The newest installment from Chicago- and Aspen-based author Catherine O’Connell is “Well Read and Dead,” a continuation from the story of heroine Pauline Cook in “Well Bred and Dead.” Pauline experiences new locales and people in the second novel, while still upholding her persona O’Connell affectionately refers to as “a snob with a heart.” O’Connell’s main inspirations for “Well Read” include her experience in wine trade, her friendship with David Grafton (whose death influenced her first novel) and her life in Aspen. “Well Read and Dead” is no flake piece of chick lit. “The novel gives me the opportunity to write a murder mystery while underneath the surface it is also a satirical piece,” O’Connell says. Elements of high society are present; however there are issues that stray from glitz and glamour. “I always have messages [in my writing] if readers want to find them.” O’Connell touches on societal issues in “Well Read” and the concept that there is “‘no one better than I, and no one lesser than I.’ I like to show that they’re all the same.” She reads from the book Thursday at Book Cellar.
Think of it as sort of a literary event for writers with ADD. Created several years ago by former “This American Life” producer Starlee Kine and cartoonist—and former Chicago resident—Arthur Jones, the Post-It Note series is exactly as you’d imagine, writers and illustrators presenting works on Post-It Notes, with a little help from a slide projector. The charming method of storytelling came to life years ago when Jones worked as a graphic designer at a marketing company; Kine had booked a literary event at Hideout and asked Jones—who was not a writer—to contribute a piece. The doodles Jones crafted at work out of shear boredom became his inspiration as he conjured a tale through the little sticky Notes, projected it onstage and narrated. The pair have a come a long way since, striking a deal to draw twelve animated shorts for Lexus and even performing at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival. Tonight, the day after Jones and Kine’s appearance for the “This American Life” taping at the Chicago Theatre, they bring the Post-It Note series to Hideout, where “This American Life” contributor David Wilcox and local artist Derek Erdman supply stories as well. (Tom Lynch)
The Post-It Note Reading Series takes place April 20 at Hideout, 1444 West Wabansia, at 8pm. $8.
It is somehow continually surprising to discover how many of America’s essential writers were eccentrics, outsiders: in exile, even at home. Herman Melville was forgotten in his lifetime. Richard Wright found refuge from the rage of his youth in existentialism.
Even John Cheever, whom so many readers encountered in the gentile visage emblazoned on the back of his Pulitzer Prize-winning collected stories, was a lonely, equivocal visitor in the suburban world to which his name has since become synonymous.
The 1991 publication of Cheever’s ribald, deeply sad and erotically bisexual journals punched open a new personal dimension to this persona. Now we have an even wider, clearer window into Cheever’s life: this fabulous, enormously enjoyable biography by Blake Bailey, the author of a previous book about another troubled, hard-drinking mythologizer of suburbia, Richard Yates. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Ginoli founded Pansy Division in early-nineties San Francisco out of frustration more than anything else, to confront typical gay stereotypes and show that there are no boundaries, no limitations, in music. The pop-punk band—which consisted of all openly gay members—released its first record in 1993 on Lookout!, and by 1994 had some mainstream success with second album “Deflowered.” (The group opened for Green Day on the “Dookie” tour.) Unknowingly, Pansy Division had helped spearhead the Queercore movement, with a little help from some good-spirited, filth-laced lyrics. Ginoli’s written a memoir chronicling his experiences in the band—a band that’s still making records—called “Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division,” and as far as rock ‘n’ roll autobiographies go, it’s a terrifically fun read. You get your typical rock band stuff-the band fights, the label battles, the sex and dope-but with Ginoli’s bent, it seems to have, hmm, more purpose? (Tom Lynch)
Jon Ginoli reads from “Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division” April 8 at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North, (773)342-0910, at 7pm. Free.
