Chicago

Bon anniversaire to two literary legands

September 21, 2012
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Bon anniversaire to two literary legands

September 19th marked two major birthdays for twentieth-century (and beyond) letters—and lucky are we to share in their celebration. The celebrated figures in question couldn’t be more distinct—Roger Grenier, a writer and champion of fine arts and culture, a former student of Gaston Bachelard, whose editorial finesse helped shape French publisher Gallimard into a global force, once described by the Guardian as possessing, “the best backlist in the world”; and Mike Royko (1932–97), Pulitzer Prize–winning Chicago newspaper columnist and author whose local-boy-does-good commentaries and investigative journalism became the mouthpiece of the city he called home. Grenier turned 93 on Wednesday, the same day his new collection of short stories Brefs récits pour une longue histoire was published in his native France. The author of more than thirty works of fiction, essay collections, and prose, Grenier is perhaps best known in the United States for the iconic vignettes on offer in The Difficulty of Being a Dog, translated by Alice Kaplan and published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000. This spring will usher in the publication of Grenier’s A Box of Photographs, and with it, his candid reflections on the history of photography. The depth and breadth of his . . .

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Art Shay on Muddy Waters (including a previously unpublished photograph)

August 6, 2012
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Art Shay on Muddy Waters (including a previously unpublished photograph)

Muddy Waters and his wife Geneva in Chicago, 1951. Image copyright and courtesy of: Art Shay. Thanks to Paul Berlanga of the Steven Daiter Gallery. *** From our editorial director Alan Thomas: The 100th birthday of the great bluesman Muddy Waters arrives next April, but a recent encounter with an extraordinary (and previously unpublished) photograph of Waters prompts us to start the celebration early. It was made in Chicago in 1951 by photographer Art Shay, who himself celebrated a birthday this past spring—his 90th. Shay is a favorite of ours; his prodigious body of work includes the most memorable images we have of Nelson Algren’s Chicago. He shared his recollections of this photograph for us: “The editor of the New Yorker ended his review of the new Keith Richards book Life with a plangent line from Richards asserting he could never be as good as Muddy Waters or as black. I met the generally acknowledged Father of Rock and his wife Geneva in 1951. Time magazine had sent me to the south side club in which he was performing. I arrived early as usual and there he was, strumming his guitar and cuddling his woman in the hallway. Slivers of . . .

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Police Power and Twenty-First Century America

May 21, 2012
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Police Power and Twenty-First Century America

I. In Cop Knowledge: Police Power and Twentieth-Century America, Christopher P. Wilson writes about narratives of police power in mass culture—from crime fiction and film to the denizens of contemporary political discourse who make use of the squad room, the beat, and the badge. His conclusion? That the stories we tell about police power are intimately linked to the course and outcome of modern liberalism, including a current resurgence of neoconservatism. II. In January 2003, Slavoj Žižek penned the article “Gerhard Schroeder’s Minority Report and Its Consequences,” which explored themes from Steven Spielberg’s adaptation (2002) of the Philip K. Dick short story—in which criminals are arrested before they can commit their crimes, thanks to the efforts of a specialized police department, working under the government’s protective wing. For Žižek (and also for Spielberg, who went on the record), the police state evoked by the film was clearly transposed to U.S. international relations post-9/11, where the Bush doctrine suggested with a heavy hand that American military might should remain “beyond challenge” in the foreseeable future. Žižek goes on in the piece to point out the election of Gerhard Schroeder—the German Social Democrat, and a candidate who ran on a platform against the U.S. occupation of . . .

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Studs Terkel: A Centenary Remembrance

May 16, 2012
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Studs Terkel: A Centenary Remembrance

STUDS TERKEL (1912–2008) “I love thee, infamous city!” Baudelaire’s perverse ode to Paris is reflected in Nelson Algren’s bardic salute to Chicago. No matter how you read it, aloud or to yourself, it is indubitably a love song. It sings, Chicago style: a haunting, split-hearted ballad. Perhaps Ross Macdonald said it best: “Algren’s hell burns with a passion for heaven.” In this slender classic, first published in 1951 and, ever since, bounced around like a ping-pong ball, Algren tells us all we need to know about passion, heaven, hell. And a city. He recognized Chicago as Hustler Town from its first prairie morning as the city’s fathers hustled the Pottawattomies down to their last moccasin. He recognized it, too, as another place: North Star to Jane Addams as to Al Capone, to John Peter Altgeld as to Richard J. Daley, to Clarence Darrow as to Julius Hoffman. He saw it not so much as Janus-faced but as the carny freak show’s two-headed boy, one noggin Neanderthal, the other noble-browed. You see, Nelson Algren was a street-corner comic as well as a poet. He may have been the funniest man around. Which is another way of saying he may have been . . .

