thursday, May 23, at 7 pm the father himself will be stopping into the Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.) to share some pearls of parental wisdom from his new book. Whether you are a parent, a babysitter, or have just seen a baby before in passing, Magary’s work is brimming with wit, and definitely worth a listen.

*”Sassy”, you may think, is a flippant or sarcastic choice here. But read any one of Magary’s GQ articles and you’ll find it’s the only word astute in assessing his deft mockery talents. I revere his sass. He is a SassMaster.

Miden Wood / Comments (1)

Author Fri May 17 2013

Statistician Nate Silver Speaks at Spertus Institute

thesignalandthenoise.jpgEvery few mornings, my mom will e-mail me my horoscope.

It's not that we take serious stock in the just-vague-enough-to-be-accurate predictions. We know it's silly. It's just a nice tradition; our kooky way of keeping in touch. I don't believe in what the horoscopes say, and that is the truth.

The truth, nine tenths of the truth, almost entirely true, so help me Libra.

Okay, I don't open those e-mails expecting to learn exactly what my day holds. It's only that, after reading them, they tend to sit in the back of my mind. If my horoscope tells me my "patience will be tested," and later that day I have to wait twenty minutes for the bus, a small part of me will think, "Oh! Thanks for the heads up, Mom/Universe!"

The reason my subconscious clings to the horoscope isn't that I actually believe it, nor is it a predictive measure comparable to data-based statistical forecasting (no offense, Cosmos). Rather, this behavior, and the popularity of astrology in general, is a prime example of the way in which we as a species tend to despise uncertainty.

In his book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't, statistician Nate Silver pinpoints this very aversion to uncertainty as a major cause of faulty predictions. We are wired to detect patterns. We are predisposed to lean towards our subjective bias. We tend to see in the data what we want to see. And considering the ever-amassing amount of information available, it is not difficult to lose the signal (true, relevant data) amidst the noise (everything else).

Horoscopes may be a hoax, but when it comes to predictions, Mr. Silver is the next best thing. He has gained notoriety throughout his career for the astoundingly accurate predictions of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, various senatorial elections, as well as the performance of many Major League Baseball players. He was named one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" by Time magazine, and his blog,, was licensed for publication by the New York Times.

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Miden Wood

Author Tue May 07 2013

Richard Hell Revisits His Life in Punk Rock

Richard Hell, the punk rock pioneer and author, read from his new autobiography Thursday night at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. The book, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, begins with Hell's (born Richard Meyers) childhood in Kentucky, and later, relocates to New York to focus on his work as a poet, bass player, and singer with bands like the Neon Boys, Television, the Heartbreakers and the Voidoids.


The cozy bookstore was packed and the café's wine offerings were selling briskly. Hell's book seemed to be flying off the counter, too, at the end of the program, when the author signed books for a long line of fans. He also signed the cover of my copy of Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History of Punk, right over his photo. And for the person ahead of me, he signed the jacket of a pristine vinyl copy of the Voidoids' 1977 album Blank Generation, which features a photo of Hell, shirtless, with the words "You make me _______" written across his chest.

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Nancy Bishop

Books Mon Apr 29 2013

Digital Distributor Debuts at C2E2

Digital ComicsWith the rise of digital distribution, it's no surprise that digital distributors were competing for attention with extravagant booths at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo over the weekend.

Alongside the established digital comics distributors at the expo like ComiXology, a new up-and-comer in the crowded digital distribution market, Rhovit, held its official launch. Rhovit features film, TV, music, books, video games and comics at the independent and commercial level, and CEO Matt McCullough hopes the site's business model will set it apart from competitors like Netflix and Hulu.

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Tyler Davis

Reviews Thu Apr 25 2013

Review: First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley

FirstSonCover_4.jpgFor any long-time Chicagoan who would care to read a biography about the man, Richard M. Daley needs no introduction. But with the vast, undeniable influence the former Chicago mayor had on this city (not to mention the entire trajectory of state and national politics), his dense, multi-faceted legacy deserves assessment.

Unfortunately, for all of its breadth and detail about the city and man himself, Keith Koeneman's First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley is not quite that book.

From growing up as a spoiled, awkward, yet tenacious son of a powerful Chicago mayor, to the last days under his own tenure as mayor, First Son draws from over 100 in-person interviews to portray the evolution of a man whose complexities resulted in visionary, cosmopolitan leadership and advocacy, as well as raw, ego-driven political gamesmanship. As Koeneman effectively demonstrates, both these traits undoubtedly transformed the look, feel, and stature of Chicago into a globally renowned city distinct from the one firmly controlled by his father--yet one still embroiled in scandal, corruption and nepotism under his watch.

Through the lens of Daley's life and political ups-and-downs, Koeneman guides us through Chicago's transition from the heyday of the Chicago Machine to the consolidation of Daley's own political dominance, all while examining the myriad of individuals whose paths he crossed--powerful aldermen and local officials, business leaders, and former advisers-turned-leading members of the national Democratic Party.

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Jason Prechtel

Interview Thu Apr 18 2013

Author Chris L. Terry Discusses his Debut Young Adult Novel

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ChrisAuthorPhotoA.jpgIn the opening scene of local author Chris L. Terry's debut young adult novel, Zero Fade, 13-year-old Kevin Phifer gets a haircut from his mom. What he really wants is a stylish fade, but what he gets is more accurately described as "jacked up." Later in the book Kevin's role model uncle--who eventually comes out as gay--rescues Kevin from hair hell by taking him to the barber, where "grown men who are still cool" go.

It's a vital scene, Terry explains, because it captures Kevin's struggle to confront his limiting ideas about homosexuality, coolness and manliness, themes that attract Terry to writers in what he calls the "urban nerd" genre, like Junot Diaz.

"You think of this stereotypical urban man as being black or latino, this kind of hyper-masculine, over-sexualized person," Terry said. "And I feel like a lot of the best stuff in that style of writing subverts that. Or the character is struggling with these really rigid and restrictive ideas about masculinity."

Born to a black father and an Irish-American mother, Terry is no stranger to struggles around identity and society's preconceived notions. Much of his writing, including short stories and essays, surrounds growing up in a biracial household. But in Zero Fade, which Curbside Splendor will publish this September (though you can preorder through Amazon), Terry drops his own concerns for those of his adolescent narrator, a kid who "always wants to get things right."

Terry, a graduate of the MFA in creative writing program at Columbia College, was born in Newton, Mass. (home of the famous fig cookie), and teaches creative writing and playwriting to juvenile inmates with Storycatchers Theatre. He sat down with Gapers Block Book Club to discuss writing, wiggers, and his adventures in punk rock.

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Lara Levitan

Author Mon Apr 15 2013

Maria Semple Reads at Printer's Row

Semple.jpg “Paul,

Greetings from sunny Seattle, where women are “gals,” people are “folks,” a little bit is a “skosh,” if you’re tired you’re “logy,” if something is slightly off it’s “hinky,” you can’t sit Indian-style but you can sit “crisscross applesauce,” when the sun comes out it’s never called “sun,” but always “sunshine,” boyfriends and girlfriends are “partners,” nobody swears but someone might occasionally “drop the f-bomb,” you’re allowed to cough but only into your elbow, and any request, reasonable or unreasonable, is met with “no worries.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate it here?”

This excerpt, the first paragraph in a 15-page tirade against Seattle, is just a sample of the scathing witticisms Maria Semple has to offer in her recent novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? The book is the latest in a long list of Semple’s accomplishments, including her first book, This One is Mine, as well as her work as a writer on a number of television series, including “Arrested Development,” “Mad About You,” and “Ellen.” Bernadette is also slated to be made into a motion picture, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer) and produced by Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games film series) and Brad Simpson.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Semple just before her reading and talk-back, “Printers Row: Maria Semple,” hosted at the Tribune Tower by Trib Nation. There we discussed Maria’s relationship with Seattle, her writing process, and her perspective on the success of her book.

As the bus pulls up to the curb outside Tribune Tower, I am nervous for two reasons. The first is, knowing I am about to meet face to face with a writer for “Arrested Development,” it will take every professional fiber of my being to not let this interview devolve into an episode of The Chris Farley Show. (“Remember Gob…? Yeah. He’s awesome.”)

The second reason I’m nervous I already acknowledge as ridiculous. But, having read Semple’s commentary on Seattle, I can’t help but wonder if her bite is as bad as her bark. I saw what she did to that city. Would she chew up Chicago with the same contemptuous mockery? I half expect Bernadette herself, enormous sunglasses atop her nose, to come marching in decrying our unpredictable weather and monochromatic wardrobes.

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Miden Wood

Book Club Thu Apr 11 2013

The Way We (Lose) Sleep

Sleep and I are going through a rough patch.

I know I’m to blame for this recent rift. I’ve been absent, unavailable—and even when I am around, our encounters are brief and unsatisfying. I look back longingly on all those wonderful Sunday mornings we spent together; those brief, flirtatious meetings on the El; the five alarms I snooze most mornings just to be with it…

It’s not that I don’t love Sleep. It’s just that for the past two days I’ve been distracted by the latest book occupying my nightstand: The Way We Sleep. An anthology of short and flash fiction, comics, and interviews, Sleep examines those moments in which the waking and sleeping life collide. The collection, at once comical and poignant, contains stories dynamic enough to stand alone, yet all the more enticing in their juxtaposition. From page to page the reader unfolds a richer, more complex notion of sleep; what it means to us, and the culture that surrounds it.

Some say I need a solid eight hours; I say I need a less interesting book.

If you, like me, are looking to catch a good read about catching z’s, The Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.) will be honoring the recent publication of The Way We Sleep with a reading from the collection this Saturday, April 13, at 7pm. The reading will feature contributors Billy Lombardo, Ben Tanzer, Dakota Sexton, and Natalie Edwards, as well as a shadow puppet show presented by Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood.

Copies of the anthology, and other books by contributors, will be available for sale at the event. RSVP at their event page.

Miden Wood

Author Tue Mar 26 2013

Food Writer Elissa Altman to Visit the Book Cellar Thursday

Acclaimed food writer Elissa Altman visits The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue, on Thursday, March 28 at 7 p.m.

Altman will read from her freshly-released Poor Man's Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking (Chronicle Books).

In Poor Man's Feast Altman, who won a 2012 James Beard Award for Individual Food Blog for, tells the story of a childhood defined by "fancy." Altman writes: "In my family, we aim for the swank and the rococo, as if this way of living offers some sort of inherent security and protection from the...more unpredictable parts of life."

Replete with 27 recipes (from Poached Asparagus with Prosciutto and Duck Eggs to Warm Tomato Sandwich), the book chronicles Altman's evolution from the little girl who dined with her "food-fanatic" father at La Grenouille in secret from her "food-phobic" mother, eventually becoming a respected food writer and editor, to the woman who found love and, consequently, peaceful un-fanciness, in the kitchen and life.

Lara Levitan

Book Club Mon Mar 18 2013

Poetry Night at City Lit with Jen Besemer, Robert McDonald, Richard Fox

Celebrate the official start of spring with poetry! Queer poets Jen Besemer, Richard Fox and Robert McDonald will read at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Thursday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free.

Troubling the Line.jpgBesemer is featured in the new anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books). The book, which features the poems and poetic statements of 55 poets, sold out at Nightboat's table at the AWP Conference last week. According to Besemer, Troubling the Line is the first anthology focused on "making space" for poets who identify as trans or genderqueer.

"This is a book that is not just for us, but for the young trans and genderqueer writers looking for mentors and role models," Besemer said. "It's important for our allies and families, too, because it helps to illuminate what being trans, being genderqueer, could mean."

Fox and McDonald are contributors to the 2011 Windy City Queer anthology.

The books will not be available for purchase at the event, but may be ordered through City Lit.

Lara Levitan

News Fri Mar 15 2013

CPS Persecuting Persepolis?

Chicago Public Schools Persepolis
Late on Thursday, an email from Lane Tech High School Principal Christopher Dignam was posted on the blog CPS Chatter. It read:

Yesterday afternoon, one of the Network Instructional Support Leaders stopped by my office and informed me (per a directive given during the Chief of Schools meeting on March 11) that all ISLs were directed to physically go to each school in the Network by Friday (3/15) to:
*Confirm that Persepolis is not in the library,
*Confirm that it has not been checked out by a student or teacher,
*Confirm with the school principal that it is not being used in any classrooms,
*And to collect the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi from all classrooms and the Library.

I was not provided a reason for the collection of Persepolis. If I learn more I will inform all staff.

As teachers and parents began discussing the news, it became clear that the order to remove the graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhood from libraries and classrooms had been sent out to all high schools in the Fullerton region, and possibly the entire Chicago Public School system, apparently under a directive from the Chief Education Office.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (4)

Chicago Public Library Thu Mar 14 2013

Citywide Book Club Expands Length and Programming

You always meant to go to one of those One Book, One Chicago discussions, right? Now that the "citywide book club" has expanded from a monthly, twice-a-year offering to a yearlong event, you'll have no excuse not to check out some of the excellent programming offered by the Chicago Public Library sponsored initiative.

The new format kicks off this April with Isabel photo_IsabelWilkerson.jpgWilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. In Other Suns, Wilkerson, the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in the history of American journalism, and the first black American to win for individual reporting, explores the Great Migration of black Americans from the American South to the North and West, changing the cultural and political landscape of America.

According to CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon, the book inspired the expansion of One Book, One Chicago. "The ideas and discussions [the book] sparks are simply too big to be contained in a single month," Bannon stated in a press release. "We look forward to engaging with all Chicagoans to hear their story, to hear how they helped to create the tapestry of our city."

