Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2012

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Finishing the Lit 50 is always such a bittersweet ending for me. What starts out as such a pleasure of discovery—Chicago’s literary world now has more than 200 published writers!—ends in the sorrow of having to leave so many worthy names off the list. We do our best to reflect the sum of our knowledge and reporting, to add in diversity of style, medium and genre, and to constantly introduce new players to the mix. But we know that, in the end, many choices might appear capricious, that for every worthy individual honored, two have been overlooked. A day later, after the lingering effects of sleep, sunlight and exercise deprivation and an overdose of junk food and energy drinks abates, I know we’ll return to where we started: overjoyed at the growing literary abundance of our city.

Careful readers will remember that we alternate lists each year, between the behind-the-scenes influencers and the on-the-page creators; this year belongs to the latter. Which is why you won’t see represented the two most talked-about new endeavors in literary Chicago: J.C. Gabel’s magnificent revival of The Chicagoan, and Elizabeth Taylor’s noble undertaking, Printers Row. We are confidently hopeful, or perhaps hopefully confident, that they’ll still be around to have their day a year from now. (Brian Hieggelke)

Lit 50 was written by Greg Baldino, Ella Christoph, Brian Hieggelke, Naomi Huffman and Micah McCrary. See previous years here.
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Lit 50: Who really books in Chicago 2010

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Illustration: Pamela Wishbow

A strange and unpleasant wind blows through the literary land. Our obsession with technocultural toys, whether iPhones, iPads or Kindles, makes the foundation of thought almost since thought was recorded, that is ink on paper, seem increasingly destined to be twittered into obsolescence. And it’s not just mere media frenzy, either. Massive upheaval among major publishers these last few years has left some of Chicago’s finest writers stranded in a strange land: that is, the work is finished, but no one is around to put it out. Who knows, maybe in two years when this version of Lit 50 returns, some, if not all, of our authors will be publishing mostly, if not entirely, in the digital realm. If that’s the case, let’s enjoy an old-fashioned book or two while we can. Read the rest of this entry »

Literary Events Preview: Columbia College’s Story Week

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RECOMMENDED

The 2010 edition of Columbia College’s week-long festival kicks off Sunday and through the next seven days offers an array of readings and discussions with highly acclaimed authors, local and beyond.  At Martyrs’ on Sunday night, Randy Albers, Kim Morris, Sam Weller and more read as part of “2nd Story.” On Monday, literary legend Joyce Carol Oates examines her work as part of two separate discussions at the Harold Washington Library. Later that night, Sheffield’s Beer Garden hosts the “Down and Dirty Grad Reading,” with Jeff Jacobsen, J. Adams Oaks and Alexis Pride. On Tuesday evening at the Harold Washington Library, authors Achy Obejas and Alexandar Hemon discuss “Genres from Afar,” with John Dale and host Patricia Ann McNair. Wednesday afternoon at Harold Washington Library, Joe Meno hosts “Genre Bending—The Faces of Fiction” with Mort Castle, Maggie Estep, David Morrell and Kevin Nance; later that evening at 6pm Sam Weller hosts a similar discussion at the same location. Events continue through Friday, with appearances by Marcus Sakey, Rick Kogan, Sean Chercover, Stephanie Kuehnert and more. More details can be found on Newcity’s lit events page. (Tom Lynch)

Columbia College’s Story Week runs March 14-19 at various venues. The festival’s official website can be found at colum.edu/storyweek.

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: Books

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Top 5 Bookschronic_city
“Chronic City,” Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday)
“War Dances,” Sherman Alexie (Grove Press)
“Generosity: An Enhancement,” Richard Powers (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)
“Ruins,” Achy Obejas (Akashic Books)
“Inherent Vice,” Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press)
—Tom Lynch

Top 5 Local Books
“Ruins,” Achy Obejas (Akashic Books)
“Her Fearful Symmetry,” Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner)
“How to Hold a Woman,” Billy Lombardo (OV Books)
“The Way Through Doors,” Jesse Ball (Vintage)
“The Adventures of Cancer Bitch,” S.L. Wisenberg (University of Iowa Press)
—Tom Lynch Read the rest of this entry »

The Female Fight: Women and Children First turns thirty

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By Katie Fanuko

Photo: Kat Fitzgerald

Photo: Kat Fitzgerald

The third floor of The Breakers at Edgewater Beach is bustling with energy during Women and Children First’s 30th Anniversary Celebration & Benefit. Store owners Linda Bubon and Ann Christophersen chat with the many women (and men) who have supported the bookstore over the past three decades as they dine and await speeches from keynote speakers Alison Bechdel and Dorothy Allison. Yet even though the party goes off without a hitch, their work isn’t even close to being finished. “I’m more sure than ever that we are in the middle of things, thirty years is nothing. It’s just a start on all of the work that needs to be done… there are a lot of the same issues that we’ve been working on for thirty, forty, fifty years and they are still with us,” says Bubon.

