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

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 »

Reading Preview: Meno, Kuehnert, Lombardo/Old Town School of Folk Music

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Ethereal-folk music, poster art, experimental photography and live reading collide this Saturday for a unique multimedia event. Joe Meno will be supported by live music from The Astronomer, and accompanied by visual art from Jay Ryan and Todd Baxter, as he reads from his recently released novel “The Great Perhaps” at the Old Town School of Folk Music. New songs, posters and photographs were created especially for this event, all based off Meno’s work. “My work for this event is three simple images which will be projected to accompany Joe’s reading, and The Astronomer’s live music,” Ryan says. “I expect that Joe’s presence and reading style will dominate the evening, and that The Astronomer will create the right soundtrack to his story.” The slightly surreal plot of “The Great Perhaps” centers on a tumultuous family composed of characters permeated with mystique and frenzy. Here’s hoping that this event will mirror Meno’s story in every way. “My drawings and Todd Baxter’s photos will simply add a bit of color to an already full presentation,” Ryan says. Stephanie Kuehnert and Billy Lombardo also read. (Josh Kraus)

Joe Meno, Stephanie Kuehnert and Billy Lombardo read from their work August 1 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, (773)728-6000, at 8pm. $15.

American Beauties: Stephanie Kuehnert writes a song of the suburbs

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By Tom Lynchstephanie5

Older generations teach teenagers the strangest things. Conflicting ideas often offered as sage advice demonstrate both a lack of creativity and, also, an inability to really offer anything of much substance. No wonder teens are so pissed off all the time; anything anyone ever tells them is that the teenage years are the most difficult time in a person’s life, but also the best years. What are they to make of that?

Local author and Columbia College graduate Stephanie Kuehnert tackled teenage-girl angst already in “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” last year’s refreshing novel of punk rock and an adolescent’s struggle with finding her real mother. Identity issues traditionally surface in these tumultuous times of a person’s growth. Who we become, what we love, who we, essentially, are—these important and life-lasting pieces of the great overall puzzle form their foundation between cut classes, packs of smokes hidden from parents and nervous trips to 7-Eleven to buy condoms.

In culture, possibly even more so. The records you obsess over in high school will always live in the confused and angry place in your heart. Favorite books are discovered in those years too; most likely films as well.

With “Ballads of Suburbia,” Kuehnert’s lightning-fast follow-up to her debut, she returns to these times. Read the rest of this entry »

Author Panel Discussion: Stephanie Kuehnert, Simone Elkeles, Wendy McClure/StoryStudio Chicago

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StoryStudio Chicago hosts a panel discussion featuring three local female authors: “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” scribe Stephanie Kuehnert (pictured), whose upcoming MTV Books follow-up, “Ballads of Suburbia,” is even better than her debut; Simone Elkeles, author of teen books “Perfect Chemistry,” “Leaving Paradise” and “How to Ruin My Teenage Life”; and Wendy McClure, author of “I’m Not the New Me.” The three writers discuss their experiences in the lit industry, and give tips to the audience on handling the publishing world. Ravenswood’s StoryStudio Chicago offers various writing classes and workshops year-round, on top of networking events for students, author readings and panel discussions such as these.  With perspective offered by three relatively young authors, today’s event appears worthy for those looking to break into the lit world. StoryStudio Chicago instructor Jen Jones moderates; a book-signing follows. (Tom Lynch)

Kuehnert, Elkeles and McClure discuss their work May 30 at StoryStudio Chicago, 4043 North Ravenswood, (773)477-7710. 10am. $12 for non-members, $10 for members.

Reading Preview: Story Week 2009

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One of the city’s top literary events of the year, Columbia College’s Story Week begins on Sunday, and as usual features the best of the bunch-students and faculty-of the school, plus some high-profile outsiders, at various events scattered throughout the city. This week kicks off with the “2nd Story: Storytellers” event at Martyrs’ on Sunday night, featuring readings by CP Chang, Molly Each, Deb R. Lewis and Doug Whippo. Saturday features a Q&A with “Blue Angel” author Francine Prose at the Harold Washington Library, plus a reading at Sheffield’s Beer Garden by local crime guy Marcus Sakey. The Nelson Algren Tribute, Tuesday at the Harold Washington, features appearances by Joe Meno, Billy Lombardo, Stephanie Kuehnert, Bayo Ojikutu and J. Adams Oaks. On Wednesday at the Spertus Museum, Rick Kogan discusses Studs Terkel in a tribute to the man, with Donna Seaman, Bill Young, Alex Kotlowitz, Don De Grazia, Drew Ferguson and Ann Hemenway. And that’s just the first half of the festival. (Tom Lynch)

Story Week 2009 runs March 15-20 at various venues. Visit for complete details.

Reading preview: Read Against the Recession

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Fifteen years ago Scottish author Irvine Welsh gave us “Trainspotting, ” his highest achievement in a career of several successes, and now he’s covering “Crime,” about a strung-out detective on leave in Florida who gets mixed up with coke fiends and a 10-year-old, scared-shitless girl. It’s whirlwind Welsh—grit, grimness, acceptance, redemption, peace—and a very strong piece of work, even when compared to his previous material. Also reading is local rookie Stephanie Kuehnert, whose punk-rock debut “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” about a young musician’s quest to find her real mother (and other things), is a substantially impressive debut. (Kuehnert studied under Welsh when he was here teaching at Columbia College.) Read against the recession—words will live on indeed! (Tom Lynch)

Irvine Welsh and Stephanie Kuehnert, among others, read from their work September 14 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203, at 6pm.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun: Columbia grad Stephanie Kuehnert debut strikes a power chord

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By Tom Lynch

The title, of course, is lifted from Sleater-Kinney.

“I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” the debut novel from local author Stephanie Kuehnert, is a punk-rock novel of heavy awareness. Everyone wants to be a rock star. Kuehnert’s protagonist and narrator, Emily Black, is no different. Living in a tiny town in Wisconsin, left alone with her father as an infant when her mother hit the road following her own rock-star dreams, Emily’s now your favorite teenager, much cooler than you were when you were there, the dark hair, the red lipstick and the witty asides and retorts all part of the angst-ridden fireball.
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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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