Check out CPL's list of discussions, workshops, performances, and exhibits--many of which focus on migration in Chicago and civil rights-- for details on how you can get involved. (And save the date for October 1, when Wilkerson will speak at the CPL's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium.)

Lara Levitan

Book Club Mon Mar 04 2013

Review: The White Forest by Adam McOmber


The White Forest by Adam McOmber, published by Touchstone, is a tale set in the late 19th century in England, centralized on the life of a young teenage heroine, Jane Silverlake, and her two companions, Maddy and Nathan.

Jane is a young woman possessing magical talents she inherited from her mother. She experiences an alternate dimension, can hear inanimate objects hum, moan, and speak to her, and sees imagery in her world that she alone can see. The heroine is a mixed combination of Regan of The Exorcist, Hermione from the Harry Potter series, and a young Miss Havisham living in a crumbled estate. Early in the text, the character is intriguing. We learn about her "talents", her upbringing, her tragic, yet interesting life. But soon enough, I became bored and unsympathetic to her. She is a tragic figure, anti-social, and odd. I did not find myself rooting for her, but rather tired of listening to her perspective. As a heroine, she falls flat. The character lacks dimension and personality, and as she serves as the narrator of the text, the entire story becomes tiresome.

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Melinda McIntire

Books Tue Feb 19 2013

Area Transgender Woman Featured in New Anthology by Out & Equal

After 20 years working as a Human Resources Director and Business Partner at a major corporation, Chicagoland resident Lori Fox quit her job. As a closeted transgender woman, she could no longer stand working in a business culture that didn't protect or support gender identity and expression.

After coming out at work in the corporate diversity office (which ultimately led to her
leaving), and also coming out to her family, Fox found success on her own terms--those that allowed her to be herself, completely. She started Lori Fox Diversity Consulting and now works with human resources and management departments at large corporations to create cultures of inclusion. She also consults with individuals to help guide their personal and professional transitions.

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Lara Levitan

Books Wed Feb 06 2013

Family Zine Collaboration Yields Advice for Health and Happiness

Fred Sasaki never thought he'd do an art project with his father, a California-born Japanese-American who spent a portion of his childhood in a World War II relocation camp. But when offering his son advice on being a writer, the elder Fred suggested pamphlets.

"I had no idea what he was talking about," said Sasaki. "Later I learned he was referring to the classic eight-pager, also known as the Tijuana bible -- these were handmade zines before they were called zines."

Especially popular during the Great Depression, Tijuana bibles were cheaply made underground comic books portraying bawdy sexual encounters between newspaper comic strip characters like Popeye and Blondie. But Sasaki Sr. wasn't suggesting his son pander pornographic cartoons -- his idea was to create manuals offering advice on topics like "how to wake up in the morning," and "how to bathe." Sasaki, who is associate editor of Poetry magazine, fell in love with the concept.

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Lara Levitan

Books Wed Jan 23 2013

Celebrate 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice this Monday

JaneAusten_poster.jpgHow much do you love Jane Austen? If it's enough to listen to or read selected chapters of Pride and Prejudice in public before an audience of passersby, you're in luck. On Monday, January 28, the Jane Austen Society of North America - Greater Chicago Region (JASNA-GRC) presents the first ever Pride and Prejudice: A Live Reading.

The event, to be held in the Block 37 pedway at 108 N. State St. from 7am to 7pm, is the brainchild of Debra Ann Miller of the JASNA-GRC.

"When Jane's own copy of Pride and Prejudice arrived at her home at Chawton, one of the elderly ladies from the village was expected for dinner that evening," Miller said. "Jane and her mother 'set fairly at it and read half the first volume to her.'"

The situation, described by Austen in a letter to her sister, inspired Miller's live reading idea.

Actors from Remy Bumppo, Terra Mysterium, and several local authors are scheduled to read, as well as Annie Tully, coordinator of One Book, One Chicago for the CPL, who will read the first sentence of the novel.

But amateurs fear not--volunteers are still needed to fill the hour-long slots (an estimated three to four people are required for each hour), and acting experience and costumes are definitely not necessary.

"This live reading is all about the text," Miller said. "Perfect Hampshire accents are not required, just your own unique voice, and your love for Pride and Prejudice."

Email Debra Ann Miller at for more info.

Lara Levitan

Books Sun Jan 13 2013

Book Review: "The Blue Kind" by Kathryn Born

images.jpgKathryn Born's The Blue Kind begins with the main character, Alison, describing the city Neom, a place that has been taken over by drugs, or "mugs," as the character calls them. The drug pushers are taking over, and newer, harder drugs are entering the market. Everyone is high all the time, smoking, popping, pushing, and snorting every drug out there. The hipsters live in the part of Neom called Runaway Village where we find Alison, her husband Cory, and friend Ray living in an abandoned theater. Alison battles with her broken relationship with her husband and tries to escape from the rising drug lord, Atom, all the while drifting in and out of a drug haze that alters her memory.

Kathryn Born does not disappoint with her descriptions. I can vividly see the city of Neom as I'm reading the novel. Every part of the world that Born has created is beautifully colored in and etched out to the enth degree. Even the drugs are described in detail to the extent that you can almost see the characters getting high. She writes:

"Missy and Kota knick each other's legs with a straight razor, and then twist the cap off the bottle that looks like nail polish. Each girl brushes some mustard-colored liquid onto the cuts on their legs. They clean off the blade and hand it to Cory, and already they are blinking slowly, holding hands."

While the details are plentiful, the dialogue is lacking. The characters never develop their own voices, making it difficult to tell who is speaking. The dialogue has a teenage-like quality to it. I can't count how many times the word "like" is used, and the dialogue overall doesn't have much depth to it. While the dialogue may have been an active choice by Born, it takes away from the characters and is distracting from the story.

There are a lot of different themes in this novel, almost too many. Memory, codependence, drug addiction, and immortality get lost within each other. The chapters are short and as soon as new or important information is mentioned that would propel the story and characters forward, it abruptly ends. This occurs up until the very end making it hard for the story to move forward, and even harder to grasp onto what the characters are saying. I find myself wondering why certain pieces of information are offered at alll; some details of Alison's past are mentioned and never revisited. Some of this happens while the character is getting high and is chalked up to a drug-related memory problem. But, because the characters are constantly forgetting everything, it is hard to latch onto anything, making the storyline motionless.

Overall, this novel is very creative and the details make it come to life. But, there are some nagging issues with the dialogue and storyline that obscure themes and miss out on opportunity to expand on them. Pick up this science fiction novel for a short read at The University of Chicago Press.

Kathryn Born will be launching The Blue Kind along with Joseph G. Raymond, Inside the Whale: A Novel in Verse, and Raymond Richard, Book of Raymond: A Journey from Prison to Praise and Poetry this Tuesday, Jan 15 @7:30pm at Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Julie Zarlenga

Books Mon Jan 07 2013

Get a Head Start on Spring with Local Gardnening Blogger

So the above average temperatures this week have you pining for some planting? If so, get psyched with Amanda Thomsen this Thursday, January 10 at the Barnes & Noble DePaul Center, located at 1 E. Jackson Blvd., at 6pm. The gardening blogger will promote her book Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You.

Thomsen will discuss how to make home landscaping easy and sign copies of her book, which includes playful illustrations and a quiz to help you discover your inner gardener. What better way to forget that it's still only January?

Lara Levitan

Books Tue Jan 01 2013

Book Club's Best of 2012

Welcome to the Best Books of 2012 according to Book Club staff. About half of these books are Chicago specific, and the other half are the books we happened to read this year that stuck with us, and defined our year in books. We hope you enjoy some of these titles in 2013:

Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men by local feminist sex blogger and activist Clarisse Thorn.

Clarisse Thorn delves into the world of "pickup artists" and "the manosphere." How does a feminist navigate a world where "the F word" is regularly trotted out as a scapegoat for everything wrong with society? She found that, as with many subcultures, the loudest voices tend to be the least reasonable. She does find some bitter, angry guys using "game" to prey on vulnerable women but also a lot of nice, sincere guys who just want a social pointer or two to help them find a girlfriend. Thorn has an infectious curiosity about her subject and the overall tone is skeptical yet sensitive.
—Rebecca Hyland

Yvvette Edwards' A Cupboard Full of Coats is the tale of an unhappy young Caribbean woman named Jinx living in London. Lemon, a man from her past, unexpectedly comes to visit and the two of them spend days untangling the family secrets and heartaches that have shaped their lives. Fascinating and expertly paced, I could easily see this adapted into a play. The vivid details, high drama and Lemon's island patois make this book a delicious stew to dive into (much like the heady Caribbean soup prepared as the story unfolds).
—Rebecca Hyland

Sarah Terez Rosenblum's, Herself When She's Missing.

A seductive debut from Chicago author Rosenblum, Herself When She's Missing is a story about the dysfunctional, obsessive love between two women and its resultant thrill and heartbreak. The non-linear narrative uses lists, 3X5 cards, and bits of a screenplay, but Rosenblum's nuanced sentences alone make this a must read.
—Lara Levitan

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I first picked this up because I thought it was the book Election was based on (sorry, Tom Perrotta), but once I began reading it didn't matter that it wasn't. Sittenfeld's Lee Fiora guides us through her prep school world with so much wit, insight and emotional honesty that I missed her when I finished the book. If you're into stories about rich kids being oblivious jerks and painfully realistic teenage angst, you can't miss Prep.
—Lara Levitan

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well On Less written by C. Spike Trotman and Drawn By Diana Nock.

A graphic novel that can improve your life? Yes, you read that correctly. Poorcraft is a friendly DIY guide to living well with less, and offers a wide variety of information from cooking tips and making your own cleaning supplies to more complicated and deftly-handled topics like purchasing insurance and paying off credit card debit.
—Jason Prechtel

I bought this on a whim at this year's Printer's Row Lit Fest, and it's honestly the most useful graphic novel (maybe even book) I've read in a long time. Golden: How Rod Blagojecvich Talked Himself Out Of The Governor's Office And Into Prison by Jeff Coen and John Chase.

Written by two Chicago Tribune reporters, Golden is the true and unbelievably absurd life story of the convicted ex-Governor of Illinois. The book not only sheds life into the man's thought process, but explicitly lays out Blagojevich's own spin on the "Chicago Way," reports on never-before--seen aspects of his trials, and in the end, reveals the ripple effects of his career on local, state, and national politics today.
—Jason Prechtel

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Claire Glass / Comments (2)

Books Thu Dec 20 2012

Liner Notes on a Friendship: Chicago Author Resolves Grief with an "Overly Honest" Memoir

In 2005 Bree Housley lost her childhood best friend, Shelly, to complications from preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder that occurs during pregnancy. Four years later, Housley and her sister started a blog, Fifty2 Resolutions, to chronicle their attempt to live life more like Shelly, a woman, Housley writes, with a "crazy, spontaneous crush on life."

WHYLTSbook cover.JPGThe resolutions, which include things like "woo a stranger" and "be a tourist at home", became the inspiration for Housley's memoir We Hope You Like This Song: An Overly Honest Story About Friendship, Death, and Mix Tapes, published by Seal Press earlier this year. While the blog was a sort of first-step toward healing, the book gave Housley a forum to dig deeper, to explore the meaning behind the resolutions and how they captured Shelly's spirit. (Watch the book trailer, buy the book.)

Opening with an old note written by Shelly explaining the songs compiled on a mix CD for Housley, the book is unavoidably sad. But Housley is careful to point out that its irreverence and emotional honesty make it a far cry from Beaches. WHYLTS is written in a conversational, often hilarious tone with loads of '80s and '90s pop culture references: "Shelly's 'deathiversary' is Friday of next week, January 16. So if we're going to do this, we gotta quit do-si-do-ing around the idea. We've gotta grab it by the arms and swing it around like we're Johnny fucking Castle."

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Lara Levitan

Author Thu Dec 06 2012

Collaborative "Shy Town Girls" Book Series Launches this Saturday

shytowngirls.jpgWhy should New York get all the single-girl-in-the-big-city stories? Ask Katie Leimkuehler, Jennifer Yih, Kate Clinesmith and MG Wilson, and they'll tell you Chicago holds its own as a setting for urban dating adventures. The local writers have sought to capture the essence of Windy City romance in the new four-part novel series Shy Town Girls.

"The series evolved from the idea that every girl has these moments...anything from wine nights with friends, to laughing over the ridiculous pick-up lines guys throw our way," said Leimkuehler. "How many times have I heard a girl in the bathroom at the bar having the same conversation with her friends that I just had with mine? My co-authors and I wanted to capture the real essence of what it's like to be young, single, and dating in the city in the digital age."

And with a thriving fashion, food and nightlife scene, Chicago's Gold Coast provided the perfect backdrop for the trials and tribulations of fictional characters Bobbie, Ivy, Meryl, and Ella, four working friends (along with their sage landlady, Barbara) who share more than just a brownstone apartment.

Leimkuehler, founder of the website Conquer the Edge, says she's always wanted to write a novel series, and when the opportunity to collaborate with Wilson, Yih and Clinesmith arose, she embraced it. Though they developed the overarching storyline and an outline for each book together, each author adopted a character and book.

"[Collaboration] has made the process of writing, editing and marketing much easier because we act as a team," said Leimkuehler. "And working with my co-authors often feels more like hanging out with my friends than work--you can't beat that."

The authors funded the books through PubSlush, and the first is now available on Amazon. Enjoy cocktails, hors d'oevres, a raffle, and giveaways among funky fashions at the December 8 book launch party at Akira, 645 W. Diversey Pkwy. at Clark St. from 7-9pm. The event is free. RSVP here.

