By John Wawrzaszek
Chicago proclaims print is not dead. Annual events like the Chicago Zine Fest (March 8-9) and the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, or “CAKE,” (June 15-16) are evidence of the growing local support for Chicago’s self-publishing community. The latest to join the cause is the University of Chicago Library, as they present “My Life is an Open Book: DIY Autobiography,” an exhibition focusing on woman self-publishers from Chicago.
The university’s library has been actively collecting zines and self-published materials for their catalog. “We were very excited by their diversity and how alive they feel,” says Sarah Wenzel, bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas at the university. “We thought other people would like to see the artistry, writing and variety of the collection.” And that is exactly what you can expect from the exhibit. Local self-publishers and artists are featured on display, ranging from personal zines to mini-comics. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Photo: Ramsey Beyer
Last October, Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago and Baltimore’s Atomic Books set a challenge for 2011: no less than the Revenge of Print, a glorious return to old-fashioned ink and paper in defiance of a world that amuses itself by betting on when print media will finally roll over and die.
With the 2nd Annual Chicago Zine Fest (chicagozinefest.org) March 25-26, payback time has arrived. The two-day celebration of independent publishing features events at Quimby’s, 826CHI and Columbia College, an exhibition of more than 200 zinesters’ works, and workshops on everything from book binding to how to make it as a full-time artist. Highlights include a discussion with popular self-publishers Al Burian and Aaron Cometbus and a DIY Film Festival curated by the Gababout Film Festival’s Eric Ayotte. All events are free and open to the public. Read the rest of this entry »
The Green Lantern Gallery has had a tumultuous year: after its initial incarnation was shut down due to a city ordinance, Green Lantern director Caroline Picard teamed up with featherproof books’ Zach Dodson to create a multimedia art space. Temporarily housed in Ukrainian Village, the idea was for the revamped Green Lantern Gallery to eventually move into permanent digs designed to foster inter-art collaborations—a gallery, office space for the two presses, The Paper Cave indie bookstore, a performance space and a café/bar, staffed by four year-long artists-in-residence.
For now, though, Picard’s dream will have to wait. With the lease up on their temporary space and unable to find a suitable long-term home, The Green Lantern Gallery is closing up shop. “We did want to have one last hurrah in the space we had, though,” explains Dodson. With that, “The Last Annual Midwest Pop-Up Bookshop” was born. Read the rest of this entry »
“Don’t self-censor,” Criminal Class Press editor-in-chief Kevin Whiteley warns. Appropriate, considering the fearless Jim Goad will be headlining the Criminal Class Press reading at Quimby’s this Friday. C.C.P. will be supporting its fourth issue, which features such writers as Goad, Stephen Elliott and Chicago’s own Bryan Murphy. Goad, author of “Shit Magnet” and “Red Neck Manifesto,” aligns right in with the motives of C.C.P. as they champion the forgotten and the underclass over the glossy and timid voices they hear in other journals. “It’s a way to echo the voices from our upbringing, and the voices of Oi! punk and the noir scene,” says Whiteley. “For any writers in the audience,” says Whiteley, “we want to inspire them to bleed onto the page.” The reading will be hosted by Whiteley and will feature, aside from Goad, C.C.P staff writer and Windy City Story Slam founder Bill Hillmann. (Peter Cavanaugh)
There may be plenty of people in this world who ignore the everyday reality that burdens the rest of us, who see and describe things as they choose, often with the assistance of irresistably cute animals, but most are locked up, not making a living off it. Chicago artist and printmaker Jay Ryan, of The Bird Machine, not only makes a living off making up his own world, he makes the rest of us want to live in it. His rock posters and other commissions rarely make any literal connection to the band or subject matter at hand, but there’s a method to his madness. Well sometimes. Consider this description of one poster for a Stnnng/Dianogah double bill in Minneapolis, from his forthcoming book on the Akashic imprint, “Animals and Objects In and Out of Water: Posters by Jay Ryan, 2006-2008″: “I was building a new bike while making this print, so I drew a bike. Then I drew a fat man being thrown from the bike, but replaced him with a dolphin, but soon felt the dolphin didn’t fill the space appropriately, and didn’t really make sense, anyway. I replaced the dolphin with an icthyosaurus, and added a toaster to tie the whole composition together.” Read the rest of this entry »
The flier offers readings, sellings and most promising of all, human interaction for fine comic book readers—a novel concept in the age of texting and tweeting. Technology aims to bring us together, and yet it works to isolate us. The 2009 Punchbuggy Tour has hit its Chicago leg. Featuring Liz Baillie (“My Brain Hurts,” “Freewheel”), Ken Dahl (“Welcome To The Dahl House,” “Monster”) and MK Reed (“Cross Country,” Americus”), the tour features original readings and book signings.
