Fiction Review: “Brush Back” by Sara Paretsky

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If you like your crime fiction set in Chicago with a female detective who breaks jaws and breaks conventions, read “Brush Back, ” the seventeenth novel in Sara Paretsky’s Warshawski series. Since the first novel in the series, the portrayal of the characters, cityscape and sociopolitical setting has grown richer as Paretsky hones her powers; she has had more than thirty years to develop the characters of Vic Warshawski and her network of friends, to portray Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods as well as the class and political influences that make Chicago a great city in which the detective can exercise her sense of justice. Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50 2014: Who Really Books in Chicago

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Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

When we began work on the 2012 version of Lit 50, there were some 200 published writers on our long list. This year, there were 437. As always, trimming the list to a mere fifty writers required a certain kind of agony (and a few sleepless nights), but we’re proud of the list we gathered here, and we feel it celebrates the wealth of talent and diversity of Chicago’s literary community.

Close followers of Lit 50 will know this year’s list celebrates writers across all forms: novelists, essayists, poets, graphic novelists, playwrights. Our call to local literary folk yielded a wealth of celebratory news: overseas teaching offers, sealed book deals, hard-earned fellowships and awards. It also introduced dozens of writers that were not already known to us. We’re proud that this year’s Lit 50 includes seventeen writers who are making their first appearance on this list, including Chris Abani, the Nigerian-born writer who escaped a death row sentence in 1991 and now teaches graduate students at Northwestern University. We’re thrilled to add Lindsay Hunter, Cristina Henriquez, and Kate Harding, women whose voices we’ve long admired and whose forthcoming books we’re impatient to read. We’re also eager to welcome a handful of poets, including Roger Reeves, Parneshia Jones, and Roger Bonair-Agard.  It’s our crazy hope that in 2016, the “short” list will have doubled once more. But someone’s going to have to bring us some whiskey. (Naomi Huffman)

Lit 50 was written by Liz Baudler, Brendan Buck, Brian Hieggelke, Alex Houston, Naomi Huffman, Megan Kirby, Micah McCrary and John Wilmes

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Spertus Institute/Venue SIX10
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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 »

The Female Fight: Women and Children First turns thirty

Bookstores, News Etc. No Comments »

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 »

411: The Biggest Losers

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“Whenever you try to do a big project, you have high hopes of how good it can be and it’s never that good. But, this time, it came pretty
close,” says Donald G. Evans of his new anthology “Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Until Next Year.” “The book explores what it means to be a Cubs’ fan, especially in light of the fact that they are perpetual losers,” Evans explains. “We wanted it to be entertaining but also a chance to talk about the Cubs on a more sophisticated, intellectual plane—really talented, thoughtful people contributed to the book.” Contributors include local literary legend Sara Paretsky, Randy Richardson, Jonathan Eig and Rick Kogan. The anthology grew out of a monthly reading series, Don’s Lovable Losers Literary Revue, which was held just blocks south of Wrigley Field at restaurant El Jardin. “Right away, I thought there was some really good stuff here, thought it all might add up to more,” says Evans of the series. “I thought maybe it was the perfect farm system for a good book.” Order your limited edition copy of “Cubbie Blues” at and get it signed the December 29 at Ralph’s Cigars on Taylor.

411: Way with Words

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How do you put your love for Barack Obama into words? At artist showcase and fundraiser Writers and Cartoonists for Obama, October 15 at the Chopin Theater, see and hear just how it’s done. All mediums, from song to print to cartoon, will offer a unique political message. The reception and signed-book silent auction will be followed by brief readings from each of the attending writers, which include Sara Paretsky, Stuart Dybek and more than fifteen others. “The readings will be political in the largest sense,” says organizer Sandi Wisenberg. Following the readings, there will be the viewing of the final Obama/McCain debate. All ticket sales ($60 at the door, $50 in advance) go to Obama for America, but those under the age of 25 will only have to pay their age to enter.

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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