Lara Levitan / Comments (4)

Books Wed Dec 05 2012

Get Obsessed at Uncharted Books this Friday

If you've yet to chart Uncharted Books, Logan Square newest and only used book store, this Friday, December 7 at 7pm is the perfect time to visit as novelist Sarah Terez Rosenblum hosts a reading of local authors exploring the theme of obsession.

hereself when she's missing.jpgRosenblum will read from Herself When She's Missing (recently reviewed by Curve magazine), a novel Rosenblum describes as "post-modern in form (lists, 3x5 cards, even the occasional screenplay), but classical in theme: a tale of a girl desperate for something like, but not quite love."

Rosenblum will be joined by fellow obsessors Robyn Okrant, author of Living Oprah: My One Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk; creative writing instructor Scott Onak; recent winner of the Our Town Short Story Contest Michael McCauley; author and artist Chai Wolfman, and Fictlicious founder Micki LeSueur.

Explore the musty literary sanctuary of Uncharted Books at 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Lara Levitan

Author Tue Nov 27 2012

Authors Marie Tillman and Jon Krakauer at the Harold Washington Library

The Harold Washington Library, located at 400 S. State St., welcomes author Marie Tillman on Tuesday, December 4 at 6pm. Tillman will discuss her new book The Letter: My Journey through Love, Loss, and Life. The love story and inspirational tale of recovery and self-discovery chronicles Tillman's experience losing her husband, ex-NFL star Pat Tillman, who declined a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where he eventually lost his life to friendly fire in 2004. The "just in case" letter Pat had written Marie before his deployment provided the strength she needed to rebuild her life in a world without her husband.

Following Pat's death Marie established the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides educational scholarship support to veterans, active service members and their spouses.

Tillman will be joined by Jon Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, "a stunning account of a remarkable young man's heroic life and death, from the bestselling author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven."

Journalist and CBS anchor Jeff Glor will moderate. The event is free, seating is provided on a first-come first-serve basis, and Tillman and Krakauer will sign books at the end of the program.

Lara Levitan

Author Tue Nov 06 2012

Jami Attenberg to Visit The Book Cellar

middforkerri-198x300.jpg The Book Cellar welcomes author Jami Attenberg on Thursday to read from her recently-published novel The Middlesteins, praised by Jonathan Franzen and selected by The Huffington Post as a "book we're talking about."

The novel explores what happens to the Middlestein family after matriarch Edie is abandoned by her husband because she's become overweight and completely obsessed with food. Attenberg, who's written explicitly about her own "history of being fat," has covered topics like sex, technology and graphic novels for magazines like Salon and The Awl, and is a former zinester with three novels under her belt: The Melting Season, The Kept Man and Instant Love.

Stop by The Book Cellar at 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.

Lara Levitan

Interview Mon Nov 05 2012

Inside Indie: An Interview With Independent Publisher Jotham Burello

by Emily Schultze

Jotham Burello is the man behind the machine that is the humbly sized, award-winning independent press, Elephant Rock Books. On Nov. 12, the press is set to release an anthology of essays, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low Flying Duck, unearthed from the archives of Chicago's 2nd Story. This live-lit performance group has been connecting with audiences with honest, inspiring, reach-into-your-gut-because-they-are-so-damn-good, personal narratives for over ten years.

Briefly Knocked_FRONT_Cover_Only.jpgBurello lets us in on the indie publishing game, how Chicago ranks as a player, what you might consider if deciding to go indie or go big, and what it was like to put together a book with 23 different writers.

What suggestions might you have for new indie publishers, or someone thinking about starting their own press?

Don't do it. But if you're stubborn like me, pick reliable and smart partners, and the partners are the writers. I mean, you're going into business with this person. You want to have good work, but who are the people you're going to work with? They have to want to promote their work. You cannot sit back and just expect your publishing company, or publicist to run it for you. You have to have a public face. So back to you're original question; picking the right partners is vital, but so is having a little luck. And take stock in utilizing your community. I think that's really important. In Chicago there are a lot of resources.

What is your definition of success as an independent publisher?

Recently we went to the Brooklyn Book Festival. Unlike some other conferences we've done in the past, the Brooklyn Book Fest--which was enormous--had something we don't always see at academic book fairs, and that is readers. At academic book everyone has a manuscript they want to sell you, but at the Brooklyn Book Fest you had people who just liked to read. I asked everyone who approached our table, "Are you a writer or a reader?" And most kinda looked at me funny and said, "Oh I just like to read," or "I just like books." So one measure of success for me is just connecting with those readers and getting them excited about our books.

You know, as a publisher, no one wants to see me at a reading--I don't sign anyone's books. That's all the writers' stuff. It happened on an airplane just last week. I sold a copy of our new anthology to the guy sitting next to me. He logged onto Amazon and bought it right there. Then of course there's financial success. You have to have your eyes wide open as you go into it. The rewards sometimes are a little elusive when it's not measured right away in dollars and cents.

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Book Club

Books Thu Nov 01 2012

Curbside Splendor to Publish Anthology of Prose & Comics

In December local independent publisher Curbside Splendor will release The Way We Sleep (edited by C. James and Jessa Bye), a collection of stories, comics and interviews centering on sleep and beds. And because they're small and independent, Curbside relies on pre-orders, which can be placed here. The book will cost $20 retail, but pre-orders are $14.99 with free shipping within the U.S.

The 10X10, 240-page glossy will include contributions from authors, graphic artists and comedians like Etgar Keret, Maria Bamford, Billy Lombardo and Michael Showalter.

Says Joe Meno, local author of Office Girl, in the news release, "The Way We Sleep represents the very best of what a book can do that no other narrative medium can touch; it's part anthology, part art-book, part interview, part graphic novel, part confessional, part essay, part sociological study. The subject matter here ranges from sex to family to coming-of-age, all rendered with a delightful wit, brevity, and charm."

Lara Levitan

Events Thu Nov 01 2012

Found Magazine Anniversary Show @ Old Town School of Folk Music

Tomorrow night is Found magazine's 10th anniversary show at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Founded by brothers Davy and Peter Rothbart, they have much to celebrate, including Davy's fourth book My Heart is an Idiot. Dave Eggers says, "Davy Rothbart has the humor and purity of heart you want and need in an observer of contemporary American life. Without guile and with a belief in small towns, underdogs, love at first sight, the pull of the road, and the soulfulness of strangers, Rothbart is a kind of new-styled Bill Moyers -- genuine, wide-eyed, and hopeful." Jim Carroll (yes, that one, obviously referring to an earlier work) says, "Davy's my kind of storyteller -- honest, hilarious, deeply feeling, and slightly cracked. This is the fresh voice we've been looking for."

They're also celebrating Peter's new album, You Are What You Dream, and the new issue of Found magazine, the voyeuristic celebration of found notes and photos. "I've been publishing people's most private thoughts in Found magazine for the last 10 years," Davy told the New York Times, "so I feel like it's only fair to put myself on the line." Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Friday, Nov. 2 at 8pm. $10.

Rebecca Hyland

Books Tue Oct 23 2012

Indie Publisher Announces New E-Book Series

Brooklyn-based Akashic Books--whose tagline is "reverse-gentrification of the literary world"-- announces the next installment of the new Akashic Digits Series: an e-collection of extended excerpts from Chicago's own Joe Meno, author of Office Girl.

You can download the Joe Meno Digit for free and read selections from Meno titles Office Girl, Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, Demons in the Spring, and Tender as Hellfire on your Kindles or other major e-readers. And through October 28 you can download each title for the reduced price of $4.99 from Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader Store, or iTunes. Kindle also has Hairstyles for $2.99 until the end of the month.

The Digits Series is Akashic's monthly, themed e-book promotion that features selections from Akashic's titles, with exclusive links to digital and print editions. Other Digits include the Historical Digit, including excerpts from Cervantes Street by Jaime Manrique, and the Jamaican Digit, including excerpts from Kingston Noir edited by Colin Channer.

Lara Levitan

Interview Mon Oct 22 2012

Local Publisher Partners with Tribune to Produce New Ebook Collection

"From what I can tell, our project is the biggest and most ambitious that any newspaper is doing in the United States," said Doug Seibold, president of the Evanston-based publisher Agate.

Seibold's referring to the recent collaboration between Agate and the Chicago Tribune to release a series of ebooks created from the newspaper's vast archive of news and feature stories, columns and photography. The Chicago Tribune Ebook Collection currently consists of 20 titles, among them The Best of Mary Schmich, a selection of the the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist's favorite pieces; Charlie Trotter, the story of the world-famous chef's restaurant in Chicago; and The Rise of Rahm, which chronicles the ascent of the first non-Daley Chicago mayor in more than 20 years.

And while other newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, have taken similar steps to release archived material on ebook, none have come close to the quantity the Tribune/Agate partnership has yielded--according to Seibold, they'll offer a total of 50 titles by January 1 of next year. And (perhaps best of all) they're only $4.99 a piece.

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Lara Levitan / Comments (1)

Reviews Fri Sep 28 2012

Book Review: Shampoo Horns by Aaron Teel

Shampoo Horns by Aaron TeelThere were two brothers who grew up in a trailer park, and one of them who used to run around in his Underoos snipped off his best friend's nipple with a nail clipper.

It sounds like one of those odd stories about childhood you'd hear over a few beers at the end of the night; something brought out from the trenches. In fact, it may have been for anyone who grew up with Aaron Teel, Austin, Texas-based author of Shampoo Horns and winner of the 6th annual Rosemetal Press Chapbook Contest. "Tater's Nipple" is based on a real memory from Teel's childhood and it's one of the chapbook's semi-autobiographical shorts told from the perspective of Cherry Tree, a 12-year-old living in Seaview, Texas.

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Clarisa Ramirez

Books Thu Sep 06 2012

Chicago Public Library Amnesty Ends Friday

Chicago Public Library's Amnesty Period ends this Friday September 7. Turn in overdue books, no questions asked, with no late fees attached. Even if you've had a book for years, it's ok. This initiative lead a woman to bring back a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, which she had for 78 years. So don't fret, make use of this opportunity while you can.

John Wawrzaszek

Books Mon Aug 27 2012

Book Review: Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago

rising up from indian country.jpeg
On August 15, 1812, 95 men, women and children were killed or taken prisoner by 500 Potawatomi warriors a mile outside of U.S. military outpost Fort Dearborn. In later years, the "Fort Dearborn Massacre" became known as a foundational event in the history of Chicago, inspiring an 1893 monument and one of the four stars on the city's flag.

But should we really call it a massacre?

In Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago, Ann Durkin Keating revisits the early history of Chicago and the settlement of the surrounding "Indian Country" region to explain the complex chain of events that led to the incident in question. Throughout the book, the North Central College History professor argues that previous historical accounts have oversimplified or ignored the vital role that personal ties and tensions between key figures among the Native American tribes, Europeans, and the newly-established Americans played in the events at Fort Dearborn and across the continent during the War of 1812.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (1)

Events Tue Jul 31 2012

Sabrina Chap: Art In Place of Self-Destruction

ltt-cover.jpgAlso known for her musical talents, Sabrina Chap with guests Kate Bornstein & Stephanie Howell will be presenting her anthology of essays, artwork, and stories in Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction. The subject matter of the anthology deals with violence against women. The various contributors to this anthology some of who include Margaret Cho, Patricia Smith, and Nan Goldin, show how they delt with the violence inflicted upon them by using art as a means to cope instead of self-destruction.

See Sabrina Chap present her latest creation on Thursday, Aug. 2 at 7:30pm at Women & Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St.

Julie Zarlenga

Events Sun Jul 08 2012

Doppelgangers: Jac Jemc & Patrick Somerville

The Seminary Co-Operative Bookstore will feature Jac Jemc and Patrick Somerville in the next edition of its reading series, Doppelgangers. The series, set in Hyde Park, focuses on two books that have a similar theme. This Tuesday the theme, horrifying disappearances, is shared by Jac Jemc's My Only Wife and Patrick Somerville's This Bright River.

Show up this Tuesday, July 10@7pm at Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, 1172 E. 55th St., Chicago. And remember, if you buy a book, they'll buy you a beer!

Julie Zarlenga

Books Tue Jul 03 2012

Golf Balls plus a Confused Goose Equal Fine Literature

Today NewCity Lit published a piece about a retired mechanic who has taken on creative pursuits, quite successfully, since leaving his job. Among his explorations, a novel, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter, for children and young adults sprouted, inspired by a news story about a goose collecting and storing golfballs in her nest. Writer Sam DiMatteo asked, what if one hatched? And from there, a book emerged. The book pooled the efforts of members of a community of retirees who hang out at Mather's Cafe in Norwood. Read the full story here.

Claire Glass

Events Thu Jun 21 2012

Punk Rock Meets Literature: Neutron Bomb

tumblr_m5l942Jk8B1qief8do1_500.jpgNeutron Bomb features a reading series under a punk rock backdrop, as writers read punk themed writing while a band plays in the background. This show will feature writers Alice Bag, L.B., Natalie Edwards, and Cyn Vargas, with music by the Calendar Boys.

Rock it out this Saturday, June 23 at 7pm at Cal's, 400 S. Wells St. This show is 21+ and free admission.

Julie Zarlenga

Books Tue May 29 2012

A Review of The Brightest Thing in the World: 3 Lectures from The Institute of Failure

"We may agree on the premise that each work of art is at least in part perfect, while each critic is at least in part imperfect. We may then look to each work of art not for its faults and shortcomings, but for its moments of exhilaration, in an effort to bring our own imperfections into sympathetic vibration with these moments, and thus effect a creative change in ourselves. These moments will of course be somewhat subjective, and if we don't see one immediately, we will out of respect look again, because each work contains at least one, even if by accident. We may look at the totality of the work in the light of this moment - whether it be a moment of humor or sadness, an overarching structural element, a mood, a personal association, a distraction, an honest error, anything that speaks to us."

