Kevin Smokler, “Practical Classics” author reads at The Book Cellar


Photo by Julie Michelle, courtesy of
Photo by Julie Michelle, courtesy of

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,, to learn more about the author and his works.

Author Event: Ben Hollander And Todd Hasak-Lowy

07/09/2013 7:00 pm

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 AmericanVigilanceRituals 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 TranslatorCaptives, 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.

Publishers Weekly reviews My Postwar Life

My Postwar Life: New Writings from Japan and Okinawa
Edited by Elizabeth McKenzie. Chicago Quarterly Review Books (, $19.95 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-0-9847788-0-5

This engaging anthology of short fiction, essays, poetry, photography, and more illuminates the interconnected past of the U.S. and Japan, from WWII up to 2011’s earthquake. Ryuta Imafuku’s essay, “Nagasaki. And Scattered Islets of Time,” is a walk through the suspended reality of post-atomic Nagasaki, accompanied by Shomei Tomatsu’s powerful photos of burn victims, detritus, and seared bamboo stalks. Deni Y. Béchard’s story, “The Deleted Line,” tells of Yukio, a translator who censors a textbook regarding the Battle of Okinawa and is subsequently reprimanded by an old karate master, who explains that to erase the past is “like saying we must let go of our minds, of our spirits.” “The Emperor and the Mayor” is Stephen Woodhams’ candid interview with Hitoshi Motoshima, former mayor of Nagasaki, who was castigated by some for blaming Emperor Shōwa for Japan’s role in WWII. Hiroshi Fukurai’s “Disaster Memories” investigates the radioactive threat of the recently damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and Noboru Tokuda’s beautifully illustrated diary from his stint as a young soldier in the Imperial Army during WWII is particularly moving. McKenzie’s (MacGregor Tells the World) collection is a stunning testament to a country’s literal rise from the ashes–casual readers and academics alike will find many of these selections rewarding and informative. Photos & illus. (Sept.)


Chicago Quarterly Review at Printer’s Row

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.

Come by the ‘L’ Tent June 9 & 10, 2012, and visit the Chicago Quarterly Review along with Academy Chicago Publishers, Anobium, BAC Street Journal, CityFiles Press, Damask Press{dancing girl press & studio}, I Shoot Rockstars, Kenning EditionsNeighborhood Writing Alliance, Quest Books, RCP Publications, The Handshake, Thompson Stamp Art, and Weighed Words!

My Postwar Life: A dive into the Japanese Psyche

Santa Cruz author dives into the Japanese psyche with new book on the lingering aftermath of World War II

Posted:   04/19/2012 01:30:04 AM PDT

It’s been more than 66 years since the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II. But, said novelist and editor Elizabeth McKenzie, for the people of Japan, the war’s aftermath is still unfolding.

“Everything reflects back on the shadow of the war. That topic comes up when you talk to people all the time. It is still present in people’s lives.”

McKenzie is the editor of a new book called “My Postwar Life: New Writings From Japan and Okinawa.” The Santa Cruz author of the books “Stop That Girl” and “MacGregor Tells the World” spent five months in Japan in 2010 after receiving an artist fellowship courtesy of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. It was while she was there that she began collecting essays, poems, fiction, photography, even a play about Japan’s continuing reaction to World War II from close to two dozen writers and artists.

“My grandmother was a physician who treated children with radiation sickness after the war,” said McKenzie, who will appear with several of her writers next Tuesday at Capitola Book Café. “And I went over there wanting to write a novel about that.”

McKenzie is also the editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review, and it was in that capacity that she began to explore a special issue of the CQR on Japan. The project then grew into a book, the first published by Chicago Quarterly Review Books.

“My Postwar Life” contains a wide variety of forms. For instance, Masataka Matsuda’s play “Park City” wrestles with the specter of Hiroshima. The book also features photographs of the lavishly illustrated diary of a soldier in the Japanese imperial army who survived the war and lived to be 97. It was translated by a UC Santa Cruz student.


“It is a really touching piece,” said McKenzie of the diary. “We had no idea what we were getting. Whatever it was, we wanted it, and then it turned out to be beautiful.”

