Finding Space: An Interview with Ben Tanzer

Author Profiles, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers 1 Comment »

1901386_687975724588122_1540003181_n-1By Liz Baudler

“As far as I know, the only people who have read the book are three women, all twenty-five and under, and two of you said, ‘I have no interest in having kids, but I liked the book,’” said Ben Tanzer. The Chicago author, publisher and podcaster was referring to his new essay collection “Lost In Space,” adventures in fathering his two sons, Myles and Noah. “Lost In Space” drips with pop-culture riffs and love letters to Chicago; it’s a book non-parents can wholeheartedly enjoy and actual parents can appreciate. Ben Tanzer and I chatted over Cuban coffees and Latin music about the hard jobs of writing and parenting.

Whenever I’ve heard you read, you’ve focused on relationships.
I am very into relationships. Sometimes it’s conscious, sometimes less so, but I’ve always been drawn to how people connect and how things get disrupted. In our lives, the most confusion’s around relationships, so how do we communicate, what’s real? How we can say things to people that we know are a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »

Diary Duel: Malcolm X Interests Sue on Publishing’s Eve

Chicago Publishers, News Etc. No Comments »

Diary of Malcolm X coverBy Jeff Gilliland
Another wrinkle has emerged in the twisted tale of “The Diary of Malcolm X.” Shortly after our November 14 cover article—“Necessary Means: ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’ and the Fight for an American Legacy”—went to print, attorneys for some of Malcolm’s heirs brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against the book’s publisher, Third World Press. Filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, the complaint accuses Chicago-based Third World Press of entering into an unlawful agreement with the editors of the “Diary,” and repeatedly ignoring requests to cease from publishing the text. On November 8, presiding judge Laura Taylor Swain issued a temporary restraining order on the release of the “Diary,” which has been extended until preliminary arguments can be heard in January, 2014. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is X Legacy, LLC, a legal entity created by five of the six Shabazz sisters in 2011 “to protect, consolidate, and enhance the value of the assets and properties relating to the beneficiaries of…Malcolm X.” According to the text of the suit, the sisters formed the limited liability corporation to prevent any member of Malcolm’s family from unilaterally licensing or exploiting his assets without permission from the rest of the heirs. When third sister Ilyasah Al-Shabazz entered into a publishing contract with Third World Press, the suit alleges, she did so without X Legacy’s consent and without “any ownership rights or authority…to copy, publish, or disseminate the Diaries.” Read the rest of this entry »

Shouldering the Burden: “How Long Will I Cry?” Gives Voice to Youth Violence

Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers, Nonfiction, Urban Studies No Comments »

By Naomi Huffman howlong

Standing out among the buzz of new fall books and emerging authors in this city is one very significant project: “How Long Will I Cry?” an anthology of oral stories of youth violence. The book is the fruition of two years of interviews collected from the streets of this city, which were then transcribed and edited into concise narratives by creative-writing students at DePaul University. These narratives were initially adapted into a play of the same name, which debuted at Steppenwolf earlier this year and toured through South Side and West Side libraries. The project also inspired DePaul University’s new venture: Big Shoulders Books, a publishing house that seeks to emphasize the real worth of story-telling, and will offer one book a year that engages Chicago communities.

“How Long Will I Cry?” features the subjects one might expect to find in a book of this topic: runaway teen mothers, high-school dropouts, teenagers with rap sheets, people on parole, people on welfare, people on drugs. But because the stories are theirs, in their own words, there is no mistaking these people for some monolith of poverty, illiteracy, and violence. Instead, they’re wholly individualized, celebrated, mourned.

I recently spoke with Miles Harvey, a creative-writing professor at DePaul who built the project, led his students through the process of interviewing, transcribing, and creating the narratives, wrote the adaptation for Steppenwolf, edited the anthology, and is now working to promote the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Necessary Means: “The Diary of Malcolm X” and the Fight for an American Legacy

Chicago Publishers, Memoir, News Etc. 1 Comment »
Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, 1964

Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, 1964

By Jeff Gilliland

On April 15, 1964, a passenger jet touched down in Cairo and a tall, lean black man stepped out into the glaring sun. His travel documents read “Malik El-Shabazz,” but to many of those who glimpsed their reflection in his horn-rimmed glasses that day, he was known by another name: Malcolm X. The famed black nationalist and civil rights leader was fresh off his contentious split with the Nation of Islam, which he had helped grow from a small religious sect headquartered in Chicago to a nationwide movement for economic and social empowerment. Now he was on his way to make the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that marks one of the five pillars of Islam. Though he may not have known it at the time, the voyage Malcolm began that day would profoundly alter his religious beliefs and racial philosophy—bringing him out of the shadow of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, and establishing a legacy that continues to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

The Long Run: Chicago Review Press Marks Forty Years of Independent Publishing Success

Chicago Publishers No Comments »
founder Linda Matthews

Linda Matthews

By Naomi Huffman

When Chicago Review Press was created in 1973, founders Curt and Linda Matthews operated the press out of their basement. Initial titles failed to earn an income that could keep the press afloat. That changed in 1975, when Michael Mann Productions purchased the rights to “Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar,” written by Frank Hohimer while incarcerated at Joliet Correctional Center. The film rights were renewed every subsequent year until the film was finally released in 1981. Buoyed by this success, the Matthews moved operations to an office in River North and began to publish more titles. In 1987, the company purchased Independent Publishers Group (IPG). Chicago Review Press now publishes about sixty new titles each year, and currently has more than 650 in print.