-Matthew Goulish, 39 Microlectures.

SAIC Professor Matthew Goulish's new book The Brightest Thing in the World: 3 Lectures from The Institute of Failure contains what seems like millions of those moments of exhilaration--too many to report here. Like much of Goulish's work the book is a series of lectures that weave together seemingly disconnected scraps of real life; Dick Cheney's fateful quail debacle, the development of the Fibonacci series, pets abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and death as we relate to it either viscerally or with detached fascination. He investigates what one's death can say about one's life, or not.

The collection, published by Green Lantern Press earlier this month, was drawn from Goulish's existing work, each piece selected for its resonance on the page. These works, Goulish explains in the book's introduction, stand the test of time, context, and medium, extending beyond the room in which they were first delivered, and on to the page. He asks, "Can a book make the room larger?" which for me, means that the book is part of the performance, an experiment of sorts, investigating whether text built for a particular moment in history, engineered for speaking aloud, can make the private act of reading an extension of that performance.

Appropriately, in the first lecture, "Audience Failure Index," Goulish describes the ways an audience can fail to properly consume a performance--be it a movie, or a piece of theater--according to social expectation. It is described in the early pages as, "...watching the show as the show intends itself to be watched. As such the lecture was to provide a reverse-engineered instruction manual for the intentional enactment of audience failure; a how-to guide for the unsatisfied." (15) Here, Goulish refers to a project he embarked on with friend and colleague, Tim Etchells, called The Institute of Failure, which operated on precisely this basis. As a reading audience we too are implicated here as consumers of the work in its new medium. From here, the lecture moves to new terrain, in a way that seems both highly calculated and like a stream of consciousness. Goulish's language is poetic and conversational at the same time, occasionally edging towards something clinical and journalistic. It seems to tell us he is actively processing his thoughts and that we are witnessing something as it unfolds anew, like a series of summersaults, much as one might feel at a live lecture.

Goulish performs one of those summersaults early on in "Audience Failure Index," moving from a direct examination of the audience via his own ideas and passages of other's work (Proust, Camus) to Dick Cheney's quail hunting incident. He says, "The apotropaic audience, that looks away at the threshold, turns its attention elsewhere, foregrounding a negative space and backgrounding the performance, and in the act harnesses the force of time. Thus was the extent of my thought on the subject at the moment when Vice President Dick Cheney shot a man in the face." (19) He describes the narrative with which the general public was presented, followed by a diagram of the scene and what he perceives as a truer account of the afternoon's events. Many more well architectured shifts follow and move the lectures forward.

The Final Lecture, "The Brightest Thing in the World: A Portrait of Visionary Naturalist W.N.P. Barbellion & Tribute to Historian and Teacher George Roeder," we're told, was intended to examine the last days in the life of Barbellion. The scientist's exhaustive daily journal keeping transports easily and lends to interesting conjecture. At the time that Goulish began this piece of writing though, he suffered the great loss of a close friend and colleague, which derailed him from his academic pursuit. Here, in alternating snippets between history and real loss, Goulish bares himself, letting us in on the nature of this interruption in writing and in life. The most emotionally jarring of the three lectures, this one succeeds on an entirely different avenue.

Jane Blocker writes in the book's introduction of Goulish's performance project Goat Island, "As Charles Garoian (writing about a Goat Island workshop....) has noted about these pedagogical practices, the curriculum is constituted by interruptions, based on interventions designed to break continuity and disrupt the conventional linearity of time and space." Goulish's reader audience may approach this work with a series of expectations based on what is understood as a lecture, what results the solitary act of reading usually delivers, and likely much more. Goulish's work is to disrupt those pressures, acknowledging and ultimately deconstructing the potential impact those burdens have on art. Readers may feel unsteady at first, but it is not difficult to delve completely into Goulish's world and to feel certain guidelines of readership recede, giving way to his utterly unique voice.

Claire Glass / Comments (1)

Books Fri May 04 2012

Book Trailer Released for This Bright River by Patrick Somerville

This Bright River, the latest novel by Patrick Somerville (past GB Book Club author), gets a cryptic book trailer, edited by Columbia College student Zachary Moore and featuring a cover of "Wayfarin' Stranger" by Tift Merritt.

Somerville says, "My idea for this book trailer was to tell a little story in the language of the old text adventures (like Zork) I grew up loving so much--and the text adventures one of the novel's main characters, Ben Hanson, grew up playing and--later--designing. I wanted the form to break a bit, but not too much. But I hoped that the "user"--as well as the viewer--would be a little creeped out, but also intrigued." I think he succeeded.

This Bright River will be released June 26th on Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown

Andrew Huff

Book Club Fri Apr 20 2012

That Old Book Smell Explained...By Science!

It's never occurred to me to ask why old books smell like old books. I associate that lovely, musty, and somewhat addictive smell with age and therefore seek little more explanation. The logic stands; they're old, so they smell. Apparently, however, there is a deeply scientific explanation for the scent, and it has to do with the reactions that take place amongst the many chemicals used in the book making process.

This article from the Atlantic , which includes an informative video, brought to us by AbeBooks, explains the reactions with some (fairly goofy) pop-up graphics.

I suspect that Anthony Grafton, covered in Book Club last week, might have something to say about the powerful sensory reaction that the scent of an old book, or an entire shop full of them, can conjure. The E-book surely has some appeal, but pleasantly olfactive it is not.

Claire Glass

Books Mon Apr 16 2012

"City of Scoundrels": Book Release

images-2.jpgGary Krist, author of The White Cascade, writer for the New York Times, Esquire, Salon, the Washington Post Book World, among others, is releasing his latest novel on Tuesday, Apr 17. City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, is a historical account of the twelve days in the summer of 1919, and the disaster and shock that Chicago endured.

The novel begins with the nation's first aeronautical disaster, the Wingfoot Express blimp, which crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago's Loop on Monday, July 21, 1919. Krist uses eyewitness accounts to retell the tale of the inferno of horror that the Wingfoot created when it crashed into the bank and burned the workers alive.

After the graphic prologue, Krist cuts to Chicago's mayor William Hale Thompson, or "Big Bill," as he was better known. Krist shares the life of "Big Bill", an over-the-top character who succeeded in making a name for himself as the city's worst mayor. The culmination of "Big Bill's" failures as a leader to the people of Chicago took place during those riotous twelve days in 1919 when the city endured its first major aviation disaster, the murder of a six-year-old girl named Janet Wilkinson, race riots & bombings, and a transit strike.

Through this turmoil "Big Bill" and his cronies neglected the city in order to concentrate on the matters they considered most important, namely, votes. But, despite "Big Bill's" hands off approach during what could have ended Chicago, the city pushed on through the tragedy and came out on top, with a new alias, the "City of Scoundrels," characterized by historically greedy politicians, and the spirit and perseverance of its people.

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago will be available for purchase on Tuesday, Apr 17.

Julie Zarlenga / Comments (1)

Reviews Fri Apr 13 2012

Photographing the Chicago River

River-scan016.jpgWhen you think of the Chicago River, what springs to mind? Most likely, the bridge at Michigan Avenue, kayaking in the summer, architectural boat tours, and assuredly the famous reversal over a century ago. There's a lot of river that extends beyond the downtown area, however — all 156 miles of it — most of which you may not recognize.

Photographer Richard Wasserman spent 10 years learning every fork and tributary of the Chicago River, documenting it on his large format camera. This type of black and white photography, chosen both for the incredible detail it offers and for its ability to capture architecture without distortion, took a lot of care — not to mention, time — to execute.

"It looks very simple, and it is," said Wasserman, referring the large format process. "But an amazing amount of things can go wrong." It took Wasserman anywhere from 30-60 minutes to set up the equipment and capture a final image.

On average once weekly, and often on weekends, he added to his collection of river photographs — including the piles of boxes of unused prints and negatives never printed — not thinking it would be anything more than a personal project. It wasn't until he attended a workshop in Pennsylvania four or five years ago that someone gave him the idea for a book.

Wasserman_Cover.jpgMidstream, recently published by the Columbia College Chicago Press, is a collection of 104 of these images of the river, including some of the Skokie Lagoons and where the river passes, unassuming, by the Northbrook Court Shopping Mall.

Beyond being lovely to behold, the images are important historical records of part of Chicago's built environment: the river, and how humans have interacted, fiddled, and messed with it for two centuries. Although there are no people in these images, they were never far from Wasserman's mind. "I think about people just as much, even if they're not pictured," he said, discussing how the relationship between the river and Chicago's residents has changed over the years.


Currently, Wasserman is working on two projects, for which he continues to focus on recording what has changed, and what might be forgotten. In addition to documenting old movie theaters in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, the other project, "Eminent Domain," has taken him across the country to places confiscated by the government for the "public good" — such as Bensenville, Illinois, where 600 families and 25 businesses were displaced thanks to the expansion of the O'Hare airport; or Norris, Tennessee, where the first TVA dam displaced upwards of 3,000 families.

"People forget. Society forgets," he said. "Some [of these] changes are good, but the people who pay the highest price are those who have no voice."

Wasserman will be signing copies of his book on May 1, from 6pm to 8pm at the Lincoln Park Campus of DePaul University (2400 N. Sheffield Ave.). On May 31, he will be speaking and showing select photographs from Midstream at the McCormick Bridgehouse Musuem (376 N. Michigan Ave.) during lunch.


Megan E. Doherty

Books Fri Apr 06 2012

A Book for Day Dreamers Reviewed by A/C

Gapers Block's Arts and Culture editor, Kelly Reaves reviewed I Take Back the Sponge Cake, and recommends it to all you day dreamers out there--particularly those among you with hammock access. Here's an excerpt of her review:

"Those who enjoy directing their own artistic experiences should check out I Take Back the Sponge Cake, a "lyrical choose-your-own-adventure" book, illustrated by SAIC alumna, Loren Erdrich. Erdrich's simple yet gritty drawing style compliments Sierra Nelson's poetry nicely, giving us disorienting sensory experiences to dip our toes into and leaving us to sink or swim from there."

Click to read the rest.

Claire Glass

Books Fri Mar 30 2012

An App to Search the Stacks at Your Local Branch

Check out this app posted to Reddit earlier today that might bring some convenience to the sometimes daunting stacks of your local branch. According to the maker it will allow you to use your Amazon wish list to sift through the library's inventory for the books you want.

Claire Glass

Book Club Mon Mar 19 2012

Rachel Bertsche Knows How to Make Friends

Unfortunately I speak from experience when I say that it's no picnic making friends in Chicago. And I take comfort in the fact that it's not just this Windy City transplant who's found it rather challenging.

Like me, writer Rachel Bertsche moved to Chicago with an impressive friend-making track record. She discovered, however, that this sprawling city doesn't afford the friendless with easy platonic match making opportunities; you've got to be willing to put in some work. And work she did, embarking on a long line of friend dates--52 to be exact--in search of friendly connection. These stories make up the bulk of her book, MWF Seeking BFF. Berstche will appear at The Open Books Store, located at 213 W. Institute Place, on March 22 at 7pm to read from her book, and discuss her often-hilarious experiences.

Claire Glass

Books Fri Mar 16 2012

An Indie Publisher Embraces E-Books

If independent bookstores have gotten attention over their struggle to survive in a world with Barnes & Noble and Amazon, what about independent publishers? Academy Chicago Publishers (ACP), a small, independent publisher since 1975, has recently ventured into the land of e-books.

"We were almost pressured, this is just the direction the industry is moving in," said Mary Egan, editorial assistant at ACP. For them, branching out into e-books was a no-brainer to stay afloat and complete for a readership that is adopting e-readers at an incredible rate.

"Just like indie bookstores, we're fighting for our lives," Egan says.

ACP specializes in trade pubs, memories, mysteries, reprints of old fiction and well-crafted new novels. Thus far, they have turned six of their current best sellers into e-books, and plan to add more titles from the Charlie Chan mystery series to that roster.

ACP's e-books only just hit the market in early February, so it may be too soon to tell how well they do. "It's still early on," Egan says. "We encourage people to look into indie publishers. They fill a niche that big publishers just don't."

Megan E. Doherty

Bookmarks Fri Mar 09 2012


Tonight! Ben Ryder Howe discusses his memoir, My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store at Zaleski & Horvath Market Cafe in Hyde Park.

Tonight! Naked Girls Reading at the Everleigh Club. Third anniversary show; theme: "Fairy tails."

Tonight! Eugene Cross reads from Fires of Our Choosing at Women and Children First.

Saturday! Brian Lewis-Jones reads from Parish, Parish at Uncharted Books.

Saturday! Try to get into Louder Than A Bomb at The Vic.

Saturday and Sunday! Try to get into The Boho Dance at The Poetry Foundation.

Sunday! Stacy Riedel reads from The Field at Uncharted Books.

Sunday! The Chicago Way Literary Series with James Finn Garner and Christine Sneed at Hidden Shamrock.

This weekend! Chicago Zine Fest.

Claire Glass

Events Fri Mar 09 2012

Rick Perlstein Talks Reagan

Historian and Rolling Stone magazine columnist Rick Perlstein will discuss his upcoming book, The Invisible Bridge: The 1970s and the Rise of Ronald Reagan, on Tuesday, March 13 at 7pm at the Cliff Dwellers Club (200 S. Michigan Ave.).

If you haven't heard of Perlstein from his Rolling Stone column, you may have encountered his op-eds in the New York Times; that, or his highly acclaimed Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.

