Chicago Quarterly Review Turns 20
Literary journal turns its lens toward its hometown
by Rick Kogan
The authors of the editors’ note that begins Volume 17/2014 of Chicago Quarterly Review: The Chicago Issue are justifiably thrilled that the publication has reached its 20th birthday: “We are amazed and humbled to look back at the hundreds of writers who have lent their work to our pages. If ever there were a testament to the exuberance of the Chicago writing scene, and the Chicago influence on the mind and psyche of those touched by the city, this is it.”
In this gathering of 54 writers and artists is some very good writing (fiction, nonfiction and poetry), some interesting visual art, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The editors say they hope to stimulate, entertain and inspire, and they do.
You will find here the work of a few of my erstwhile newspaper colleagues: Gary Houston, long gone from the Sun-Times, with a nonfiction entry; former Tribune editor and publisher Jack Fuller, with a short story titled “True With Time,” and former Tribune book editor/critic John Blades, who also serves as fiction editor of the review, with his “The Fourth Dementia” story.
Fuller and Blades have published novels, and they are joined here by former Tribune reporter Rogers Worthington with “Bugroast,” his first published short story.
The Chicago Reader’s Michael Miner breaks from his steady, decades-long stream of media columns and other musings to contribute three short poems, the first to reach the public since a couple were published in his ship’s newspaper when he served in the U.S. Navy.
The work of some of the city’s brightest young talents — Don De Grazia, Gina Frangello, Joe Meno and Christine Sneed among them — is here too, full of energy and coltish inventiveness. They are joined by veteran prose pros such as Rosellen Brown.
There is not a writer alive who will not benefit from reading “Writing and Publication,” Harry Mark Petrakis’ remembrance of his early stabs at writing, excerpted from his memoir, “Song of My Life,” due to be published next year. There is no one I can think of who has toiled more tirelessly and passionately for his place in the world of words than has Petrakis.
“What became apparent to me was the importance of revision,” he writes. “As I became more intensely involved with the writing of stories, I found myself revising beginnings and endings and certain crucial scenes through as many as eight to ten drafts.”
Also included here are three stories by local high school students, full of promise. These were the winners of the first Budding Literary Masters prizes, launched this year by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, which was created almost single-handedly by Donald G. Evans. Evans is a tireless sort who also has a piece for this volume, a sad-chilling story titled “The Princess of Portage Park.”
He orchestrated the fourth Hall of Fame induction ceremony this month at the Cultural Center. Inducted were Edna Ferber, Leon Forrest, L. Frank Baum, John H. Johnson, Thornton Wilder and Ben Hecht. (All inductions are posthumous.)
I would hope that those names register and that some of the names in this book will achieve whatever success or fame their words deserve. But I would also hope they realize that fame is tough to get and harder to hold.
If you want proof, it is in this issue of the review. In “The Paradox of Ben Hecht,” former Sun-Times’ reporter/columnist Jan Herman writes, “If Ben Hecht is remembered at all today, it is not for his novels. It is not even for his journalism or the movies he wrote, credited and uncredited, but for a more general reputation as the most successful screenwriter of his time.”
Rick Kogan is a Tribune senior writer and columnist.
“Chicago Quarterly Review: The Chicago Issue”
Edited by S. Afzal Haider and Elizabeth McKenzie, Chicago Quarterly Review, 373 pages, $16 paperback
The Bay Area contributors to CQR #16 read at Green Apple Books in San Francisco on October 28, 2013. Moazzam Sheikh read “Invisible Strands,” Yumi Wilson read “The Dog Park,” Jory Post read “Worm Tag,” and Alfredo Vea read “Every Goat on Earth.”
Alfredo Vea and Moazzam Sheikh
Elizabeth McKenzie, editor
The CQR-published essay “Among the Wakeful, These” by Kat Meads is now part of a collection, 2:12 a.m., just out from Stephen F. Austin State University Press.
Stephen F. Austin State University Press
Advance Praise for 2:12 a.m.
Kat Meads can be funny, eloquent, enlightening and exciting—all in one compelling essay after another. Her new collection is a book to buy and enjoy from beginning to end.
