Literary Events Preview: Columbia College’s Story Week

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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

Fiction Review: War Dances

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Sherman Alexie’s last novel, “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian,” which won the 2007 National Book Award in the young-adult lit category, was the culmination of all of the author’s work up until that point, a documentation of the struggle to maintain balance between the Native American and white worlds. Alexie’s 14-year-old protagonist was the courier for much of Alexie’s own story and the novel’s beauty relied heavily on that ingrained knowledge. He follows up his best work with a quiet whisper, “War Dances,” a collection of short stories that search for what it is to be human. The title could tell the tale—Alexie’s work here is as intense as a war and as tender as a dance.

A vintage-clothing-store owner suffers a failing marriage but courts another in different airports across the country. An obituary writer finds meaning through his work. A film editor goes face-to-face with a young intruder who’s determined to steal his collection of DVDs. Of course, Alexie’s oddball detail makes this even more enjoyable—the airport seductress wears “glorious” red Pumas. (He later writes: “There was a rule book…when a man wants revenge he must whistle the soundtrack of ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.'”) When he wants, Alexie can be very funny. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Preview: Michael Chabon/Harold Washington Library Center

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Often cited as one of the best novelists of his generation, whatever the hell that means, Chabon certainly deserves the abundant attention he receives whenever he publishes something new. The Pulitzer Prize winner, author of “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” “Wonder Boys,” “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” visits Chicago to discuss his bulk of work, including his newest entry, “Manhood for Amateurs,” a collection of essays that dissect the essence of being a man—a husband, a father, a son and so on. Chabon’s excellence in invention and colorful character have filled hugely successful novels—this gathering of insights, easily the most personal the popular author has ever been, pulls the curtain aside. While Chabon’s mean streak  of fictional work leaves this fan aching for a new edition, this honest assemblage will do just fine for now. (Tom Lynch)

Michael Chabon discusses his work October 21 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm.

Reading Preview: Brian Peterson

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For those who think the 1990s were defined by “Pokemon” and “The Macarena,” you may want to pick up the new book “Burning Fight.” Written by local high-school teacher Brian Peterson, the book is a comprehensive documentation of the last decade’s hardcore scene in America. “I started talking to people about six years ago,” Peterson says. “The nineties scene hadn’t really been documented in this way.” “Burning Fight” reveals a more expansive view of the hardcore scene, which goes beyond the aggressive music and exposes a tight-knit, unique community. Part of Peterson’s chronicle concerns the DIY movement, which was popular within the scene, leading to fanzines, independent record labels and pirate radio stations. “It was inspiring to see these people creating things and doing things on their own,” Peterson says. “They felt the need to express themselves and they did.” (Josh Kraus)

July 2 at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 12:15pm. Free.

Reading Preview: Mary Gaitskill/Harold Washington Library Center

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Acclaimed novelist and essayist Mary Gaitskill comes to Harold Washington to discuss her career, which, to the frustration of many, has only produced two books and three collections of short stories since the publishing of her first, “Bad Behavior,” in 1988. Maybe it’s for the best, however, as an overabundance of Gaitskill’s various tales of sexuality, sadomasochism, death and self-image would shove some of us over the edge. Her work is haunting not because of the explicit content, but because of her writing’s humanity, life’s treachery, the comfort-and discomfort-found in everyday pain. “Veronica,” Gaitskill’s 2005 novel, focused on two female friends, one who has contracted AIDS. This is no tearjerker. You want sugar, give Mitch Albom a ring. “Don’t Cry” is her newest collection of shorts, released just this week, at it features more snapshots of lives lived with thunderously beating, profusely bleeding hearts.  (Tom Lynch)

Mary Gaitskill discusses “Don’t Cry” March 26 at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm, as part of the “Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman” series. The event is free.

Reading preview: Paul Hornschemeier

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Chicago’s bright and shining graphic novelist, the creator of “Forlorn Funnies,” offers his latest opus, the autobiographical “The Three Paradoxes,” a book that took him four years to complete. A story within a story—complete with jumps back and forth through time debating Zeno and pre-Socratic philosophy—Hornschemeier’s created a massive “plot” within a slim page-count, too warping to explain here. What’s most effective, as always in his work, is his ability to evoke extreme emotional reaction from such subtle images and dialogue, whether it’s deep melancholy or grand elation. (“Man, no offense, but are you guys retarded?” asked to a gaggle of philosophers is a moment to remember.) “Mother, Come Home” was utterly devastating, and “The Three Paradoxes” has its way with you as well. Visually staggering, it’s one of the best local books of the year. (Tom Lynch)

Paul Hornschemeier discusses his work October 25 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6:30pm. Free.