The event, part of the Society of Midland Authors programming, will start off at 6pm with a social hour, with complimentary snacks and a cash bar. You don't need to register and admission is free, but the Society will appreciate donations to defray the cost of programs.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Tue Mar 06 2012

Some Thoughts on Small Book Sellers

Plenty of small booksellers across the country are likely in the midst of a period of recovery in the wake of notoriously slow January and February sales. Crunched numbers probably tell numerous stories about the impact of ebooks, or the allure of Amazon convenience, but whatever those narratives suggest, publisher of Black Ocean, Janaka Stucky is hopeful. In an essay published by the Poetry Foundation in January, Stucky responded to two heated arguments, one published by The New York Times and another in Slate. Those articles were answers to an Amazon promotion that had shoppers scanning bar codes on their cell phones to find out what better deals they might get by choosing to purchase on Amazon versus the store in which they were browsing.

Janaka's central argument is worth taking a look at for those of us concerned with the longevity of independent booksellers. He argues, that readers of poetry, few though they may be, might be the saviors of the small shops because their interests are satisfied by the act of browsing, their fascinations especially small and seldom glorified. Of course, we can all work to ensure the identity of the small book store as a gathering center for small communities does not fade into the past, poetry fans or not. Adult hardback sales were down almost 21 percent as of this past November. It's hard to say what that number means for the rest of the industry, but it's not difficult to see that things are changing.

Claire Glass / Comments (1)

Events Sat Feb 25 2012

Historian Michael Beschloss at Columbia College

Author and historian Michael Beschloss will speak at Columbia College (Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., eighth floor) on Thursday, March 8 at 7pm. This free and public lecture will close out Columbia's Conversations in the Arts 2011-2012 series (now in its eighth year), which this season has focused on issues prevalent in the liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Previous speakers in this year's series were writer Gloria Steinem and political commentator Donna Brazile.

Beschloss, "a preeminent historian and wonderful speaker," said Eric Winston, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Columbia, will speak on presidential courage — what it is, and which presidents have made "courageous" decisions. Author of nine books on American presidents — covering topics such as Lyndon Johnson's secret tapes and JFK and the Cold War — Beschloss, a Chicago native, has also served as NBC News presidential historian and as a commentator for "PBS NewsHour."

The event will be moderated by WBEZ's Steve Edwards — journalist, interviewer and host of "Afternoon Shift," a daily conversation about news, culture and ideas.

While the event is free and open to the public, a reservation is still recommended.

Megan E. Doherty

Events Sat Feb 25 2012

Lowell Thompson @ Harold Washington Library

A creative influence in the African-American community, Lowell Thompson was the first African-American hired in advertising after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. His activism in the African-American community did not begin until the 90's when he published his first book, WHITEFOLKS: Seeing America Through Black Eyes. He is now discussing his latest novel, African Americans in Chicago.


Come see Lowell Thompson read and discuss his novel on Tuesday, Feb 28 @ 6pm at the Harold Washington Library, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State St.

Julie Zarlenga

Events Mon Feb 20 2012

Book Signing and Discussion with Nathan Englander

Photo by Juliana Sohn
On Monday, Feb. 27 at 6pm, Nathan Englander (internationally acclaimed author of The Ministry of Special Cases) will discusses his latest collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State St.).

"These eight stories display Englander grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and the imagination that place him at the forefront of contemporary American fiction."

The event is free and no registration is required, but keep in mind that seating is on a first come, first serve basis.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Mon Jan 30 2012

The Death of the Bookstore as Destination?

Barbara's Bookstore, a long-standing institution in the Chicago literary landscape, recently shut down another store — this time, it lost its UIC location on Sunday, Jan. 8. This comes on the heels, most recently, of closing their store in Oak Park, and previously the location in Old Town. If you want to visit a Barbara's now, you'd better head for the airport - or a hospital or department store. All this seems to have led Chicago writer Robert Duffer to reluctantly note that "it seems like the bookstore as a destination in Chicago is becoming an endangered species."

Really? Curious what those on the front lines of the Chicago bookstore business thought, I made a few inquiries.

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty / Comments (1)

Books Tue Jan 24 2012

Tribune Unveils New Sunday Book Section

Back in 1946, the Chicago Tribune first introduced a Sunday book section to its readers that would become a staple of the newspaper for more than 60 years. Over time that section has shrunk to a single page you can now find in the Saturday edition. Eventually it wasn't worth the cost to continue printing the supplement, since more and more readers turned to the web's proliferation of literary sites for their information.

Today, the Trib is moving forward by looking backwards: Printers Row, a revamped book section of all things literary (with a Chicago focus), will be available in current subscribers' Sunday papers for an additional cost of $99 per year, at the rate of about $2 per week — if you're not a current subscriber but want to join the bandwagon, your premium goes up to $149 for the supplement. Want to dip your toe in every now and then? You can purchase single editions of Printers Row as e-books for $2.99 on Amazon.

This premium paid content is scheduled to reach subscribers next month, and will include 24 pages of book reviews, literary news, author interviews, special reports on Chicago and Midwest writers and a new piece of short fiction each week. Members will also have access to members-only book discussions, author receptions at the annual Printers Row Lit Fest, behind-the-scenes "literary" tours, and free entry to monthly live author conversations.

To generate interest, a sample of about 100,000 subscribers will get a free introductory issue this Sunday, and Trib executives hope to retain at least 10,000 of them. If you're not a subscriber but want to check it out, a digital version will be made available at that time, and will be accessible here. Readers can expect articles by guest authors, as well as Trib regulars such as Julia Keller, Elizabeth Taylor, Chris Jones and Rick Kogan.

"This is an innovation," said Gerould Kern, senior vice president and editor of the Tribune, in an article published today. "We're being aggressive and moving forward. We're trying to develop new ideas and get them into play. We're not going to just stand still. We're very hopeful that this is part of a new publishing approach that is right for the times."

Megan E. Doherty

Events Mon Jan 23 2012

James C. Hormel@The Book Cellar

Fit-to-Serve-cover.jpgJoin human rights advocate, and former U.S. Ambassador James C. Hormel as he reads from his new memoir Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador.

Hormel will be at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave, Wednesday, Jan 25 at 7pm.

Julie Zarlenga

Books Tue Jan 17 2012

New Book Resolutions

The Tribune suggests rereading this 12 classics in the new year.

Rose Lannin / Comments (1)

Events Mon Jan 16 2012

Literati Networking Event

"Write the book that gets you out of bed to write, and keeps you up at night to write."

So advises Ben LeRoy, publisher of Tyrus Books and F+W Crime. LeRoy will be making the trip from Madison in a few short weeks to attend Chicago's third Literati event - and to hit up the Love is Murder mystery conference, to boot.

The Chicago Literati will gather once more on February 2, from 6-9pm at the Hidden Shamrock (2723 N. Halsted), thanks to Dana Kaye, who doesn't want writing to be more solitary than it has to.

LeRoy remembers meeting Kaye six or seven years ago — back when he used to run Bleak House Books — at another Love is Murder conference. "Many Chicago writers were at that conference. It was a bonding of what is now the young lions of the Chicago crime fiction scene."

And the Chicago literary scene, in general, has kept him and many others coming back. "There's a working ethic to the literary scene in Chicago, and there's a realness that's missing in much [literature and media]. Chicago is more grounded and rooted in its fiction and nonfiction. It all feels much more human and tangible to me. Chicago is the everyman."

At this next installment of Kaye's networking events, LeRoy looks forward not only to continuing the bond among his fellow creatives, but also to see what stories he can find. "I'm big on getting pockets of the country that are completely unrepresented. Part of my mission is to really capture what it is to be alive in fly-over country. There is really so much life to be lived here."

In addition to LeRoy, also in attendance will be:

— Jon and Ruth Jordan - Co-founders and editors of Crimespree Magazine, a publication dedicated to the mystery genre
Sherrill Bodine - author of All I Want Is You and other contemporary romances set in Chicago

Thursday, February 2
The Hidden Shamrock, 2723 N. Halsted
$15 in advance/$20 at the door
Free appetizers, and cash bar with drink specials

And the first 30 people who register get an all-coveted swag bag.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Mon Jan 16 2012

Dive Into the Reader's Pure Fiction

This week is the Chicago Reader's fiction issue, featuring stories from readers. Curated by Goldie Goldbloom, the selections also include editor's favorites.

Rose Lannin

Books Fri Jan 13 2012

Hardboiled Detective Meets Bozo The Clown

112295916.JPGJames Finn Garner packs in the laughs with his new hardboiled detective novel Honk, Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko, Private Clown Mystery. Garner will be one of the authors awarded The Book of the Year Award by the Chicago Writers Association, which will be held on Saturday, Jan 14. This punchline loaded novel follows Rex Koko, a clown with a booze-soaked past. Rex is hired by Carlozo the flying trapeze artist to track down his wife Adeline. But, as Koko trails the femme fatale through the shady parts of Top Town, he finds himself in the center of a three-ring-circus.

To see James Finn Garner awarded for his new novel, visit The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave on Saturday, Jan 14 @ 7pm.

Julie Zarlenga / Comments (1)

Books Mon Jan 09 2012

Solace in So Many Words

Weighed Words, micropublisher and imprint of Hourglass Books since 2010, will present Solace in So Many Words at the Wilmette Public Library, 1242 Wilmette Ave., at 7:30pm Thursday, Jan. 26.

"Solace in So Many Words, featuring Wilmette writer J. Scott Smith, along with contributors Joan Corwin, Pamela Miller, Pat Rahmann D. J. Lachance and editor Ellen Wade Beals. What does solace mean? Come hear these distinguished writers share their poetry, fiction and essays on the very pertinent subject of solace."

Megan E. Doherty / Comments (1)

Events Thu Dec 29 2011

What's Your Problem?

Tribune columnist Jon Yates (the "Problem Solver") has heard a lot of people's problems. Enough to fill a thrice-weekly column for the past six years.

If you've missed out on those 900-odd advice columns and could use a helpful synopsis, then you may want to check out Yates' new book — titled, appropriately enough, What's Your Problem? Cut Through Red Tape, Challenge the System and Get Your Money Back.

On Thursday, Jan. 5 at 6pm, Yates will be promoting his new advice compendium at the Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N. Michigan Ave., lower level. Go for the tips, stay for a burger.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Mon Dec 26 2011

Paul Hornschemeier Illustrates Kelly Link

The comic book artist pencils one of the author's new stories.

Rose Lannin

Books Sat Dec 24 2011

Favorite Chicago Authors of 2011

Here's the Tribune's local author picks from this year. Good for a (very) last-minute gift, a plane or train ride, or just to read.

Rose Lannin

Books Mon Dec 12 2011

Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition

Each year since it began in 1915, the Society of Midland Authors has granted awards to authors and poets with ties to the 12 Midwestern "heartland states." The contest is now underway for books published in 2011. While there is no entry fee and you don't have to be a member of the SMA to enter, do you have to have either been born in, currently live in, or have strong ties to one of the 12 Midland states. Your book must also have been published by a recognized publishing house — apologies to all you self-publishers out there.

Completed entry forms must be submitted by February 1, 2012, along with a copy of the book being submitted in that category. There are three judges per category, so that means each judge needs to get his or her own copy of the book and corresponding entry form (three judges, three forms, three books).

What are the categories, you say? Glad you asked. Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Biography, Children's Fiction, Children's Nonfiction and Poetry.

Make sure you double-check the rules, and mail your entries to the right judges.

Questions? Comments? Contact competition manager Carol Jean Carlson at 773-504-8450.

Megan E. Doherty

Events Wed Nov 30 2011

What Makes a Book Beautiful and Marketable?

Chicago Publishes is offering an At Work Forum on book design. The event, which will take place at the 5th floor of the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Street) on Thursday, December 1 at 6pm, will feature:

— James Goggin, Director of Design, Print and Digital Media, Museum of Contemporary Art

— Ellen Gibson, Regional Marketing Manager, University of Chicago Press

— Annie Heckman, Artist, Book Designer, and founder of StepSister Press


Megan E. Doherty / Comments (1)

Books Wed Nov 23 2011

Annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference

Stay tuned, because the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) will host its Annual Conference & Book fair at the Hilton Chicago (720 South Michigan Ave.) and the Palmer House Hilton (17 East Monroe St.) from February 29 to March 3, 2012.

Why care? Maybe because this conference is the largest literary gathering in North America. The keynote address will be given by Margaret Atwood, and it will also be an occasion for a reunion of eight Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, two Poets Laureate, six National Book Award winners, and nine recipients of the National Book Critics Circle Award — not to mention, hundreds of other readers, speakers, and panelists (including Jennifer Egan, C. K. Williams, Jane Smiley and Marilynne Robinson). There will be a mind-boggling 400 events, as well as exhibits by more than 550 presses, magazines, and literary arts organizations, so start planning now!

Preregistration details:

-From now through January 23
-Rates for the three-day conference are $155 for members and $225 for non-members -On-site registration starts February 29 at the Hilton Chicago
-On-site registration rates are $190 for members and $265 for non-members

More details, courtesy of the press release:

On Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3, the following events at Hilton Chicago will be free and open to the public: The Poetry Foundation presents Philip Levine and Carol Ann Duffy; Columbia College Chicago Poetry & Nonfiction Programs present Esmeralda Santiago and Jeanette Walls; The Academy of American Poets presents Lyn Hejinian and Edward Hirsch; Columbia College Chicago Story Week and Bath Spa University present Ronnie Baker Brooks, Aleksander Hemon, Audrey Niffenegger, and Irvine Welsh. Event locations and details can be found at

On Saturday, March 3, the AWP Bookfair at Hilton Chicago will be free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Exhibitors include Chicago Review, Dalkey Archive Press, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, n+1, Ninth Letter, Northwestern University Press, Poetry, Tin House, and W.W. Norton.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Fri Nov 18 2011

The Chicago Book Expo This Weekend!

