Fiction Review: “Home by Nightfall: A Charles Lenox Mystery” by Charles Finch

Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Fiction, Mystery No Comments »

Home by NightfallAuthor Charles Finch’s latest mystery, “Home by Nightfall,” features Finch’s British, upper-class detective Charles Lenox pursuing clues to two crimes, one in London and one in the country town of Markethouse where he and his brother, Sir Edmund Lenox, grew up.

The first puzzle is where did a brilliant German pianist named Muller disappear to after a concert he gave? He seems to have vanished into thin air, since no one saw him leave the concert hall, and there have been no sightings of him in London. In addition to this disappearance, a countryside mystery forms in the town of Markethouse when minor transgressions like small thefts and the inexplicable drawing of a young girl on a newcomer’s steps culminate in a knife attack on Markethouse’s mayor. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Diane von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped” by Gioia Diliberto

Biography, Book Reviews, Chicago Authors No Comments »

dvfA Diane von Furstenberg dress is a great equalizer. I held an informal poll on Facebook and discovered that friends of different shapes, sizes, coloring, lifestyle, location and wealth all had DVF dresses in common. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the garment’s popularity, because last year the company had sales of an estimated $500 million. During the early seventies, the wrap was selling at a rate of 25,000 per week, before ubiquity killed it in 1977.

In “Diane von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped,” Chicago-based journalist Gioia Diliberto digs into the rise, fall, rise, fall and rise of both the woman and the brand.

Thoroughly researched, it is a juicy biography of a fashion icon. Diane, the daughter of a concentration camp survivor, became a princess and blazed her way into America. She aimed to create body-conscious clothes that were easy to wear and affordable. When heavily pregnant, Diane made the rounds of New York retailers with her samples in a suitcase. Some executives refused to meet her then, but by the mid-1970s the wrap dress was everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Review: “The Good Neighbor” by Amy Sue Nathan

Chicago Authors, Fiction No Comments »

the good neighbor“The Good Neighbor,” the second book by “The Glass Wives” author Amy Sue Nathan, is largely about a lie and its repercussions. Recently divorced high-school counselor and single mother Izzy Lane one day invents a fake boyfriend named “Mac” to write about on her blog and save face in front of her ex-husband. Her best friend Jade, who owns a small but growing blogging platform, decides to pick up Izzy’s blog so she can tell steamy stories about her new, supposedly successful relationship and give dating advice to singles over forty. Izzy’s lies continue to snowball, and the only people who know the truth are her gay brother Ethan and her elderly neighbor Mrs. Feldman, both of whom demand she come clean. Izzy proceeds to drag her feet. Read the rest of this entry »

From the Other Side of the Glass: An Interview with “The Voiceover Artist” Author Dave Reidy

Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers 1 Comment »

David Reidy/Photo: Michael Courier

By Zhanna Slor

I’ve never thought much about voiceover. Then, a few months ago, I saw Lake Bell’s movie “In a World,” and was quite impressed with it. And even more recently, I happened upon Dave Reidy’s forthcoming novel, “The Voiceover Artist,” a story about a boy with a stutter who dreams about doing voiceover work for commercials. Suddenly I found myself quite drawn into this uncommon world, and wondering about what attracts a person to voiceover narration. So I asked Dave Reidy about it. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Beat: Renée Rosen Crafts a 1950s Chicago Journalism Tale with “White Collar Girl”

Chicago Authors, Fiction No Comments »
Renee Rosen, author, Dollface

Renee Rosen/Photo: Charles Osgood

By Liz Baudler

Renée Rosen made a national name for herself by spinning tales of Chicago, from gangsters to the Gilded Age. Her latest book, “White Collar Girl,” finds Tribune reporter Jordan Walsh in a 1950s newsroom, railing against her “sob sister” billing and making a bid to become an ace female investigative reporter. Rosen spoke with Newcity about what she learned while writing “White Collar Girl,” and why she’ll always write about Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Review: “See You in the Morning” by Mairead Case

Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers, Debut Novel or Collection 1 Comment »

see you in the morningRECOMMENDED

Mairead Case’s debut novel, “See You in the Morning” is a moving and tenderhearted portrait of a teenager in the summer before her senior year of high school. The girl is acutely aware that this summer will mark the end to the way things have been: “This summer is the last one nobody really cares about. I keep wishing I could hold it, hold on to not having to make anything up so people will like me, hire me, kiss me, or whatever.” But of course the summer rushes on and she, along with her two friends, John and Rosie, find themselves growing in different ways.

