Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

America Doesn’t Read?

So, there’s a new survey out that postulates that 1 out of 4 Americans haven’t read a single book in the past year.One of my favorite paragraphs from the AP article:”In 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled “Reading at Risk” found only 57 percent of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The study faulted television, movies and the Internet.”Is that true, Chicago? Is the Internet causing us to look at books with disdain? How many books have you read in the last year?(As you may have noticed, I like the Internet and I’ve read 37 non-work books since January 1.)

Sin in the Second City

And speaking of sex, the Freakonomics blog has interviewed author Karen Abbott. Abbott’s new book Sin in the Second City is about Chicago’s Everleigh sisters and their famous turn-of-the century brothel. The interview focuses on the economics of the enterprise:

Q: Did police officers, government officials, and prosecutors receive a discount for services?

A: Minna set a policy of entertaining newspaper reporters and state legislators for free. It worked: the Everleigh sisters got press when they wanted it, and stayed out of the headlines when they didn’t. They also made necessary donations to a roster of politicians in Springfield in attempts to help thwart harmful state legislation, including one check for $3,000.

Your Movie Sucks

Your Movie SucksIt’s somehow comforting to me to remember in the middle of our current (deserved) out-pouring of “Roger Ebert is a Chicago treasure” that he’s not some kindly old lover of movies — the man is a critic who can dish it out as he sees fit. Your Movie Sucks is a sequel of sorts to Roger Ebert‘s earlier I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie — both collections of his reviews of movies he enjoyed the least.

The earlier book covered a few decades of reviews and so it had the stringent requirement of one star or less; the new book covers just the 21st century and so, I assume to pad out the book a bit, includes 1.5 star movies. It does mean that some of the reviews are less vitriolic and more Ebert basically saying, “eh.”

But when Ebert is on a tear, ripping into a terrible movie, it’s quite a sight to behold. The book opens with an extended introduction detailing a few reviews that resulted in public exchanges with the director or stars, like Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (from which review comes the title of the book) and Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny.

It should be noted that these books are, like so much these days, effectively free online — just go to the Advanced Search on Ebert’s site, set the “Star rating To” field to one or one-and-a-half stars, and click Submit. But it’s harder to take your computer into the bathroom, which just might be the natural home for this sort of book. Of course, you might also want to use it as a sort of affirmational — read one of these reviews right before you leave the house and there will be a certain spring in your step. No matter what you do or don’t do during the day, at least you didn’t make a terrible movie.

Soon I Will Be Invincible

I just finished Soon I Will Be Invincible, the debut novel by Austin Grossman. It’s rather good.

The book is a superhero adventure told in alternating chapters by an experienced evil genius (he’s in prison for the twelveth time when the book starts) and a new cyborg hero. The action of the story is straight out of a silver age comic book (the villian says things out-loud like “Who dares?” and “In the coming era I will rule the world, as is my right.”) but the inner lives of the two narrators are complex and authentic.

Grossman will be reading at the Bookslut Reading Series on Wednesday, June 27 at 8:00pm at the Stop Smiling Storefront (1371 N. Milwaukee). Nick Bertozzi (The Salon) and Paul Hornschemeier (The Three Paradoxes) will also be reading.

Punk Planet folds

Chicago’s Punk Planet magazine has been hit by distributor bankruptcy woes and is ceasing publication with issue 80 (the website and book imprint will continue). Tom Breihan at the Village Voice remembers what Punk Planet meant to him:

I don’t know if I can in good conscience call Punk Planet a consistently great magazine. Their reviews section was always butt-ass terrible, an overlong string of three-sentence snippets on self-released seven-inches that nobody would ever really need to hear. PP usually had some really long and ranty political articles, which I’d usually not read and then feel vaguely guilty for not reading, like I wasn’t doing my punk duty or whatever. It also had a sex-advice columnist who usually made sex sound like the most tedious thing on the face of the earth. Still, I’m not sure I can adequately describe how important a magazine Punk Planet was for me.

(Chicago-related publisher McSweeney’s is also struggling from a different distributor’s bankruptcy and is having a big sale in response. You can pick the new book Comedy by the Numbers, co-written by the Annoyance Theater‘s Gary Rudoren, for a cool $10. And Gary will be reading from the book at Quimby’s (1854 W North) with Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk on Sunday, June 24.)
(via Bookslut and Gapers Block)

It is not a beach book

A heads up for those of us who have summer reading lists. Kevin Davis was on WBEZ talking about his recently published book, “Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago’s Cook County Public Defender’s Office” . This is not going to be light, summer reading. However this is a book that focuses on one of Chicago’s least understood civic treasures–the Public Defender’s Office.

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The Jolly Library

I’ve been debating whether or not to write about this, but it just hit Boing Boing, so that changed my decision.The Illinois General Assembly passed HB1727 on May 2.This bill, known as the Internet Screening Library Act, requires that public libraries throughout the state “must have a technology protection measure to prevent the display on a public computer of any visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.” Okay, they want to protect children from the nasty things found online, so far so good.Here’s the second provision: “Allows a public library to disable the technology protection measure for an adult engaged in legitimate research or some other lawful purpose. Provides that the Internet safety policy must provide for the disablement of the technology protection measure by an employee of the public library upon the request of a minor to use the computer for legitimate research or some other lawful purpose if that minor is adequately supervised for the duration of the minor’s use of the computer by an individual who is 21 years of age or older.”That’s where things get a little tough. Everything under certain keywords will be disabled. Okay, no need to talk about the jollies at the library anyway, no problem, right? Well, the folks at Boing Boing have filtered this comment: what happens when someone is looking up health-related stuff, like breast enlargement or breast cancer? That person will have to ask the librarians to turn off the filter.A second problem: staff and funding. Anytime a kid wants to use the Internet, he or she will have to be sitting next to a staff member. If staff members are sitting watching kids on the web, who is checking out books or helping people with questions? Some libraries are worried that they won’t be given the proper amount of funding, so as to not perjure themselves, may have to shut off access to the Internet in the library.I believe the Internet is a critical aspect of the goal of the library and feel that, while this bill strives to protect library patrons, it ultimately winds up hurting library users more than helping them. It’s with the state senate now, so there’s still time to contact your representative.


Literago is a new website from Chicago writers and editors Gretchen Kalwinski and Eugenia Williamson devoted to the literary scene in Chicago. There’s a calendar of upcoming events, reviews of past readings, occasional essays, and frequent bulletins. Their RSS feeds don’t seem to be working, which means I’ll never keep up with the site, but hey…

(via Bookslut)

BYOB (Book or Bottle, Both Apply)

Barnes and Noble hardly needs the publicity, but I’m a big fan of wine, so here goes. Jane Iversen, the author of BYOB CHICAGO, will be speaking tomorrow at the Barnes and Noble in Webster Place (1441 W. Webster). She’s scheduled to speak at 3pm.My hunch is that she can tell you where to find some great Chicago restaurants.

National Library Worker Day

Yes, folks, as part of National Library Week, today is National Library Worker Day. I’m not sure if Hallmark has an appropriate card for this one or not, but now may be a great time to thank your library workers for all of the hearts and rainbows they give you while checking out books.

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