—Lee Gutkind, Founder and Editor, Creative Nonfiction; author of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction—from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between
The personal essay is not only alive but well, very well, in this excellent new collection by Kat Meads, chronic insomniac, who takes the reader on “a red-eye tour of the world at large and the world within,” from the swampy lowland of her North Carolina childhood, to California, to Vegas, to upstate New York, to St. Petersburg. It’s a lively trip with a guide full of insight, wit, curiosity, compassion, intelligence, and charm. Distinctive in style, beautifully paced, it offers what the personal essay does best, a traveling companion for our own journey, the chance to feel less lonely as we make our way through the world.
—Lee Zacharias, author of At Random and The Only Sounds We Make
Kat Meads’ 2:12 a.m. is a deeply engaging collection of essays whose subjects and locales range from Patty Hearst and atomic testing to Las Vegas wedding chapels and the Salton Sea, all considered through the lively intelligence of a brilliant insomniac who walks in her sleep and makes profound connections between childhood friends in the coastal village of her youth and the human tragedies of great literature and history. A lovely and provocative book.
—Philip Gerard, author of Down the Wild Cape Fear and Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life
This is a fascinating and original collection that takes us into a night world undreamt of by those who inhabit daytime complacencies. “Jilted by sleep,” left to the torments of “night at its stalker best,” Meads finds ways of making the best of it, engaging in a whimsical game of naming and remembering every bed she’s ever slept in, seeking explanations for why she and her sleep were so rudely parted, her mind ranging widely over such subjects as Patty Hearst, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Duchess of Windsor. She muses about the strange, haunting Insomnia Drawings of Louise Bourgeois, that artist of insomnia, inhabiting Bourgeois’ “nighttime imagination” as only one who has a nighttime imagination of her own could do. She has a wonderful eye for the surreal, whether she’s describing a visit to the Salton Sea or the Nevada Test Site or a hilarious sleepless wedding night in Las Vegas. There is much to think about here, and much to enjoy, not least of which is the author’s wonderfully supple style, sentences that do arabesque leaps from the wickedly funny to the lyrical and hauntingly evocative.
—Gayle Greene, author of Insomniac
Chicago Quarterly Review intern Angela is a second-year student at the University of Chicago. She is double majoring in Economics and Art History.
On campus, she is involved in The Blue Chips, the U of C’s student investment club, Moneythink, a national nonprofit with which she tutors South Side high school students in financial literary, and the University Ballet. She is also founding editor of Dax Magazine, a spontaneous brainchild of hers and some friends that they decided would be the first experimental literary and arts magazine on campus. They figured that if any time were a good time to experiment with uncanny or unexplored method, form, or content…well, college would probably be that time. Prior to Dax, Angela also served as blog editor for on-campus, student-run literary magazine Memoryhouse.
Angela’s adventure with the Chicago Quarterly Review spawned from an innocuous email back in the beginning of April 2013 asking if there was any work she could help with. Five months, tens of submissions, and some pages of HTML later, the time has come for her to bid the magazine goodbye. She is incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to work firsthand with such a distinctive and high-quality publication. She’d especially like to extend her thanks to head editor Elizabeth McKenzie for mentoring her through and through.
Angela is eager to see what the Chicago Quarterly Review puts together next. She can’t wait to get her hands on a copy of the upcoming issue.
Open Mic and Performance Event: Story Club Chicago
Where: Co-Prosperity Sphere, Bridgeport
When: Tuesday September 17, 8:00pm
Story Club Chicago is, according to the organization’s website, “like Fight Club. Except everyone tells stories instead of punching each other in the face. And everyone talks about Story Club. Everyone.”
Each month, the writers and performers of Story Club Chicago organize and host live lit performances, rewriting and rehearsing their pieces to a tee. In addition to Story Club featured pieces, shows include three eight-minute time slots of open mic opportunities for those in the audience who may be itching to read their from their latest work. Everybody wins.
Next Tuesday, September 17, at 8:00pm, Story Club will visit experimental culture center Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport. The theme of the upcoming show is “Duets,” each story being shared and performed by two tellers. The pairs to read include JH Palmer and Angela Benander, Katie Prout and Ellen LeKostaj, Anrew Marikis and Sarah Hollenbeck.