But perhaps the most catalytic piece in “My Postwar Life” comes from Hitoshi Motoshima, the longtime mayor of Nagasaki, who generated considerable controversy 20 years ago when he suggested that Hirohito — the beloved emperor of Japan who at the time on his deathbed — bore some responsibility for the outcome of the war. Motoshima was widely denounced for his statement and a year later there was an assassination attempt made on his life, which he survived.

In “My Postwar Life,” McKenzie publishes, for the first time in English, Motoshima’s essay on the occasion of a peace memorial in Hiroshima.

“He basically explained why Hiroshima should not be the site of a world peace memorial,” she said, “that it is part of the war machine.”

Also included in the book is an account of McKenzie’s interview with Motoshima, who is now 90, written by her husband Stephen Woodhams.

McKenzie also enlarged her vision to include Okinawa, the islands south of Japan that are technically a region of that country. Okinawan writers, she said, insisted that their cultural experiences of the postwar period were distinct from that of the Japanese mainland.

Also contributing to the book is Karen Tei Yamashita, the UCSC faculty member who was a finalist for the National Book Award for her novel “I Hotel.” Yamashita contributed a foreword to the book.

CQR Volume 14 Release Party and Reading at AWP

Please join us for the release of Volume 14!  The evening will include readings by Volume 14 contributors Christopher Linforth, Karen T. Miller and Laura Sims, a meet and greet with CQR  editors and staff, and light refreshments.  This event is free and open to the public.

Friday, March 2, 2012
6:00-8:00 P.M.
Open Books Bookstore
213 West Institute Place
Chicago, IL 60610

See the flyer below for more details! We hope to see you there!

CQR 14 Launch Party Flyer


“Someone I’d like You to Meet” by CQR editor Elizabeth McKenzie in the Atlantic magazine’s Fiction 2011 special issue

CQR editor Elizabeth McKenzie’s short story “Someone I’d like You to Meet” was featured in The Atlantic Magazine’s Fiction 2011 special issue: it was one of only nine short stories in a special issue that traditionally showcases the best of contemporary fiction. 

McKenzie is also the author of Stop That Girl, a collection of short stories that was published in 2006 by Random House, and also MacGregor tells the World: A Novel, Random House 2007.

McKenzie has received a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction, and had a story chosen by Dave Eggers for his anthology Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is currently senior editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review. We’re looking forward to her next novel!

Upcoming Chicago Writing Events: Northwestern University’s Annual Spring Writer’s Festival

Next week Northwestern University’s Annual Writer’s Festival commences.  While writing workshops are open only to Northwestern students, author readings as well as a guided discussion by writers Brian Bouldrey, Rachel Webster, and Eula Biss are open to the public.

New to the Festival this year is author David Shields, whose controversial book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto has been heralded by James Wood of The New Yorker as “highly- problematic” and “imprecise” and by Chuck Klosterman as what “might be the most intense, thought- accelerating book of the last 10 years”.  Shields is also the author of New York Times Bestseller The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.  In his most recent anthology The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death twenty writers were asked to address the concept of death. Publishers Weekly names the result “a collection of extraordinary essays […].”

The festival begins on Tuesday April 12th at 5:30pm with a reading by Nami Mun, author of Miles from Nowhere.  Mun was named Best New Novelist by Chicago Magazine in 2009.  All public events take place at the Hilton Orrington of Evanston, Illinois.  Shields’ reading on April 14th at 5:30pm will conclude the festival.  You can read more about the conference and its authors here.


Novel release: To Be With Her, by Senior Editor Syed Afzal Haider

We’re very excited to announce the release of Senior Editor Syed Afzal Haider’s new novel, To Be With Her (Weavers Press). To mark the release of the novel, and the release of CQR 2010, readings will be held at the Booksmith in San Francisco on Thursday, November 11, 2010; and the Capitola Book Cafe on Monday, November 15, 2010 in Santa Cruz, California. Join us for this joint celebration which will feature Haider along with CQR contributors Timothy Crandle, Lynn Martin, Roberta Montgomery, Peter Sheehy, Don Skiles and Laura Wine Paster in San Francisco; John Chandler, Caitlyn He, Vanessa Hemingway, and Randy Splitter in Capitola.SyedAfzal