Fiction Review: “Almost Crimson” by Dasha Kelly

Chicago Authors No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDalmost crimson

“Almost Crimson,” the newest novel by Def Poetry Jam alum Dasha Kelly, traces the life of Ce-Ce, short for Crimson Celeste, a bright and capable black woman born to an out-of-frame father and a mother with crippling depression so severe that Ce-Ce assumes the role of adult as early as age five. Ce-Ce’s childhood is the sort where she has to dodge the questions of prying social workers and manage the bills her mother neglects. Read the rest of this entry »

Asking No One’s Permission: Jessica Hopper Discusses Her New Collection of Essays on Rock and Radical Feminism

Chicago Authors, Essays No Comments »
JESSICA HOPPER_2_photo by david sampson

Jessica Hopper / Photo: David Sampson

By Liz Baudler

Jessica Hopper’s byline connotes two things: vivid, confrontational description, and criticism with an unabashedly feminist and social conscience. “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” raucously celebrates Hopper’s multidecade career, blaring its politics with the seminal piece “Emo: Where The Girls Aren’t” and veering through rap and rock and girls and boys with joyful and incisive abandon. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking at Longing: Chicago Poet Sandra Marchetti Debuts with “Confluence”

Chicago Authors, Poetry No Comments »
S. Marchetti

Sandra Marchetti/Photo: Scott Semple

Sandra Marchetti’s debut collection of poems, “Confluence,” is an intimate and carefully wrought look at longing and the relationship between person and place. In the opening poem, “Never-Ending Birds,” Marchetti establishes some of the themes that will reoccur throughout her collection. In this poem the divide between the narrator and the birds she observes is blurred: “I plume to watch, freshed in the ground;/ they ring the trees as their own/ sweet planets” and “… The swallows so close, beat; I let them scrim/my stance, twist neatly solar./ I swallow, lift my chest where the freckles/ crack, where wet wings gleam.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science” by Alice Dreger

Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Nonfiction No Comments »

galileo coverRECOMMENDED

“Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science” is a strange mix of disheartening, enraging and uplifting. It’s the subject matter—scientific controversy—not Northwestern professor and medical historian Alice Dreger’s writing style, which reads like a good lecture.

For readers who want science to arbitrate fairly where humans fall short, it’s enlightening yet perhaps not shocking to see that a fucked-up moral algorithm of politically correct narrative and personal grudges can dictate inquiry into medical procedure.

Dreger deftly balances human stories with anecdotes of actual scientific harm being perpetrated by activists and journalists silencing those with less-than-ideal but scientifically sound theses. She beats a roughly chronological path, starting with her involvement in the intersex movement, then detouring into elaborate research projects in which she defends sexologist J. Michael Bailey and Napoleon Chagnon, and concludes with a relatively unstudied medical treatment prescribed to pregnant mothers. Read the rest of this entry »

Big-Hearted and Bawdy: Tony Fitzpatrick’s “Dime Stories” Speaks Truth to Power

Anthologies, Art Books, Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Essays No Comments »
TONY FITZPATRICK

Tony Fitzpatrick/Photo: Paul Elledge

By Amy Friedman

“Whatever you do in this life, make sure you’re the only one who can do it,” Tony Fitzpatrick’s father advised him in the third grade, and hell if he didn’t listen. Artist, author and actor are but a few of his titles, and there’s no doubt that no one can do what Tony does.

“Dime Stories,” the soon-to-be-released foul-mouthed, straight-talk collection of Fitzpatrick’s Newcity columns speaks truth to power, and we’d be wise to heed its warnings and take its advice. Fitzpatrick rails against waste, criticizes the sellout of our political institutions to big money, laments the proliferation of mass shootings and parses various other elements that lead to injustice. These essays examine with sharp focus and acerbic wit our true nature and that of our changing city, rife with new dangers and old problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Two” by Melissa Ann Pinney

Chicago Authors, Essays, Photographs No Comments »

two

RECOMMENDED

“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”

Chicago Authors, Essays No Comments »

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”

Chicago Authors, Memoir No Comments »

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 »

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

Chicago Authors, Story Collections No Comments »
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 »

What We Talk About When We Talk About The Humanities: Twenty-Four Hours of George Saunders

Chicago Authors, Lit Events No Comments »
George Saunders - photo credit Chloe Aftel

George Saunders/Photo: Chloe Aftel

DePaul University is hosting a twenty-four-hour marathon reading of every book George Saunders has published to precede his lecture titled, “Why the Humanities? Why Art?”

The event, organized by H. Peter Steeves, a professor of Philosophy and Director of the Humanities Center at DePaul, was inspired by the groups that read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” out loud on Bloomsday. As Steeves explains, “Speaking words aloud has something approaching a kind of magic to it, almost like an act of conjuring. We’re all hearing it together, experiencing it together, entering into the same narrative space together, with the same world appearing there for all of us. What better way to celebrate George and remind ourselves of the power of art than to create such a community for a full day?” Read the rest of this entry »