For those eager to share new work or those simply looking for a night of literary getting-to-know-you, visit the Co-Prosperity Sphere and spend your evening with Story Club. And talk about it afterwards.
the Department of Creative Writing
Columbia College Chicago
Nicole Wilson, David Trinidad & Tony Trigilio
Wednesday, September 18, 5:30p.m.
600 S Michigan Ave, Rm 101
The event is free and open to the public. Books available for sale; cash or credit accepted.
Photo Credit: none, Nick Carbo, and Jacob S. Knabb
NICOLE WILSON is the author of the chapbook Amazing Face (Phantom Limb Press) and the forthcoming collection Supper & Repair Kit (The Lettered Streets Press). A graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Columbia College Chicago, she lives and teaches in Ohio.
DAVID TRINIDAD’s most recent books are Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems (2011) and Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera (2013), both published by Turtle Point Press. His other books include The Late Show (2007), By Myself (with D.A. Powell, 2009), and Plasticville (2000). He is also the editor of a A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011).
TONY TRIGILIO‘s most recent books are White Noise (Apostrophe Books, 2013) and Historic Diary (BlazeVOX Books, 2011). He is the editor of Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments, forthcoming in 2014 from Ahsahta Press, and co-editor of Visions and Divisions: American Immigration Literature, 1870-1930 (Rutgers University Press, 2008). He also is the author of two books of criticism, Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007) and “Strange Prophecies Anew” (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2000). He directs the program in Creative Writing/Poetry at Columbia College Chicago and co-edits Court Green.
Author Event: Kevin Smokler
Where: The Book Cellar
When: Saturday September 7, 4:30pm CST
This Saturday September 7, visit the Book Cellar in Ravenswood to catch a brief glimpse into the minds of Kevin Smokler, author of Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School.
San Francisco-based writer Kevin Smokler is currently serving as writer-in-residence until next week at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, IL; assumedly, this is a good time to catch him while he is still in the Midwest. He will speak about his recent essay collection, Practical Classics. Smokler walks the reader through 50 different classic novels oft tied mentally to dimly lit, half-asleep high school English classrooms–think The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird–and show that they have something valuable to say about how to raise children well, or how to find a fulfilling career, or other adult matters a 16-year-old English student might not glean with equal enthusiasm from Scout Finch in a ham suit.
Smokler will speak at 4:30pm CST at the Book Cellar in Ravenswood. Visit his website, www.kevinsmokler.com, to learn more about the author and his works.
Author Event: Ben Hollander And Todd Hasak-Lowy
Stop by The Book Cellar to hear these two great authors share their work!
Benjamin Hollander was born in Haifa, Israel and as a boy immigrated to New York City. He presently lives on the west coast of North America. His books include: In the House Un-American,Memoir American, Vigilance, Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli, The Book of Who Are Was, How to Read, too, and, as editor, Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France.
Todd Hasak-Lowy grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. He earned a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkley where he started writing fiction. His books include The Task of This Translator, Captives, and 33 Minutes. His translation of Asaf Schurr’s novelMotti from Hebrew to English was a finalist for the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. Todd lives in Evanston with his family, and teaches Creative Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University.
The Printer’s Row Lit Fest is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 125,000 book lovers to the two-day show.
Please look for our our table at the AWP Conference in Chicago, February 29-March 3, 2012! Hope to see you there!
A worth cause and a place to volunteer or donate books: Open Books is a nonprofit social venture that operates an extraordinary bookstore, provides community programs, and mobilizes passionate volunteers to promote literacy in Chicago and beyond. We enhance lives through reading, writing, and theNEWSWORTHY power of used books.
To learn more about us and find out how you can get involved, visit us at http://www.open-books.org!
Habry, or The End of Snow, by Helen Degen Cohen
Habry, the name for blue cornflowers that grow along the edges of wheat fields in Poland. Habry, the poem from which the latest collection of poems by Helen Degen Cohen takes its title. Cohen writes about the holocaust that she and her parents survived. Her story is shattering and inspiring – her poems are too.