When walking into the feminist bookstore located in Andersonville, it’s understandable how a place like this could last thirty years, because there isn’t anything else quite like it in Chicago, with an inviting atmosphere that’s both welcoming to first-timers and keeps regulars coming back. This is exactly the kind of place that Bubon and Christophersen were hoping to create back in November 1979. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading preview: Chicago Humanities Festival 2008

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The nineteenth annual Chicago Humanities Festival kicks into full gear this week with a long list of panel discussions, lectures, readings, performances and screenings, all of which fall under this year’s theme, “Thinking Big,” and all of which are more or less equally worthy of your time. Some highlights over the next few days: On Saturday New Yorker music critic Alex Ross discusses his award-winning “The Rest is Noise” (2:30pm, Thorne Auditorium) and a distinguished panel moderated by Northwestern’s Bill Savage discusses “The Great American Novel, Revisited” (1:30pm, MCA)…On Sunday author David McCullough (“John Adams”) receives the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize (10am, Symphony Center) and authors Mark Doty and Achy Obejas talk “Queer Lyrics” (3:30pm, Harold Washington Library Center)…On Monday veteran American composer David Amram discusses his life in the film industry (6:30pm, Columbia College)…and on Wednesday there’s a “Great Books Discussion: On the Road” event (5:30pm, Columbia College). And that’s just this week. (Tom Lynch)

The Chicago Humanities Festival runs all the way through November 16 at various venues across the Chicago area; tickets for events are $5 unless otherwise indicated, visit chfestival.org for a complete schedule and event details.

Printers Row Book Fair Highlights 2008

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The annual Printers Row Book Fair offers a its usual plethora of must-see readings, panel discussions and presentations, not to mention all those book for sale. Here’s a rundown of some highlights—for the full schedule visit printersrowbookfair.org.
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Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2008

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Chicago’s book world can be a quiet place. In part due to the solitary nature of the work, and in part due to the void of publishing parties that keep New York’s assorted gawkers journaling away, it’s easy to think nothing new is happening. Jeffrey Eugenides moves to town, Jeffrey Eugenides moves away, and no one seems to notice. Then, bam!, Aleksandar Hemon publishes “The Lazarus Project,” the comparisons to Nabokov resume and suddenly we’re the center of the universe again, if only for a moment.
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Get Lit: An inquiry into the current state of writing and drinking in Chicago

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By Jamie Murnane

Virginia Woolf famously said that all one needed to write is a room of one’s own. For some people, this may be true, but for others, all they need is a drink and a seat in a quiet pub, like Wilde Bar. At the new Lakeview bar and restaurant, there are two full-sized Victorian bars and numerous hefty wooden tables throughout, but the focal point is undeniably its massive library.

A raised open area complete with fireplace and an elaborate stained-glass dome, the library features towering authentic wooden bookshelves—not the IKEA-style wood we’ve grown so accustomed to, but real old-fashioned, no-Allen-wrenches-involved wood—packed with old hardcover classics.
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Author reading: Achy Obejas

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The Cuban-born author—who spends her time crafting within these city limits—has two novels under her belt, “Days of Awe” and “Memory Mambo,” a short-story collection sweetly titled “We Came All the Way From Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?” and she was the editor of “Havana Noir,” an addition to Akashic’s series of love letters to shadows, smoke and dimly lit alleyways (oh, she’s also an accomplished journalist). Her first book of poetry, called “This Is What Happened in Our Other Life,” is predictably lovely, if far too brief. From “Sleeping Apart”: “The nightmare itself/the somnambulist, time-zone/zombie unaware/bumping the furniture, telephone/eating its own tail.” From “Sunday”: “It was love that gave them careers/new wares, made them/dark-haired girls sifting rice/checking magazines for quick tests titled:/“Do you know your lover?”/“Is your marriage happy?”/ Everyday the air of nitrous oxide.” That’s just a sample of the simple, serene sensibility Obejas can surface. (Tom Lynch)

Achy Obejas reads her work January 9 at Women and Children First Bookstore, 5233 North Clark, (773)769-9299, at 7pm. Free.