The narrator spends her days working at the local big box bookstore, going to punk shows with her friends, hanging out with her eccentric neighbor Mr. Green, and attending church with her mother. She also spends much of her time ruminating on her feelings for her friend John, believing she may be in love with him. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry Reviews: “Hazel and the Mirror” and “The Endless Unbegun” by Rachel Jamison Webster

Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Poetry No Comments »

hazel & the mirrorRECOMMENDED

Tenderness and pain echo through generations of women in Rachel Jamison Webster’s haunting new chapbook “Hazel and the Mirror.” Each character struggles with leaving some facet of her life, whether the womb, her marriage, or her native land. As time shifts and voices intertwine, we confront troubling questions inimical to the human psyche: How does abandonment shift what is possible in our lives? Is trauma inherited? And what is released or contained in the undoing of a person?

Throughout “Hazel,” trauma reflects and projects through the mirror of time and history, revealing the void intrinsic to uninhabited lives. The struggle in motherhood to retain or to discover an identity separate and apart from a needy child casts a long shadow. Competing identities both repel and attract, as “the punishment of silence, the pummel of distance” obscure and injure the ties that bind. Read the rest of this entry »

The Black Gay Male Body Politic: Jarrett Neal Explores Meaning in the New Millennium

Chicago Authors, Essays No Comments »
Jarrett Neal Head Shot

Jarrett Neal/Photo: Gerald Butters

By J-L Deher-Lesaint

“What Color Is Your Hoodie? Essays on Black Gay Identity” is Newcity contributor Jarrett Neal’s first book: a collection of personal essays that examine what space the black gay male body occupies in hip-hop culture, sports, mainstream cinema, pornography and, most importantly, everyday life.

How did the book begin, and how long did it take to complete it?
In 2011, I decided to take a break from writing fiction and poetry and give essays a try. When I was a student in the creative writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I never took classes in nonfiction and initially felt I didn’t have the reportorial voice I thought essays needed to have. But I had so many feelings I needed to express that I took to essay writing with ease.

For years, I had been holding in a lot of mixed feelings about both the black community and the gay community. I needed some sort of catharsis. “What Color Is Your Hoodie?” is the culmination of it. I began the collection in late 2011, but the collection really began to gather momentum and take shape when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I completed the manuscript in early 2014, and spent the better part of that year querying agents and publishers. I’m happy it found a home at Chelsea Station Editions, an LGBT press. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Behind the Smile: A Story of Carol Moseley Braun’s Historic Senate Campaign” by Jeannie Morris

Biography, Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers, Nonfiction No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDbehind the smile

“The year of the woman,” 1992, was a time of idealism and anger brought to the fore after the 1991 Senate confirmation of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. A Judiciary Committee of white men concluded that Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Thomas were insignificant. Illinois democrats and progressive women were infuriated that Democratic Senator Alan J. Dixon had voted for Thomas’ confirmation. Carol Moseley Braun decided to challenge Dixon, and the account of her 1992 campaign as described by Jeannie Morris in “Behind the Smile” is riveting.

University of Chicago Law graduate, Cook County Recorder of Deeds at the time of her campaign, divorced, a single mother and a feminist fighting to be taken seriously in a man’s world, Braun represented the challenges women of all backgrounds face. EMILY’S List provided her with the first significant campaign donation. A good beginning, except that menacing clouds were forming in the shape of Braun’s campaign manager and eventual boyfriend, Kgosie Matthews. While controversies arose during Braun’s campaign, allegations of sexual harassment against Matthews sent to Braun in an anonymous letter could have ruined her; sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas had brought Braun into the limelight to begin with. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964” by Zachary Leader

Chicago Authors, Nonfiction No Comments »

saul bellowRECOMMENDED

When Greg Bellow’s memoir about his father, Saul, came out in 2013, the Independent headlined its review, “Great author, terrible father.” Between the younger Bellow’s book and the three other biographies, to say nothing of the fact that Bellow’s own fiction was thinly veiled autobiography, what does Zachary Leader’s two-volume “The Life of Saul Bellow” bring to the already-crowded field of Bellow studies?

For people like me, who have to confess they’ve never read much Bellow, there’s the cynical temptation to say that with Leader’s work we don’t need to. Certainly most of the plot points from Dangling Man, The Adventures of Augie March, and Herzog can be found in the first volume: “To Fame and Fortune: 1915-1964.” We see Bellow’s parents’ childhoods in Russia; their immigration to Montreal, where Bellow was born; the family’s move to Chicago; and Bellow’s rise to fame, ending in his arrival “at the pinnacle of American letters,” as Leader writes. Marriages one and two are covered in detail, and his relationship with his third wife, Susan, begins in the last chapter, by the end of which things have not yet gone south. We see the womanizing egomaniac as well as the brilliant writer. Read the rest of this entry »