This weekend marks the inaugural Chicago Book Expo, Saturday November 19th and Sunday 20th. The Chicago's Writer House, in partnership with Uptown United , delivers a festival in the vein of pop-up galleries across the city. The Book Expo in a sense is a pop-up bookstore, taking over the historic Goldblatt's building, the recent home of the bankrupt Border's bookstore in Uptown. There focus is on Chicago publishers and literary organizations celebrating the rich tradition of Chicago literature. The location is symbolic, a book event at site where one of the largest chain bookstores once was housed.

"Whether you loved them or hated them, Borders was a part of the publishing world and the local landscape," says John Rich, founder of the Chicago's Writer House and one of the Expo organizers. "Their demise has impact. With the Expo, we are relying on the history of the building as a literary destination. [T]hat the memory of the old Borders is evocative, but the compelling symbol for us is that a strong, accessible book industry does and can exist in Chicago, without Borders and beyond Borders."

Participants during the weekend include over 40 Chicago publishers of fiction and poetry. "Our focus has been on creating a support mechanism, a platform, for Chicago publishers of fiction and poetry," says Rich. This list is varied, featuring: Agate Publishing, Ampersand, Another Chicago Magazine, Curbside Splendor, Featherproof Books, Green Lantern Press, MAKE Magazine, Short Pants Press, and Zoo Mouse Key Press, to name a few. "We hope that people will come and browse, just like they would at any other store, but here they can also talk directly to publishers, learn about the mission or aesthetic of a press first hand, and hear a range of published authors read," says Rich.

Saturday will showcase a non-profit fair. Keeping with the overall theme, these are literary organizations rather than publishers. Those booked will include: 826CHI, Center for Book and Paper Arts, Chicago Architecture Foundation , Chicago Filmmakers, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Writers Association, Chicago Zine Fest, Friends of the Uptown Neighborhood, Poetry Foundation, Read/Write Library (formerly Chicago Underground Library), St. Augustine College, and Uptown United. Each will have a table staffed with members on hand, presenting more information about their group and how one can get involved.

Entertainment also includes a Saturday performance by local indie rockers Joan of Arc, commissioned to write a new soundtrack to Charlie Chaplin's first Chicago-made film His New Job (which was shot in Uptown as well). Opening the show will be poet and performer Luis Humberto Valadez. The showcase is at St. Augustine College 1345 W. Argyle Ave. Then on Sunday the Chicago Architecture Foundation will conduct walking architectural tours of the Uptown neighborhood. Both are ticketed events.

Throughout the weekend, Chicago Public Library will available to register attendees for library cards. And local bookseller Open Books will be accepting donations of gently used books for their bookstore. Any purchase from them will go to support literacy programming and events.

During the Expo there will be scheduled readings sponsored by Curbside Splendor and more, workshops sponsored by Read/Write Library and more, panels lead by writers from the Chicago Reader, TimeOut magazine and others, plus kids activities lead by Grow Books Press authors and 826 CHI.

"We want people to discover the depth of Chicago's literary publishing efforts, big and small, and find their next favorite book," exclaims Rich.

Browse the Chicago Book Expo 2011, November 19-20 at Borders Books (4720 N. Broadway), and the basement of the Uptown Broadway. Hours are Saturday, November 19th, 10am-6pm and Sunday, November 20th, 12-6pm. The book fair activities are free and open to the public.

John Wawrzaszek

Books Mon Nov 14 2011

Tribune Book Section?

The word on the literary street is that the Tribune may have a weekly book section up its sleeve — starting in January, you could be soaking up the latest news and reviews about books in Printer's Row, a supplement to the newspaper, for a small price.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Tue Nov 08 2011

Peaceful Chicago

If you need a break from your hectic urban life but don't know where to head to recoup, look no further. The recently released Peaceful Places CHICAGO promises 119 tranquil sites in Chicago and the surrounding area. And this often-harried Chicagoan is happy to report that the book delivers.

Chicago-based freelancer Anne Ford has divided the book up both geographically and by category, so whether you're stressed in Streeterville or in the mood for an "enchanting walk" or a "quiet table," the information in the book is so well organized that finding what you're looking for won't diminish your zen mood.

As a long-time Chicagoan and someone who loves actively exploring unknown little pockets of this town, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good number of items in this book that I'd never heard of. I, like the author, didn't realize those weird sculptures dotting McCormick Blvd. in Skokie were actually part of a larger park; nor did I know about Ping Tom Memorial Park tucked away in Chinatown. And an ice rink on the 94th floor of the Hancock Building? Come January, I now know where I'll be falling flat on my face.

Megan E. Doherty

Events Tue Nov 01 2011

The Challenges of Writing a Memoir

At age 13, Meghan O'Rourke tried to write a novel. It was science fiction with "many princesses," including one named Cassiopeia.

meghan.jpgNow 35, she's since published two poetry collections and a written a memoir, The Long Goodbye, about the death of her 55-year-old mother from cancer.

"It embarrasses me," she said Thursday night at Maxim's (24 Goethe St.), an event sponsored by Chicago Publishes. Mark Bazer, host of the Interview Show, led a conversation with O'Rourke and writer Rachel DeWoskin. "I never thought I'd write a memoir."

Continue reading this entry »

Ruthie Kott

Books Mon Oct 31 2011

Shades of October Country

Happy Halloween! Over at Bookslut, Colleen Mondor reviews horror stories that go beyond blood, bats, and scares (well, mostly).

Rose Lannin

News Wed Oct 19 2011

Logan Square Anticipates New Bookstore

This fall, Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood will get a new bookstore. Uncharted Books, taking over the retail space of a former shoe store, will be a general used bookstore focusing on literature — no airport fiction allowed. You'll also find vintage classics, and an emphasis on local Chicago interest, biographies, memoirs, history, and women's studies.

uncharted.jpgUncharted is the brainchild of Tanner McSwain, a transplant (ultimately) from a chicken farm in Albemarle, NC, who keeps finding himself in Logan Square — which, he feels, is "the right neighborhood at the right time. It's on the cusp of booming and becoming a destination."

Not one to disparage any of his fellow used bookstores (all booksellers are "on the same team", after all), and being a loyal fan of favorites Myopic, Women & Children First, Powell's and the Seminary Co-op, McSwain still feels that Chicago, and particularly his neighborhood, really needs a more general used bookstore. His niche is establishing a store without a niche.

The name of the bookstore comes from his hope to establish a place that allows adventure and exploration. "I'm definitely sailing into unknown territory here, and though I have some very specific visions for the direction of the store, it's also a bit of a blank page."

While he seems to be doing well on amassing titles to sell (currently, he has 8,000 books, and he hopes to reach 12,000 by opening), the transformation of the location itself into his vision for Uncharted seems dangerously far from its goal.

Retail horizontal grills — the kind you hang hooks for merchandise on — still cover what will eventually be beautiful, exposed brick; a plywood sub-floor waits to be transformed into either hardwood or nice laminate; the suspended ceiling, composed of those square, acoustic tiles, will be torn down, revealing the exposed pipe work above it.

McSwain is optimistic he'll be able to enact these renovations, perhaps by Thanksgiving, and if not, by Christmas — and what will be left is the feel of an old world European pub; dark woods, cozy.

Uncharted Books will be much more than a bookstore, however. It will double as a community center, offering literacy programs, writing classes, open mics, and readings. His goal, of course, is to "encourage people to create art and literature and not just consume it." A resident of Logan Square for many years, McSwain already has roots there, but he wants to make those roots deeper.

coming soon.jpgMcSwain, who is also a licensed massage therapist, has a background in publishing. A former employee of indie publisher Agate as well as McGraw-Hill, he's optimistic that independent bookstores, despite all economic woes, are "doing just fine". His research indicated that small, used bookstores are "borderline recession-proof," due to their low start-up costs and their ability to tap into people's "recession-era need" for thrift.

Of course, there's no harm in asking for a little help to get things started. Uncharted Books, which will buy your used reads for "more than you think," is also happy to accept donations. That, or you can check out their Kickstarter campaign.

Uncharted Books
Opening Fall 2011
2630 N. Milwaukee Avenue

Megan E. Doherty

Interview Tue Oct 18 2011

Interview: Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides would like to make one thing clear: his new novel, The Marriage Plot, is not itself an attempt at a marriage plot.

marriageplot.jpgThe story follows three young adults, all graduating from Brown in the early '80s, who try to figure out life and love. Madeleine Hanna finds herself loving Leonard Bankhead (exciting, unstable) and being loved by Mitchell Grammaticus (sensible, spiritual). Rather than simply give us a new spin on a Jane Austen novel, Eugenides wants to highlight just what it does to people to read such books. Madeleine, an English major who falls in love with Victorian literature at a time when semiotics tries to deconstruct the very idea of love, struggles when reality falls far short of the ideal.

"It wasn't a question of trying to write a marriage plot so much as to show how the marriage plot functions in people's heads," Eugenides said. "This book was very much about the extent to which what we've read and what we've read about love will influence our own choices in love and really determine a large part of our fate."

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty

Events Thu Oct 06 2011

A Century of The Chicago Manual of Style

As part of Chicago Public Media's Off-Air series, WBEZ's Alison Cuddy will moderate a panel discussion in honor of the recent release of the famed style manual's 16th edition. The focus will be the role of The Chicago Manual of Style, which has been published since 1906, in an era of quick communication — tweets, texts, emails have encouraged expediency over accuracy.

Panelists include Anita Samen, Managing Editor books division, University of Chicago Press; Carol Saller, Senior Manuscript Editor, University of Chicago Press and editor of the Chicago Style Q+A; Jason Riggle, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Chicago Language Modeling Lab; and Ben Zimmer, Former writer of the New York Times Magazine's "On Language" column and Executive Producer of Visual Thesaurus and


Tuesday, 8 November at 7pm
University of Chicago International House
1414 East 59th Street

$15 general admission
$12 WBEZ members
$10 students
Tickets may be purchased here.

Alternatively, you can try to win them. The U of C will award a pair of tickets to whomever uploads the most creative photo of a copy of the CMS. Submissions will be taken through 21 October, and the winner announced on 25 October.

Megan E. Doherty

Events Wed Oct 05 2011

Dmitry Samarov at Myopic Books


Last night Myopic Books hosted Dmitry Samarov reading from his new book, Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab.

The book launch is getting a lot of coverage, so if you're interested in reading more about Samarov, you can read from his blog by the same name or one of these recent features. He'll also be reading at a variety of other events in the next few weeks.

David Schalliol

Books Fri Sep 30 2011

(Get Ready for Halloween with) Strange Kids Comix Magazine #2

There's a whole lot of cartoony, grotesque, funny, and above all Halloween-centric fun in Strange Kids Comix Magazine #2. A substantial portion of the talent hails from Chicago and the Midwest.

Rose Lannin

Books Thu Sep 29 2011

Beyond Myopic's Brick and Mortar

Did you know Myopic Books has online-only collectable, limited, signed, rare, and out-of-print titles available for sale as well?

Rose Lannin

News Mon Sep 26 2011

Banned Books Week Is Back

September 24 to October 1 is Banned Books Week all over the U.S. To celebrate here in Chicago, check out Books on the Chopping Block, an hour-long program of readings from the most challenged books of 2010. Presented by City Lit and the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, seven readings will take place at libraries in and around Chicago, ending in a final reading in suburban Glencoe. For times and locations, click here. If you don't feel like following the banned books around, you can take part in a Virtual Read-Out instead: submit a two-minute or less reading from a banned book or a three-minute eye-witness account of a banned book challenge in your area. Videos will be posted on a special YouTube channel. Get instructions on how to participate here. Happy Banned Books Week!

Emily Wong

Interview Fri Sep 23 2011

Interview: Jacquelyn Mitchard

Jacquelyn Mitchard knows how to do research.

A reporter for twenty years before authoring her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, Mitchard applies her journalist's obsession with fact-gathering to the process of writing fiction.

"You get a Tupperware box, the big kind, the kind you put sweaters in, and you do all the interviews in the world."

While it may represent a tremendous investment of time and energy, it's also an insurance policy.

"I [take] copious notes, just to make sure I [don't] get anything wrong — [even] for two paragraphs. I do way, way more research than is warranted, and I always will. People can say that this is a really stinky book, but they can't say that stuff is wrong. Ever."

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty

Feature Wed Sep 21 2011

Landmark Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 50 Years Young

This October, the Seminary Co-op will celebrate its 50th birthday, and within a year it will say goodbye to its cherished home in the basement of the Chicago Theology Seminary -- a winding and seemingly endless labyrinth of books. This is the final installment of a three-part series on the bookstore; read parts one and two, detailing the Co-op's history and how the publishing industry has changed.

Part Three: The Stories

"I'm quite high on our customers."

And Co-op manager, Jack Cella, has known some impressive ones.

"[Saul Bellow] used to come into the store a lot, and he liked to explore — you know what this place is like, it's a maze. He liked to go back and look to see what was being unpacked. He wandered to the back, and there was [an undergraduate employee] unpacking some books, and [she] felt a tap on her shoulder. I don't know how Saul got back there, because we have a little bungee cord blocking the way, but it doesn't do much. Apparently, he wound his way back there...and asked her what she was doing. She looks up, realizes who he is, and started crying -- it was such a shock!"

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty

Books Wed Sep 21 2011

Common: One Day It'll All Make Sense

In addition to rapper and actor, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, aka "Common" can now add the title "author" to his resume; with his new book, One Day It'll All Make Sense, the Chicago native and hip hop superstar has entered the literary world with a memoir that includes details such as life growing up on the city's South Side and his decision to leave college to pursue a career in music and entertainment.