Tony Fitzpatrick, "Our Joe"
Editor’s Note: Nelson Algren was born 100 years ago this very day, on March 28, 1909
By Jeff McMahon
This is the story of the broken heart of a man, the rusty heart of a city, and how they got all tangled up as one. Like a lot of us, he learned hope and heartbreak first from a baseball team, then from bruising bouts with love, then from the city in which he lived, but unlike a lot of us, he never learned to play along, never stopped seeing the way things are contrasted against the way things ought to be, never stopped championing the nobodies nobody knows—for there, he wrote, beats Chicago’s heart. He followed his own beat straight to the place where pride will lead you every time—to poverty and exile—while describing Chicago as no one had since Carl Sandburg and as no one has again. And save for the devotion of a peculiar few, the City of Big Shoulders shrugged him off. Read the rest of this entry »
The Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago is hosting its 10th Annual Edible Books Show & Tea event on Wednesday, an event hosted at various venues across the globe in which artists, chefs and book lovers whip up recipes and create books that are made to be eaten. “It’s a fundraiser for the Center for Book and Paper Arts equipment fund,” says Steve Woodall, Director of the Book & Paper Center at Columbia. “This is something that’s been going on since 1999 and it was kind of the brainchild of Judith Hoffberg, who was the founder, and she died a couple months ago. And so part of this year’s event is a tribute to Judith and part is connected to Ray Bradbury.” This year’s Big Read sponsored by the Chicago Public Library is “Fahrenheit 451″-themed, and the Edible Book event will do its best to honor that. “It’s an open invitation for anyone who wants to make one!” Woodall continues. “If you bring an edible book with you, you get into the event free. It’s a really fun, kind of informal and interesting event. The winner last year was an edible book called ‘The Velveeta Rabbit’ that was a rabbit carved out of Velveeta. Somebody [else] made a tablet out of marzipan and a scroll out of pie dough, so it’s just kind of a fun, somewhat surreal event.” The event starts at 6pm at the Columbia College Library.
Acclaimed novelist and essayist Mary Gaitskill comes to Harold Washington to discuss her career, which, to the frustration of many, has only produced two books and three collections of short stories since the publishing of her first, “Bad Behavior,” in 1988. Maybe it’s for the best, however, as an overabundance of Gaitskill’s various tales of sexuality, sadomasochism, death and self-image would shove some of us over the edge. Her work is haunting not because of the explicit content, but because of her writing’s humanity, life’s treachery, the comfort-and discomfort-found in everyday pain. “Veronica,” Gaitskill’s 2005 novel, focused on two female friends, one who has contracted AIDS. This is no tearjerker. You want sugar, give Mitch Albom a ring. “Don’t Cry” is her newest collection of shorts, released just this week, at it features more snapshots of lives lived with thunderously beating, profusely bleeding hearts. (Tom Lynch)
Mary Gaitskill discusses “Don’t Cry” March 26 at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm, as part of the “Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman” series. The event is free.
By Tom Lynch
On an unusually warm and muggy evening in early March, a sizeable crowd has gathered at Andersonville’s Women and Children First Bookstore, all here to help celebrate the release of “Ruins,” local author Achy Obejas’ new novel. All seats taken, some are forced to stand in the back, near the table that supports the bottles of champagne and large white cake, with the book’s title and the author’s name scribbled across it in edible coloring. After a few announcements, Achy’s introduced, and she sweetly refers to W&C as “home base”; her reading’s received well-everyone’s here to see her, after all-and afterwards, you get the sense she’s relieved by the audience’s lack of questions, that she’d rather not be at the center, with all eyes on her. Either that or she wants to hit the booze and cake as soon as possible.
“I still get really nervous,” Obejas says. “Nobody believes me when I say that, but I still get insanely nervous about reading.” Read the rest of this entry »
Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 continues Thursday and Friday, kicking off with an event featuring the school’s playwriting students, who stage scenes from their work, at Film Row Cinema on Wabash. Later in the day at the same venue a panel discussion ensues, titled “On the Rise: Chicago Theater and Beyond,” featuring About Face Theatre Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar, Goodman’s Tanya Palmer and Oobleck Theatre genius Mickle Maher. Friday offers a conversation with “The Girl on the Fridge” author Etgar Keret at Hokin Annex, plus a celebration of F Magazine, with Keret, Mort Castle, Augustus Rose and Betty Shiflett, later in the evening. The big event is Thursday night’s “Literary Rock & Roll” party at Metro, featuring Nami Mun, Lydia Millet and “Lush Life” author Richard Price. You should never miss an opportunity to see Price. (Tom Lynch)
Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 runs through March 20; visit colum.edu/storyweek for complete details.
The Newberry Library’s latest exhibition, “Hidden Then Found: Women’s Stories from the Newberry Manuscript Collections,” is the result of happenstance. While the library’s special-collections curators were combing through Chicago Daily News reporter Robert J. Casey’s manuscripts, they had stumbled across his wife Hazel MacDonald’s work from the first half of the twentieth century. Realizing that MacDonald, as well as fellow journalists Kay Ashton-Stevens, Emily Hahn and Georgie Anne Geyer, deserve a chance in the spotlight, curators “thought it would be an interesting concept to feature their work and highlight their accomplishments,” says the exhibit’s curator Lisa Janssen. In honor of Women’s History Month, “Hidden Then Found” is a tribute to their struggles as well as their groundbreaking contributions in journalism. The exhibit, which runs through Saturday, showcases the women’s experiences through photographs, newspaper clippings and personal letters. The exhibit is part of the library’s Spotlight Series, “which highlights new materials that the Newberry Library has acquired,” Janssen says.