This year marks Chicago Review Press’ fortieth anniversary–a laudable achievement for any company, and especially for an independent publishing company. Publisher Cynthia Sherry has been with the company for nearly twenty-five years, and was kind enough to answer my questions about the drama of the digital age, about the equally maddening and thrilling work of publishing books. Read the rest of this entry »

City Time Capsule: “Chicago by Day and Night” is a Lively Guide to 1890s Chicago

Book Reviews, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers, Guidebooks, History, Nonfiction No Comments »

chicago_by_day_and_night

Chicago welcomed the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition almost twenty years after the Great Fire, inviting thousands to flood the Second City. “Chicago by Day and Night: the Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America” was created to assist this influx of newcomers. With 300 pages and sixty-nine illustrations, the guide acted as a primer for exposition visitors and residents alike, detailing what one might need to know, from lodging accommodations to entertainment venues and revues, places of worship, gambling and vices, shopping centers, dining establishments and more.

The guide was recently revived by Northwestern University English Department lecturer Bill Savage and local writer and reenactment specialist Paul Durica. Savage was introduced to the text by a colleague at the Northwestern University Press where it was under consideration for reprinting. Savage enlisted Durica for his specialized knowledge on this Chicago time period.

The pair proceeded to do some digging. Due to its age, the guide was available in the public domain and a candidate for  republishing. To track down the guide’s author, they searched Library of Congress records to no avail. All that was listed was a name penciled in on the cover page, Harold Richard Vynne, a journalist and writer. “The publisher’s records no longer exist,” says Durica. “We have little information on how the book was put together.” The two reviewed the original text, making very few changes in order to preserve its style and tone. They wrote an introduction that explains the relevance of the text and their work. Any edits were “for the sake of clarity,” says Durica. “Alternate spellings of the same word, sometimes within the same chapter, have been retained. Everything else is original, including all of the photographs and illustrations.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Sausage King of Chicago: “Hot Doug’s: The Book” Captures the Spirit of the Man and the Stand

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

By Sara Tenenbaum hotdougs

In his foreword to “Hot Doug’s: The Book,” the half-history, half-scrapbook of Chicago’s most famous hotdog stand, Graham Elliot suggests that Hot Doug’s serves up “edible punk rock.” True to form, the 230 glossy pages that follow are full of the brash DIY aesthetic that any of Doug’s diners know so well. Written by owner Doug Sohn with Kate DeVivo, “Hot Doug’s: The Book” is a fun and often fascinating history of the stand entwined with stories, photos and memories from his vast and loyal community of friends and fans.

Happy to be the face of his restaurant but far more modest when not behind the counter, Doug had been approached to write books before but always declined. “They were always cookbooks or a straight history of the restaurant, which seemed insubstantial. Like, ‘Oh, there’s four pages that even I wouldn’t read!’” he told me over the phone. It took some prodding and nudging from DeVivo and her husband to get him to agree this time around. “Matt [Green, DeVivo's husband] does social media for a living and he suggested tapping into our following and doing a book with customer contributions, from the perspective of not just me, but what it means to everybody else as well. And I thought, ‘Yeah. I can see that being a book.’” Read the rest of this entry »

We’re Sleeping In Today: The Way We Sleep Blog Tour Stops Here

Anthologies, Chicago Publishers 1 Comment »

Read the rest of this entry »

Occasional Porn: C. Spike Trotman and the Resurrection of “Smut Peddler”

Author Profiles, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers, Comics/Graphic Novels/Cartoonists No Comments »

By Greg Baldino

Chicago is known as a city rife with comic creators and small-press publishers. One of the city’s rising stars is C. Spike Trotman, whose experimentations with online publishing have netted her an ongoing science fiction series called “Templar, AZ” and the acclaimed graphic novel “Poorcraft.” This fall saw the release of her highly anticipated anthology of women-and-queer friendly erotic comics, “Smut Peddler.” On the same day she opened submissions for an upcoming horror comic anthology to be called “The Sleep of Reason,” Ms. Trotman took the time to talk about her recent small-press success.

So Spike, you’re a pornographer.
I sure am, I am a proud and happy pornographer.

How’s that treating you?
Great! I currently have about 400 books in my house that are waiting for pickup. That has been the hardest part of getting those pledge rewards fulfilled. It has just made me so happy to have an entire wall of my living room taken up by giant stacks of books. Of dirty filthy porn. (laughs) Read the rest of this entry »

A Long Strange Trip: Chicago Author David David Katzman follows his “Psychedelic Fairytale for the Modern Age” Through the Wonderland of Self-Publishing

Author Profiles, Chicago Authors, Chicago Publishers No Comments »

By Lara Levitan

While David David Katzman was finishing his second novel, “A Greater Monster,” he was also performing a one-man improv show. Taking a single cue from the audience, he hopped around the stage playing multiple characters, an experience he now describes as “nutty.”

“The audience, I think, was supportive because they were like, ‘Wow, this kid is working without a parachute here,’” says Katzman.

The author doesn’t do improv anymore, but in many ways he’s still a one-man show. Surpassing the standard protocol of self-publishing, Katzman established his own independent press, Bedhead Books, in order to print, promote and manually distribute both of his experimental novels, “Death by Zamboni” (1999) and “A Greater Monster” (2011). (The latter is also distributed by Last Gasp, which specializes in the subversive and underground.) He launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of “A Greater Monster,” offering personalized, stream-of-consciousness style letters as prizes—a collection of which will be published by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. Read the rest of this entry »