Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2011

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Power in Chicago has been passed on. No, we’re not talking about that little office in City Hall, but that Oprah, she of the book club that long perched her atop this list, has flown the coop. So now it’s official. The City of Big Shoulders is Poetry’s town. It’s unlikely that Carl Sandburg would have ever imagined such an unlikely outcome when he crafted the city’s calling card, in verse, but it’s not even debatable. Not only can we claim Poetry magazine, the premier publication of its kind anywhere, but its wealthy sibling the Poetry Foundation will open a whole building dedicated to the form later this month. Plus, this is the town that created the Poetry Slam as well as Louder Than a Bomb, the largest teen slam anywhere. Talk about poetic justice. Read the rest of this entry »

Keep it Short: Quickies! Reading Series is the fastest draw

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Mary Hamilton and Lindsay Hunter“That was a great warm-up, now you can start on the novel.” That’s what Mary Hamilton and Lindsay Hunter heard most often during their critiques in the writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ranging between one and three pages of text, flash fiction is among the shortest forms of fiction writing. Famous Chicago natives like Ernest Hemingway pushed it even further with his six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” which now ranks as the shortest piece of short fiction ever penned.

But what makes flash fiction different from other forms of fiction is not just length, but how the story itself builds up. “Flash fiction eliminates all the window-staring and gets down to the moment,” Hunter explains. “It’s easy to go on for pages, but it’s not easy to inhabit the moment where something is really happening. Flash fiction is like writing in the moment and being thrifty with the word choice.” It’s a common misconception for people to think that flash fiction is a sketch for a longer piece. “If you gave me ten stories I’d cut the last sentence out of nine of them at least.” The trick with flash fiction is that it “starts at the crest and ends at the climb,” Hunter adds. “Its not like getting on the roller coaster up to that never-ending climb where you’ve crested, you’ve looked how far the drop is and taken the plunge then unbuckled yourself from your seat. Flash fiction denies the drop.”

Hunter and Hamilton met in the writing program in what they describe as “love at first sight.” Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50: Who really books in Chicago 2009

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dsc_2664cIs it wrong to feel optimistic? You couldn’t be blamed if you didn’t. Yet while the country’s economy crumbles around us and less and less funds are available for the producers of the printed word, those in the literary world are finding new and inventive ways to stay afloat. We will not go down without a fight, and progress, of course, is key. So is awareness—in order to get the word out more efficiently (and, likely, to untether itself from the uncertain future of the paper form), Printers Row Book Fair changed its name from “Book Fair” to “Lit Fest” to have a title that better fully represents the weekend’s events, in time for its twenty-fifth anniversary edition. As is our custom, we time our annual Lit 50 list to the weekend’s events; this year’s list of local behind-the-scenes literati—no straight-up authors or poets this time—covers a large spectrum of Chicago’s world of words. As with past years we sought out those behind the smaller presses as well as the monumental figures. Some new names have emerged and many staples appear again, but all tirelessly labor to bring this ancient art to the community at large. Read the rest of this entry »

Language Art: Zach Plague gets bored

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By Tom Lynch

In the end, it’s boredom that will get us all.

Luckily there’s sex, dope and art to kill the numbness, the despondency of the late-teen set, the generation that has big ideas and sufficient resources, but too sensitive a skin to fully develop much of them. Too smart for their own good, too informed; too protective as well. Punks. Not slackers, but slick slobs. Slobs for their mishandled intelligence, maybe, slick from the gloss of youth. But also maybe just kids who grow up too fast and regret it only after it’s too late.
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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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