Common poses with fan. Photo by: Charlita Fain.

Common was around the city yesterday to promote the book, with an afternoon appearance at Macy's on State Street, and then later at Barnes & Noble, DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson, where hundreds of fans waited in line for hours to get their book signed and take pictures with him. The rapper was greeted with huge applause by the mixed, mostly college crowd and immediately took time out to thank everyone. "It's wonderful to get this type of support for something that's a new adventure for me; it's something that I never thought I'd do ever in my life, but it's a great experience to be able to do it," he said. "I'm glad for you all supporting this book, my music and my career throughout the years."

For fan Marsha Devolt, the book also resonates with older fans and means more than just a life story. "It's about a young, black male with a positive message--he's encouraging so many people," said Devolt.

Common not only showed appreciation to the fans, but also to the city itself. "It's no way that I'd be doing what I was doing if I wasn't from Chicago because it helped shape me and give me a foundation. It's good to be home."

One Day It'll All Make Sense is currently available in bookstores and online.

LaShawn Williams

Feature Tue Sep 20 2011

Landmark Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 50 Years Young

This October, the Seminary Co-op will celebrate its 50th birthday, and within a year it will say goodbye to its cherished home in the basement of the Chicago Theology Seminary -- a winding and seemingly endless labyrinth of books. This is the second of a three-part series on the bookstore; read parts one and three.

Part Two: The Changing Industry

Assistant manager Heather Ahrenholz knows how she would like to bid farewell to the basement the Co-op has called home: a lecture series on the state of the book, and on how the publishing industry has changed over the last half-century.

"Bookselling is changing," knows general manager Jack Cella. "It's not the same as it was 10 years ago - it's not the same as it was two years ago. [The move] will give the Cooperative an occasion to think about what customers will want a bookstore to be next year, [and] 10 years from now - on the assumption that books will survive."

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty

Books Tue Sep 20 2011

Michael Moreci's Short Pulp Fiction

Looking for a literary prelude to Halloween? The author of graphic novel Quarantined delves into the suspenseful and grotesque again with "The Final Shot", a tale of a horror movie director looking to create something better than B-grade cinema.

Rose Lannin

Feature Mon Sep 19 2011

Landmark Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 50 Years Young

This October, the Seminary Co-op will celebrate its 50th birthday, and within a year it will say goodbye to its cherished home in the basement of the Chicago Theology Seminary -- a winding and seemingly endless labyrinth of books. This is the first of a three-part series on the bookstore; read parts two and three, detailing how the publishing industry has changed and the shop's many stories.

Part One: The History

Chicagoans aren't known for mincing words. While many proclaim their city home to the best university in the world, they may not realize that Chicago also lays claim to the world's greatest academic bookstore -- an opinion widely held, even by those who think that title belongs on the east coast.

This October, the Seminary Co-op will celebrate its 50th birthday, and within a year it will say goodbye to its cherished home in the basement of the Chicago Theology Seminary -- a winding, and seemingly endless, labyrinth of books.

No coffee, no knick-knacks, just books.

Continue reading this entry »

Megan E. Doherty

Books Sat Sep 17 2011

Elizabeth Berg and Jacquelyn Mitchard: Truth and "Chick Lit"

On Thursday evening, bibliophiles had an opportunity to attend an informal meet & greet with two authors, both with Chicago roots: Elizabeth Berg (Once Upon a Time, There Was You), now an Oak Park denizen, and Jacquelyn Mitchard (Second Nature, a Love Story), a Chicago-to-Wisconsin transplant, dished with Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor to a room full of women (and perhaps two men, give or take).

The tone of this installment of the Tribune's Author Talks, part of an effort to "extend journalism to a live format," was set from the start. In her introduction, Taylor relayed an anecdote about her husband, who apparently responded to learning who the chosen authors for this particular event were by saying, "why don't you just sit around drinking wine and talking in your pajamas?"

Although she was quick to add her husband's respect for these authors, there's much to be said for the comfort and intimacy (not to mention, honesty) of pjs and a bottle of wine. Throughout the evening, the audience (myself included) was so comfortable that I'm not sure we weren't dressed more informally than we actually were. If the Trib's goal was to hold these events as intimate "salons", where the conversation on stage feels personal, then they succeeded.

Berg and Mitchard began, obligingly, by sharing their "Oprah Stories" - both have had books chosen for the infamous book club, with Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean being the first ever. Mitchard, who got a testy, fourth phone message from Oprah asking her to please have the courtesy to return her call, initially thought the whole thing was a joke.

To justify juxtaposing these two stories together, they obviously need more in common than Lady O - which they most certainly do. Both books explore what happens after tragedy, and how people cope - be it the personal tragedy of a divorce and worrying about your child, or the medical risk of transplant rejection. Both, said Berg, "acknowledge sorrow, but offer comfort."

That gift of comfort, perhaps, has gotten them some stern reviews, most of which focus on writing and themes that are allegedly overly sincere and sentimental. Unsurprisingly, this sort of criticism tends to follow women authors who write about the lives of women. It is a testament to the organizers of this event that they don't succumb to the erroneous conviction that "women's literature" (aka, "chick lit") is thereby relatively uninteresting and unimportant (check out this interview with author Augusten Burroughs, who sees truthfulness and honesty where others see maudlin).

While many writers may be "deeply insecure" about bad reviews, Berg and Mitchard seem to take it in stride. "Good criticism finds places [I've] been dishonest," Mitchard admitted. Operative word being "good" - some detractors may well be railing against anything resembling a happy ending.

"Not every book ends like a Cormac McCarthy book," Mitchard continued, "with a guy eating an egg and thinking about the end of the world."

Maybe McCarthy should write in his pajamas more often.

Megan E. Doherty

Events Sat Sep 17 2011

Chicago Women in Publishing Fall Reception

CWIP will hold its fall kickoff event on Thursday, September 22nd, at the Gleacher Center (450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive), from 6:30pm - 8:30pm.

The keynote speaker will be Jennifer Parello, director of marketing and communication for World Book. Come for her tips for successfully navigating the publishing industry today, and stay for networking and hors d'oeuvres from Wolfgang Puck. Win-win.

You can register here, or call 773-508-0351 (extension 2).

Here's the pricing breakdown:

If you register on or before September 20
• CWIP members: $30; nonmembers: $40

If you register after September 20
• CWIP members: $35; nonmembers: $45

Students with ID
• $30 for registration before September 20;

• $40 after September 20

No refunds - you have been warned.

Megan E. Doherty

Contest Wed Sep 07 2011

Flash Fiction Writing Contest

In honor of the 10th anniversary of One Book, One Chicago, this year's pick has inspired an ironic/awesome little contest.

Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March isn't exactly brief, but what if it were? Try your hand at composing your own "version of the great American Novel", compressed into 750 words or less. Easy!

Oh, and make sure the stories are both set in, and inspired by, the Chi.

From the press release:

"The entries will be judged by Stuart Dybek, an expert in both flash fiction and Chicago, whose collection The Coast of Chicago was the One Book, One Chicago selection in spring 2004. Three finalists will read their work at an event at Stop Smiling, 1371 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Thursday, October 13; and the winner will have their work published in a future issue of the newly revitalized magazine The Chicagoan."

There is no fee to enter, and all submissions must be received by Friday, September 23.

For more information and all contest details (including how to enter), click here.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Tue Aug 30 2011

Holy Revamp! DC Comics' the New 52!

For all you fellow comic book aficionados the DC Universe begins...again. On Wednesday, Aug. 31, the whole line of DC titles will be given a revamp. Throughout the month of September, DC will publish new starts for all its titles beginning with Justice League #1 (written by Geoff Johns and cover art by Jim Lee). The comic book company has made some changes, offering more ethnic diversity and women in their books. But some things remain the same; Bruce Wayne is back as Batman, Clark Kent is still Superman (with a new look to his costume), and there's even an Aquaman book. Go to your local comic shop to check them out all month long.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Thu Aug 25 2011

Anders Nilsen's Big Questions

What began 15 years ago as a single sheet circulated among friends has grown into a collection recently published by Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly. Big Questions, over 600 pages of them, are asked by a group of birds -- pondering the meaning of life and, naturally, tasty things to eat.


Nilsen's own life certainly prompted his own questioning. As he put it to the Reader, "I've lived in four different cities, in eight different houses, and had seven different day jobs. I've been engaged twice, married once, divorced, and weathered a death." If you think the melancholy evoked by the cartoons feels all too real, it probably is.

To catch some of these metaphysical musings, consider attending the book release event, sponsored by Quimby's, on Tuesday, August 30th at Lula Cafe (2537 N. Kedzie, 773-489-9554), starting at 7pm.

Megan E. Doherty

Books Tue Aug 16 2011

Midway Books' Midwestern Focus

Agate Publishing, a local press around since 2003, will be extending its number of imprints from three to four: Midway Books will launch spring 2012, and will focus exclusively on Midwestern books by Midwestern authors, with a special emphasis on Chicago.


Megan E. Doherty

Books Thu Aug 11 2011

Chicago Tribune's Author Talks

This fall, the Trib offers a cracker-jack lineup of intimate conversations with authors. Helmed by Chicago Tribune Literary Editor Elizabeth Taylor, the "salons" allow you to have your burning questions answered by the writers, who will also attend a "meet & mingle" reception where you can continue the dialogue up close and personal.

While the series itself may be relatively new (having only just begun in February), the impetus behind it is not. Taylor explained that the talks are an outgrowth of the success, enthusiasm and joy of the Printer's Row Book Fair and the Tribune's literary awards, and are a way to extend that throughout the year.

Crafting the talks as "intimate salons" is a response to an increasingly electronic culture. "In this electronic age, people are yearning to come together and enjoy this communal aspect of reading." The selection of authors is made with an eye toward achieving a range and balance between fiction and non-fiction and, most importantly, to find "books and authors that we think will resonate with readers."

While you may have missed the talk Monday, August 8, with Sapphire (whose novel Push became the recent film Precious), you can still attend the rest.

The Author Talks series continues on Thursday, Sept. 15 with Elizabeth Berg (of the recent Once Upon a Time, There Was You, and before that Talk Before Sleep) and Jacquelyn Mitchard (of the upcoming Second Nature, A Love Story, and previously The Deep End of the Ocean). This installment of the series takes place at the Tribune Tower (435 N. Michigan) at 6:30pm, and costs $20 -- which includes reception and book signing.

Jackie Mitchard C Virginia Sutherland_01.JPG  Elizabeth Berg_01. credit C Curt Richter.JPG
Left: Jacquelyn Mitchard; photo by Virginia Sutherland. Right: Elizabeth Berg; photo by Curt Richter

The next installment features Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex, The Virgin Suicides) and takes place on Friday, Oct. 21 at the Murphy Auditorium (50 E. Erie Street) at 6:30pm, and costs $30 -- which includes a copy of The Marriage Plot, his much-anticipated follow-up to Middlesex.

The final talk, in co-presentation with the 22nd annual Chicago Humanities Festival, will be with writer and philosopher Umberto Eco (of the infamous Foucault's Pendulum, and the upcoming The Prague Cemetery), who will appear at the Thorne Auditorium of Northwestern University Law School (375 E. Chicago Avenue), on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3pm, and costs $15.

Jeffrey Eugenides_01.JPG  Eco Close-Up_01.JPG
Left: Jeffrey Eugenides; right: Umberto Eco

After all this, if you're still thirsty for more (and who wouldn't be?), stay tuned to see who the Trib will bring for the spring.

Megan E. Doherty

News Mon Aug 01 2011

The New Kids in School

Welcome a couple of Chicago's new literary endeavors...
1) Anobium: As described by Editor-in-Chief Benjamin van Loon, "Anobium is an answer to Reality. It's an experiment." Check out Chicago Publishes interview with van Loon here and then take a look at Anobium for yourself.
2) Grow Books: Started by Alyson Beaton, Grow Books features eco-friendly books for kids. Learn a little about Grow Books from Beaton here and then see what the publisher has to offer!

Emily Wong

Books Sun Jul 24 2011

Annual Used Book Sale @ Women & Children First

Who doesn't like foraging through great books for even greater deals? If you count yourself among those so inclined, stop by Women & Children First next weekend for their annual used book sale. You'll find steals on "fiction, nonfiction, children's books, LGBTQ titles, CDs, DVDs, and collectables" -- all for a good cause. Proceeds from the weekend benefit the bookstore's non-profit arm, the Women's Voices Fund, which supports all the wonderful programming they make free to the public. July 30 - 31st, 10am-7pm.

Megan E. Doherty / Comments (3)

Books Mon Jul 18 2011

Books for Manly Men

pritzker military award.JPGFor some reason book clubs tend to be composed mostly of women, regardless of the month's selection. Why that's the case is something to be pondered, but Booklist's Book Group site offers a resource for picking books that might draw more men to a book group discussion: the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. The award recognizes living authors that have "profoundly enriched the public understanding of American military history." This year's winner is historian Carlo D'Este who will be honored for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. Whether you think books of this nature really will attract more men to your book group or whether you're just looking to be introduced to a new genre of books, the Pritzker Military Library's website offers several years of past winners to peruse. And if you're feeling ambitious, check out the library itself at 104 S. Michigan Ave.

Veronica Bond

Books Wed Jul 13 2011

Rocking and Reading

Pitchfork lists their 60 Favorite Music Books.