Chicago is the ninth stop for the irreverent trio. A modest thirty minutes late, Dahl arms himself with a banjo. Baillie has a ukulele. Something’s not right here. Is this a show? “Somewhere along the way we developed a bit of apathy,” says Dahl. “So we added a soundtrack to the readings.” Indeed, the stringed authors provide a folksy twang to the readings. The music adds an exclamation point to the stories. Taking frequent beer breaks, the speakers seem to have a knack for creating an intimate reading space.
Reed fiddles with the computer, and presents a selection from her graphic novel “Cross Country.” Baillie begins her readings, humbly warning, “Mine’s not as funny as theirs,” though it proves entertaining enough. Dahl reads an excerpt from his latest work, “Monster,” a graphic novel about a man humorously stricken with herpes. At Dahl’s cue, Baillie lets out a monstrous burp. This reading has surround sound. (David Stockdale)
Musician and poet Brett Eugene Ralph visits Quimby’s to read from his debut collection, “Black Sabbatical,” out now now via Sarabande Books. Ralph, a Kentucky native, feverishly brings to life the Deep South—backwoods, starry skies, dirt and dry mouth. He dabbles in farm spreads and memory, saloons and loud music, and finds a balance between the serious and the absurd without ever coming across as cheap or frivolous. Rarely do you encounter a book of poetry so thoroughly strong, and as much as the South has been romanticized by books and film, Ralph is still able to offer up the setting with a curious freshness and a breadth of knowledge that is, in fact, intimidating. As a special bonus tonight, local musician and recording engineer Steve Albini reads some short stories. Anyone’s guess what he has in store for the audience, but I’ve seen Albini tell stories from a stage on a few separate occasions, and it’s always been highly entertaining. (Tom Lynch)
September 20 at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North, (773)342-0910, at 3pm. Free.
By Tom Lynch
Early Sunday evening and Logan Square’s hipster hotspot The Whistler is sprinkled with patrons, some sipping the bar’s unique summertime cocktails, others just a PBR, please. The Orange Alert Reading Series takes place here roughly every third Sunday of the month and tonight’s lineup consists of “How to Hold a Woman” author Billy Lombardo, plus Andrew Farkas, Tim Hall and West Virginian Scott McClanahan. Founder and emcee Jason Behrends takes to the stage and thanks the modest crowd for coming. “I know it’s hard to come out to a bar at six on a Sunday,” he admits into the microphone. A handful of uninterested drinkers respectfully head out to the patio as to not disrupt the reading with their conversation. For the next hour, the only sounds you can hear are the author’s expressive voices and the air conditioner kicking on and off. Even the bartenders mix the drinks quietly.
“I’m definitely optimistic about the landscape in general,” Behrends says of the current place of literary events in Chicago, a day later over the phone. Behrends began his Orange Alert venture in 2006 with a Web site, orangealert.net, featuring interviews with writers, musicians and artists, then launched Orange Alert Press in March of 2008. The reading series began last November. “There are a lot of reading series in town,” he says, “but even though there are ten or twelve that I know of, I felt that there still could be one more.” Read the rest of this entry »
Local author James Kennedy, whose first book, “The Order of Odd-Fish,” was listed as one of Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children in 2008, will read from and sign his book at Quimby’s Bookstore this Friday at 7pm. In his blog, Kennedy writes about his habit of leaving things unfinished, something he feels helped him with this book. “The thing that kept me going is that no matter what job I was doing I only had confidence in that I would be a writer and I spent most of my free time working on that,” he says. “All the various jobs and interests I had…and failed at were all the things the story ended up being about.” “The Order” has been described as a combination of J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket and several others, but Kennedy says his inspiration comes mostly from adult authors like James Joyce. “I don’t read as much children’s and young adult literature as I should,” he says. “…['Ulysses'] was a novel that was all about one day and one city and I liked the idea. By the end of the book you have this idea of a real feeling of Dublin as a real organism…I wanted to do a book about a city.” Kennedy is currently working on “The Magnificent Moots, a story he describes as a mix of A Wrinkle in Time,” “Ender’s Game,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and plans to eventually write sequels to “The Order of Odd-Fish.” (Beth Wang)