Jonathan Eig, Wall Street Journalist, Chicago magazine columnist, and best-selling author, most recently took on the legacy of the city’s most notorious gangster with “Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America’s Most Wanted Gangster.”
Where are you based?
“Get Capone” came out last year. What are you up to these days? What are you working on?
I’m making revisions (possibly endless) on a novel called “American Grill” that’s set in Chicago—specifically at the corner of Rogers and Sheridan, in the building once occupied by Biddy Mulligans.
You’ve been on the faculty at Columbia and lectured at Northwestern. What’s your approach to teaching writing? If your students walk away from your classes with one thing, what do you want that thing to be?
That I’m really, really mean. Also to get the fat out of their sentences.
Take me through your daily writing routine—do you work on a set schedule, X words/pages/hours a day, or do you binge-write when inspiration strikes? From home, the library, a coffee shop, a “space”?
I can write fiction anywhere, although it’s not yet clear to me that I can write it well. For non-fiction, I have to be in my office, which is in my home, in a converted laundry room, surrounded by mountains of books and papers.
Best place to get inspired in the city?
The lakefront jogging path. I’m out there every other day.
In an alternate life, the one where you aren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I’d be a photographer, or possibly a trumpeter/singer in a wedding/bar mitzvah band.
Which (existing) book did you not write but do you wish you’d written?
There are far too many to name. Most recently, “Clockers” by Richard Price.
Word or phrase you find yourself overusing?
“Lillian, did you do your homework?”
Anything coming up in Chicago—literary or not—that you’re especially excited about?
I’m looking forward to Tony Fitzpatrick’s new show at the Steppenwolf. I’d pay to listen to that guy read the label on his beer bottle.
—Interviewed by Rachel Sugar