Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Samuel Spade – Private Detective

Sam Spade Office Window

Most people believe, just because the novels and movies tell them so, that Sam Spade (and his late partner Miles Archer) lived and worked in San Francisco. But here’s photographic proof that their offices were in Chicago, on Wells Street in Old Town.

CPL is Netflix for Books

I love libraries and I’ve been a proud Chicago Public Library card holder since I moved here. But while the CPL system has a ton of books, they’re spread out over all the different branches and it seemed that after a short while I had read all the books in my local branch that I was interested in. The central Harold Washington library has the most in one place, but it always seemed difficult to get there before they closed on a weekend. There may have been a way to request books from a different branch, but it wasn’t obvious and so I just… stopped stopping in at my local branch.

Recently, though, I discovered that the CPL has spiffed up their website with some features that make it a snap to get any book (or CD or DVD) in their catalog delivered (nearly) to your door.

You just log in to the “My CPL” section of the website with your library card number and zipcode (if you’ve moved and haven’t updated your info with the CPL, it might be an old zipcode) and then start searching the catalog for books. When you find one you want, click the “Place on Hold” button. It’ll ask if you want it held at your preferred library or a different one and you’re done. But here’s the magic part — “hold” in this case means “get it to my preferred library and then hold it there”. So the system will find a checked-in copy, dispatch a no-doubt-over-worked library employee to fetch it off the shelf, and then transport it to your local library. With 79 branches, there’s bound to be one just blocks, nay mere steps from your front door. (OK, maybe I’m spoiled since I’m literally a half-block from our local branch.) When the book arrives you get a rather bare-bones email (it doesn’t actually tell you which held item has come in — but you can always go back to the website to check) and you have 9 days to stop in and pick it up.

Obviously, there’s still a wait for popular books — on my last visit the librarian informed me that I was number 745 on the waiting list for the CPL’s 121 copies of Twilight. But you can have up to five holds going at once, so I’ve got other books coming while I wait to find out what all the vampire fuss is about.

Hodgmania (and Rees-a-rama)

John Hodgman (the PC from those Mac commercials, the Daily Show’s resident expert, This American Life essayist, former professional literary agent, and author) will be at Second City tonight at 7:00pm (on the e.t.c. stage) to promote his new book, More Information Than You Require. David Rees (My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable) will also be reading. Admission is free.

Chicago baseball postseason dreaming

The Cubs and White Sox are still looking great as baseball fans start peering into the possible postseason. Both teams are looking so good that even an article in The New York Times had to mention the possibility of a Chicago vs. Chicago World Series. If you’re a Cubs fan, you might want to stay away from the Times article since its focus is on the White Sox and their manager Ozzie Guillen at his quippiest.

I agree with the White Sox players quoted that a Cubs versus White Sox World Series would be awesome. My anticipation for this cross town face off is such that I’ve started reading the book When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard A. Weisberger. It’s a nonfiction retelling of the last time the Chicago Cubs played the Chicago White Sox in 1906. Besides stoking my dreams of a Chicago World Series, it is also great to read some of the old time sports reporting, and descriptions of Chicago neighborhoods as they were one hundred and two years ago. My hope is that I can get enough people to read this book that the mental will of Chicago will create the World Series of my dreams. Or, more realistically, folks can get exposed to a great book about Chicago sports history.

Warren Ellis

Legendarily irascible comics (and novel) author Warren Ellis will be appearing at Wizard World Chicago (out in Rosemont) on Friday at 9 pm. The event is free and you don’t need a convention ticket to attend. If we’re lucky, he’ll bite the head off a cosplayer or something. (Thank or blame Avatar Press for setting the thing up.)

How They See Us – 1966 Edition

I recently picked up a copy of One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966) — one of the classic Travis McGee detective novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee’s normal setting is South Florida, but in this one he travels to Chicago to help out an old friend. McGee is… not really a fan of our fair city:


No Reason Why Not: An Interview with David Blixt

I met David Blixt in the summer of 2004, during rehearsals for Defiant Theatre’s final show, A Clockwork Orange. David provided the fight choreography. I recall his hair hung down to his shoulders in lazy curls, and he wore leather boots that laced most of the way up the calf. He looked as if he’d just come from a Renaissance Fair. During breaks David would crack open a laptop and start typing. I asked him once what he was working on, and he informed me that he was writing a book about the origins of the feud behind Romeo and Juliet. Of course he was, I thought. That’s exactly what a Ren Fair geek would write about.

Cut to last July, when Master of Verona hit the shelves.

Banned Books Week

Starting tomorrow, libraries and bookstores across America will be celebrating Banned Books Week (September 29-October 6). The purpose? It’s a great celebration to our freedom to read even when the words written are unpopular or unorthodox.The American Library Association, The Newberry Library, and the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum will be celebrating with a Read-Out tomorrow, Sat. Sept. 29, from 1-4 pm at Pioneer Court (that’s the big plaza south of the Trib building that meets the Chicago river). There will be music, readings, and a general hootenanny at this free event. Can’t make it? There’s also an event online at Second Life happening during the same time.Factoid: AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell was the most-challenged book of 2006. It was challenged for “homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group.” It’s the story of a family of penguins in picture book format.Consider reading it. Or any banned book this week.

The Nod

Part of the appeal of blogging, I think, is that on the internet, as the famous phrase goes, nobody knows you’re hideous mouth-breathing basement-dweller. If you can string three or four words together into a sentence, someone will read your blog — even if it’s just your mom, inevitably finding your site just after you’ve posted a dark confession of the terrible things you did to pigeons in your youth. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

In any case, Joe Janes and Don Hall are bucking that notion with their blog reading event, The Nod. The first half of the event is an open mic of sorts (readers must be confirmed in advance) with Greg Wendling, Keri Myslinski, Amy Guth, and Claire Micklin already scheduled. The second half of the event will feature readings from Hall, Janes, Dave Awl, Nat Topping, and Thea Lux.

Wednesday, September 19th, 8pm at The Uptown Writer’s Space at 4802 N Broadway. $5 donation requested.

Falling Back

You may have noticed from the lack of posts that Chicago’s literary scene tends to slumber during the summer (at least I was).Now that slightly-crisper temperatures are with us again, it’s time to fall back into reading. As I return to the library to continue my all-but-forgot Library Project, the library itself is turning to readers with the latest incarnation of One Book, One Chicago. The current selection is Arthur MIller’s THE CRUCIBLE. You’ll hear more on that soon.Also, if you get a chance, check out 2nd Story Chicago tonight at 7pm at The Spot (4437 N. Broadway). Doors open at 6pm and it’s $10, but toss in the extra $5 for a flight of scotch, tequila, or bourbon. These storytellings are produced by Serendipity Theatre Collective. I saw it last month at Webster’s and it was fabulous.

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