Anthology Review: “Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” edited by Ronald Riekki

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One of summer’s delights is to leave here and travel there. The thirty-six authors whose poems and stories are collected in “Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” fully dwell in the very diverse personal, natural and cultural landscapes of the Upper Peninsula, and they will guide you through this undiscovered country.

If your idea of the Upper Peninsula is a cabin in the woods, you will certainly find lakes and streams and trees in Ronald Riekki’s anthology, but be prepared to visit cow barns and technical colleges, cozy trailers and stripped living rooms, barrooms and gas stations. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry Review: “Made in Detroit” By Marge Piercy

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In the opening poem of her collection of the same name, “Made in Detroit,” Marge Piercy describes the influence the city had on her as a child: “I was formed by beating like a black/ smith’s sword, and my edge is still/ sharp enough to cut both you and me.”

Detroit is a place Piercy escaped from and, in this collection, mournfully looks back on. “Oh my city of origin, city who taught/ me about class and class warfare.” Even “The scent of apple cake,” a poem about her mother’s baking, is soaked in bitterness: “In the oven she made sweetness/ where otherwise there was none.”

While Piercy’s childhood in Detroit grounds this collection it only represents about one sixth of the content, and the spectrum of topics covered is vast. Piercy reflects on her life in Cape Cod, her marriage, the dying of friends, growing older, politics, feminism and her Jewish heritage. Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Being in Conversation About Art: The Eleventh Annual Printers Ball

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Printers Ball 1

Photo: Cynthia Post

This Saturday, June 27, the Spudnik Press Cooperative will host the eleventh annual Printers Ball. In a conversation held via email, Angee Lennard, the founder and director of the Spudnik Press Cooperative, explained that this year’s festival will be unlike the ones that preceded it in two distinct ways: “First, this Printers Ball will be more hands-on and tactile than ever.” As Lennard notes, one such example of this is evident in the number of workshops that the Spudnik Press Printshop will run, allowing this year’s attendees multiple opportunities to create their own prints. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Two” by Melissa Ann Pinney

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“Two” is a compelling book of photographs by Evanston photographer Melissa Ann Pinney. Edited and introduced by Ann Patchett, interspersed throughout are ten essays on the theme of twoness written by some of our best contemporary writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Edwidge Danticat and Richard Russo. Read the rest of this entry »

Memory and Guilt: Ryan Spooner Talks About his Essay Collection “Regret”

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By Toni NealieRyan Spooner

A young man argues about how to make a martini. It’s a performance, both in the bar and on the page. The man’s friend says, “Look at yourself. Look at how you’re acting.” So the writer does, commenting: “Young people have a flair for, a tendency toward the tumultuous.” In “Regret,” his first prose collection, Ryan Spooner examines ideas about selfhood, social class and masculinity, the male gaze and the tumult of becoming adult. Read the rest of this entry »

Still Bullish: Bill Hillmann Chronicles His Goring and other Glories in “Mozos”

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Mozos+CoverBy Brendan Buck

When during the summer of 2014 Bill Hillmann made the news for getting gored by a bull, I was shocked but not surprised. When I heard him read publicly months before, my former Columbia College classmate had told a harrowing tale of a pileup he had witnessed during his 2013 trip to Pamplona. Despite the terrible scene described to us that evening, one where he had to drag a body out of the tunnel leading into the arena, Bill said he planned to return and run with the bulls. Later I’d learn Hillmann wasn’t surprised by his goring either. As he writes in his new book “Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain,” his first thought after the horror of it was “Accept it. You knew this day would come.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Review: “Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World”

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Flash Fiction International pbk mech.inddRECOMMENDED

Some anthologies are guaranteed to be piles of good literature. Edited by a trio that includes James Thomas and Robert Shapard, editors of the influential “Sudden Fiction” anthologies, “Flash Fiction International” is such an unlikely disappointment. Given their history with flash, it is unsurprising that the stories are excellent.

The duds are few, while the strong ones stab unexpectedly, sometimes literally, like Edgar Omar Aviles’ “Love” in which a mother suddenly stabs her daughter to save her from a life of poverty. Read the rest of this entry »

No Longer Waiting for the Bombs: Rebecca Makkai Discusses her New Book of Short Stories, “Music for Wartime”

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Makkai - white shirt

Rebecca Makkai / Photo: Ryan Fowler

By Kim Steele

In the final story of Rebecca Makkai’s collection “Music for Wartime,” “The Museum of the Dearly Departed,” a young graduate student inherits his grandparents’ apartment when a gas leak kills them along with nearly all of their neighbors. The student busies himself by creating a replica of the building complete with artifacts from the homes of each of the deceased. The art piece works well as a symbol for this book. It is as though each story in this collection exists in one house. They share similar themes and Makkai’s uniquely intelligent and affecting voice. And yet each story—like each replicated apartment—also manages to be full of its own distinguishing details. Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50 2015: Who Really Books in Chicago

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If there’s one thing that was made abundantly clear in polling the literati for this year’s Lit 50 list, it’s that the Chicago literary scene is an incredibly supportive one. It’s no Utopia, of course. We’re certain it has its jerks. But it was overwhelming to receive such an outpour of appreciation for countless behind-the-scenes folks who make the lit scene in this town such an exceedingly vibrant one. This year’s list includes indie-bookstore owners, booksellers, publishers, editors, chairs and directors of creative writing programs, literacy advocates, library leaders, execs at major literary foundations, organizers of festivals, conferences, live lit productions and salons. All of the individuals on this list contribute significantly—whether they help to get books in readers’ hands, excite the next generation in literary arts, afford writers opportunities to publish, provide storytellers a stage to share their tales, or create environments where writers can make the right connections or just talk shop. We raise a glass to all on the list, but also to those innumerable individuals who likewise help it all go ‘round. (Amy Danzer)

Lit 50 was written by Liz Baudler, Heidi Bloom, Brendan Buck, Amy Danzer, Amy Friedman, Brian Hieggelke, Jarret Neal, Toni Nealie, Robert Rodi, Bill Savage, Kim Steele, Danielle Susi, Mahjabeen Syed and John Wilmes.

Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Women and Children First Read the rest of this entry »

Literati of the Moment: Sarah Hollenbeck and Lynn Mooney, New Owners of Women & Children First

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Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By Amy Danzer

Sarah Hollenbeck and Lynn Mooney hit the road running almost immediately after they stepped into the roles of co-owners of Women & Children First. Since they signed the papers in August of 2014, they have remodeled the Chicago institution (just enough), stocked the shelves with stellar books, and stacked the calendar with countless literary events. There’s no question these two—with their combined experience and brimming passion for literature—will further the legacy of W&CF in promising ways that will please and inspire readers, authors and the literary community of Chicago, if not at large.

What’s the elevator speech of how you two came to know each other and co-own Women & Children First?
Almost immediately after Sarah was hired at Women & Children First, the co-founders Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon announced their plans to retire and sell the store. As the months passed and the prospective buyers began inquiring, there was a general uneasiness among staff about what would happen to the store and to our jobs. All of us wanted to make sure that the new owners not only knew books, but were committed to the feminist mission of the store. Sarah, who had worked in bookstores part-time most of her adult life and loved it, approached Lynn, the store’s manager, and together they pooled their resources and applied to own the store. Read the rest of this entry »