Rose Lannin

Profiles Tue Jul 05 2011

Bookstore Profile: Powell's Bookstores, Chicago

Name: Powell's Bookstore
Locations: 2850 N. Lincoln Ave (North)
1501 E. 57th St (Hyde Park)
Founder: Michael Powell
Books: Rare and used/discounted (every genre)
History: Opened in 1970

Powell's Bookstores has two retail locations (as well as a wholesale division that sells university press leftovers to other bookstores) in the Chicago area. Kimberly Sutton, employee at the Hyde Park location, gave some great responses about the inception of Powell's! (Photos are of Powell's North.)

When did Powell's Bookstore open, and how did it start, i.e., what was the motivation/inspiration for its founding?
Powell's was founded in 1970 by Michael Powell, who had been running a student co-op bookstore on the University of Chicago campus. Michael was a grad student really into books--so much that he convinced Saul Bellow, Edward Shils, and Morris Janowitz (among others) to front him the money for a much needed bookstore in Hyde Park. This is slightly unrelated to Powell's, but I love this story so I beg you to indulge me -- the building in Hyde Park (where Powell's still lives) housed a real estate agency until earlier in the year, when it was fire-bombed (!), probably by student radicals (the case is still unsolved), though they were notorious slum lords, and a tenants union had formed against them as well. A few days later someone spray painted, "You don't need a weatherman to know that the fire is blowing in the right direction." Sounds like the perfect spot for a bookstore to me.

We did really well and kept expanding -- we used to share this space with O' Gara & Wilson's (now across the street), bought a warehouse in the mid-70s (it's since moved a few times, now out by Midway), and bought the north store in 1987.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Wong / Comments (1)

Books Fri Jun 10 2011

Q&A with Frances McNamara

Death at Pullman: An Emily Cabot Mystery
Frances McNamara
Allium, 2011

Death at Pullman is the third book in Frances McNamara's Emily Cabot series. Cabot, a heroine/detective in 1890s Chicago, finds herself in the center of the Chicago Pullman strike of 1894 when she goes to the Pullman factory town to run a relief center and ends up involved in the murder investigation of a striker. Based on the real Pullman conflict that took place nationwide, McNamara's novel weaves together fact and fiction to create a murder mystery that places the reader right in the midst of this important part of Chicago history.

GB: So, which came first - discovering the history of the Pullman strike or your idea for the fictional events/characters?

FM: The characters in Death at Pullman are a part of the series about a young woman who comes to Chicago to do graduate work in sociology at the University of Chicago and meets a police detective who mentors her. So the characters were there, and the stories are set against the backdrop of big things in Chicago. The first book has the Columbian Exposition, the second has Hull House and the smallpox epidemic of winter 1893. When I realized the Pullman strike was during the summer of 1894, and that Hull House helped with a relief station [in the second installment, Emily Cabot finds work at Hull House], it seemed the place for Emily to go.

How long do you spend researching a historical topic before you begin writing? And you may have to not only research the specific topic but also the era - in this case, the 1890s. It sounds like such a daunting task...

I work at the University of Chicago Library. Since the university was begun in the 1890s, and much of the architecture and institutional atmosphere I encounter every day are based on the plans and philosophies of the early members of the university, it's easy to be drawn in. For the Pullman story, I began researching by reading newspapers of the time on microfilm at the Chicago Public Library. Later, I was able to take advantage of subscriptions to digitized versions of the newspapers that we have at the university library. This is fiction. The research involved does not match up with the type of research a real historian does, but the combination of the continued existence of the physical places, memoirs, and newspapers of the time -- as well as access to all the resources of a great research library -- make it not such a daunting task. I have toured Pullman and gotten much useful information from the folks down there also.

Obviously, the language and the dialog were more formal during this time. Do you find it difficult to write this way? To "keep in character," so to speak?

It's a balancing act. If you use our common phrases and styles of speech, it really does not fit the time. On the other hand, if you really wrote in the style of that time it would be turgid. I think it is important to realize that some ways of thinking, impacted by psychology and technology, just would not be within the realm of thought for people at that time, so you shouldn't make them think, talk, and act that way. On the other hand, for the characters to be sympathetic and be considered people we can identify with, they can't be too strange in how they think and act. So I hope I have managed to balance that. The language is meant to give you the flavor of how people would think and act at that time. Just like the buildings and clothing would be different, so would the speech.

You grew up in Boston - and as the daughter of a police commissioner! I can only imagine that must have been exciting at times. What drew you to writing about Chicago history, rather than Boston history?

Living in Chicago drew me to writing about it. Note that my character comes from Boston. When you live somewhere you take it for granted. When you move somewhere new you learn about it. There are lots of things about Chicago that are like Boston, but it is a great city with its own character. I could definitely write about Boston, but living in Chicago and visiting places like Hull House and Pullman -- not to mention working on the campus of the University of Chicago -- makes you wonder what would it be like to live here at the time of the people who left such a mark on the city. That's a good start for a story.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Wong

Events Thu Jun 02 2011

Beyond Printers Row

The Reader rounds up some of the slightly less well-known summer book fairs.

Rose Lannin

Books Wed May 25 2011

A F**ing Epic Book Cover

Paul Hornschemeier, author of Book Club's summer reading selection, also drew the cover for Dan Sinker's soon to be released The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

Continue reading this entry »

Rose Lannin

Books Tue May 17 2011

Fresh Horror from DoubleFeature

Four Star Studios' newest digital comic, Horror Double Feature #1, is out with two stories that dabble in the dark and strange: "Monsterology" (B. Clay Moore & Ryan Browne) explores a black ops-scientist research team's investigations into creatures unknown, while "Kid Cthulhu" by Sean Dove is a tale of mystery and the student trying to get to the bottom of it with persistence, mystical tomes, and his unique ability to call the Elder Gods. Buy it for your iPad (or as a PDF) here.

Rose Lannin

Books Tue Apr 26 2011

More From the Goon Squad

Fresh off the heels of Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer win, A Visit From the Goon Squad continues to make its presence in the news. First, the New York Times reports that HBO is optioning a TV series based on the novel. After you read that, head on over to Salon where you can watch the author discuss her work with critic Laura Miller. For a little bit more news, and frankly the most interesting, The Millions looks into the kerfluffle Egan caused when she implied that the chicklit genre is "derivative, banal stuff" in the Wall Street Journal. Millions author Deena Drewis does a great job of examining both why the statement hits such a nerve and why the outcry against it does more to work against feminism in publishing than the fact that a female author criticized other female authors in the first place. Whether you're interested in Egan's work or not, Drewis's article is very much worth reading.

Veronica Bond

Books Mon Apr 25 2011

POCKET GUIDE TO HELL Haymarket Reenactment Afterparty @ Haymarket Brewery

On April 30th (this Saturday), AREA Chicago celebrates the release of Haymarket 1886:2011, a special publication detailing the bombing at Haymarket Square as its 125th anniversary approaches. The labor rally gone violent is deeply controversial, and its causes and effects resonate to this day. Copies of the booklet will be available for $5.

Haymarket Brewery is located at 737 W. Randolph (corner of Halsted
& Randolph). The party starts at 4pm.

Rose Lannin

Books Mon Apr 18 2011

Comic Combo #2

Originally written and drawn as part of 24 Hour Comics Day, local illustrator Sean Dove's Fried Rice is a young boy's dreamy (literally? you're not quite sure) odyssey into a land that mixes the strange (a creature that looks like a cross between a bunny and pear) and familiar (sandwiches) in equal measure. With touches of Where the Wild Things Are and Little Nemo in Slumberland, and hints of Alfred E. Neumann, it's a fun, imaginative ride, all in a .99 PDF.

Rose Lannin

Books Thu Apr 14 2011

Wilfred Santiago @ Comix Revolution

An American art form for an American legend: tomorrow Saturday April 16, cartoonist Wilfred Santiago presents 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, a graphic novel of the baseball icon and his culture, passion, and the city that shaped him. There will be a Q&A session led by Bill Savage, senior lecturer in Northwestern University's Department of English, then a signing.

2pm at Comix Revolution, 606 Davis St., Evanston. Contact Jim Mortensen at 847-866-8659 or comixrev[at] for more details.

Rose Lannin / Comments (1)

Books Thu Apr 14 2011

Wizard of Oz: Book or Movie? Discuss

wizard of oz.jpgIn 2008 the Book Club read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a book which some of us (me) were only familiar with owing to its movie fame. We read the book because Baum spent a good amount of time in Chicago and the story was inspiried by the World's Fair. The Bonner Springs City Library in Kansas, however, read the book for another location-related reason. They also watched the movie and discussed the differences, merits, and failures of both. Booklist's Book Group Buzz offers some of their thoughts.

Veronica Bond

Books Tue Apr 12 2011

Bicycle Monthlies

Derailleur is the unofficial publication of Chicago Critical Mass. Check out the latest issue here, or the December 2010 edition (a super cute and fun calendar).

Rose Lannin

Books Wed Apr 06 2011

New Daniel Kraus Available

Local young adult author Daniel Kraus recently saw his latest book, Rotters, go into publication. The book takes on the macabre act of grave robbing in a story about a teenage Chicago high school studen whose mother dies in an accident and is sent to live with his strange father in rural Iowa. Watch the trailer below, read some sample chapers on Kraus's website, then pick up your own copy at an independent bookstore near you.

Veronica Bond

Books Fri Apr 01 2011

Margot Harrington Authors, Creates The Things We Make

Margot Harrington of Pitch Design Union made a book in every sense of the word:composed of found paper, it is "essentially one giant collage cover-to-cover with small random bits of ephemera and ethos tucked among empty pages", with her writings threaded throughout. Find out how she did it and see pictures of the hand-bound, screen-printed published work.

Rose Lannin

Books Thu Mar 24 2011

Guillen on Gatsby

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (aka Jasbir Singh) reviews the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, The Great Gatsby.

What book should Ozzie review next? Let the producers know in the comments.

Rose Lannin

Books Tue Mar 22 2011

Hemingway Gets Wright Treatment

paris wife.jpgRecent years saw two books--The Women, by TC Boyle, and Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan--focus on the women in Frank Lloyd Wright's life. Now the former Mrs. Hemingway is getting her say in fictional form. In The Paris Wife, Paula McLain crafts the story of Hadley Richardson's marriage to Ernest Hemingway and tells it from Hadley's point of view. Jacket Copy reports on the book and the New York Times offers their review, calling McLain's Hadley a "Mrs. Gatsby...hardly more than a stereotype."

Veronica Bond

Books Tue Mar 22 2011

Murder and Intrigue at the Southport Stop

Best-selling author Michael Harvey's The Third Rail, a novel of suspense, national intrigue, and a serial sniper set in Chicago, comes out in paperback today.

Rose Lannin

Events Tue Mar 15 2011

Iowa City Writers @ Myopic Books

On Sunday, March 27th, the Wicker Park institution hosts Erika Jo Brown (founder of the Chinatown reading series Floetry at 169, author of the chapbook, What a Lark!), Matthew Klane (editor and co-founder of Flim Forum Press), BJ Love (Michigander, the upcoming We are Two Bastards), and Adam Roberts (author of the chapbook Poem in Four Parts). All connected to University of Iowa by being prospective MFAs, post-graduate fellows, and more, they come to 1564 N. Milwaukee Ave at 7pm. Free!

Rose Lannin

Books Tue Mar 08 2011

Atlantic City Alice?

Local author Phil Edwards (Murder In Sarasota (A Jake Russo Mystery), Dumbemployed: Hilariously Dumb and Sad But True Stories about Jobs Like Yours) has created Snooki in Wonderland, which is about what it sounds like: an e-book mash-up between the Jersey Store star and Lewis Carroll's classic. Yup.

Rose Lannin

Books Mon Feb 28 2011

Bookstore Profile: Shake Rattle & Read Book Box

Name: Shake Rattle & Read
Location: 4812 N. Broadway Ave
Books: Books and records (every genre). Vintage Pop Culture magazines. I carry new vinyl LP releases by Chicago labels Bloodshot Records and Numero Group.
New/Used: Both
Website: and
History: Became Shake Rattle & Read in 1986

How did Shake, Rattle & Read come into being? Going along with that, how did it become a part of the Uptown neighborhood?

The shop was established in 1966. My sister Gail and her husband James lived on Dover St. and Sunnyside Ave a few blocks away. The store was named Book Box. We still keep that name in our title.

In 1971 I moved here and got an apartment at Beacon St. and Leland Ave. I sold records for a living, working at various record stores. In 1986 my sister wanted to retire from Chicago, and sold the store to me. 2011 is the start of my 25th year and the 45th anniversary of the shop. We have always been in the same location.

Shake Rattle & Read
Photo by anthonylibrarian

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Books Fri Feb 25 2011

Drawing It Out

From Italy to the South Side to Columbia, Ivan Brunetti's journey has been nothing if not filled with comics, drawing, and design. Responsible for two Anthologies of Graphic Fiction, he's back with Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, a book dedicated to parsing out the art of comics into interesting, manageable, appealing and funny pieces. Take a look at what it's all about here, and have Ivan guide you through making of a single-page cartoon.

Rose Lannin

Books Fri Feb 18 2011

Adventures on Two Wheels

Greg Borzo, author of The Chicago "L" and co-author of The Windies' City--Chicago's Historical Hidden Treasures, turns his attention to exploring the city by bicycle in Where to Bike Chicago. Chicago is the first U.S. entry in the Where to Bike series.

Rose Lannin

Books Wed Feb 16 2011

Children's Stories, Grim and Gory

Bosnian-born Chicago printmaker Sanya Glisic takes ink, paper, and her unique and detailed illustrations to 19th-century German psychiatrist's Heinrich Hoffmann's odd, occasionally whimsical, at times gruesome tales of morality. Her drawn, handmade take on Der Struwwelpeter is currently available in a limited print run from Spudnik Press.

Rose Lannin

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