John McNally’s often sad, often very, very funny new collection of short stories, “Ghosts of Chicago,” employs real-life phantoms that haunt our city’s streets, men and women whose lives had such profound impact on Chicago’s identity none of them were gonna let something as insignificant as death stand in their way. John Belushi. Walter Payton. Old Man Daley. Algren. Institutions, public figures that perpetually remain on the tips of tongues whenever our fair metropolis is discussed. McNally writes fiction—in one short the late Gene Siskel comes to blows, albeit humorous, with partner-in-crime Roger Ebert in a movie theater—and dots the book with stories of everyday souls as well, which in an offhand way demonstrates the power of celebrity, and in other, the strength and dignity of the working stiff. As he did with “The Book of Ralph,” McNally finds a suitable balance between the treacherous reality and the charmingly absurd and, perhaps above all else, shows us just how much he’s enamored with this damn town. (Tom Lynch)
John McNally reads from “Ghosts of Chicago” October 16 at Book Cellar, 4736-38 North Lincoln, (773)293-2665, at 7pm. Free.