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Chicago 1968 >>>>>>>> Chicago 2012

May 15, 2012
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Chicago 1968 >>>>>>>> Chicago 2012

INTRODUCTION We choose our aphorisms wisely. George Santayana cautioned us against our doom in repeating the past and we pushed it to the point of cliché. Let’s incant with Karl Kraus, instead. “The ugliness of our time has retroactive force.” BODIES This coming weekend brings the 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) twenty-fifth anniversary summit to Chicago, exactly almost a half-century after we hosted the 1968 Democratic National Convention. We’ve traded Daleys for Rahm; our police force is run by a former football player instead of a former army provost-marshall; and the odds of inadvertently thwacking Dan Rather in the stomach have been significantly reduced by his retirement from network television— According to NATO’s website, the organization has a threefold focus for their meeting: the Alliance’s commitment to Afghanistan through transition and beyond; ensuring the Alliance has the capabilities it needs to defend its population and territory and to deal with the challenges of the 21st century; and strengthening NATO’s network of partners across the globe. According to the Nation, Occupy Chicago’s social network and media feeds, and Timeout Chicago, those protestors native to Chicago and in town for anti-NATO demonstrations have prepared for dialogue and protests surrounding the summit . . .

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The Academy of Ebert

February 28, 2011
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The Academy of Ebert

While recovering from watching an Academy Awards broadcast helmed by a blasé multiplatform performance artist or two, we got to thinking about Chicago’s own cinematic rex. Or rather, he got us thinking, with a simple Tweet stating the obvious: “Is James Franco the first PhD candidate to host the Oscars?” Of course, we thought! This is probably the only time the Oscars have featured a host who may or may not be a regular at the Beineke Library. But in the middle of trying to read James Franco as a cipher for contemporary subjectivity—whose Method is this? Schneeman, not Strasberg, right?—we had forsaken simplicity. As ebertchicago had so aptly advanced in 140 characters or less: Whoa. The Academy met the academy. But Roget Ebert has long delivered pithy bites of criticism unflinchingly avoidant of the kind of postmodern meta-analysis James Franco probably delivers in his seminar papers. Ebert the man, like Ebert the Twitter feed, requires no introduction. In spite of this, a recent playbill for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Friday Night at the Movies tribute admirably attempted one: Through his decades of Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism, groundbreaking television work with Gene Siskel, acclaimed yearly film festival, and now his . . .

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The Reader, Mr. Rosenbaum

October 28, 2010
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The Reader, Mr. Rosenbaum

If you watch movies and read blogs about watching movies, or blog with movie-like aplomb and thus spend your days (sort of like I do) plaintively “watching” the Internet, then Jonathan Rosenbaum is a man who needs no introduction. He certainly deserves a better one, no? Preeminent critic, global film connoisseur, former bandmate of Chevy Chase, opiner of Dead Man and op-ed penner upon the death of Ingmar Begman, Rosenbaum has been one of the most important figures in American film journalism for more than a quarter of a century. His most recent book Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition collects fifty pieces of his astute criticism from the past four decades, each of which showcases his passion for the way we view movies, as well as how we write about them. The book and its author have been receiving quite a bit of attention lately from outlets as varied as the films Rosenbaum engages, like the Onion‘s A.V. Club: Ceaselessly prolific, frighteningly well-informed on seemingly every detail of film history, and well ahead of the technological curve, Jonathan Rosenbaum has championed and contextualized many films in his 40 years as a critic. When print film criticism flourished, . . .

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David Royko on his father’s birthday

September 20, 2010
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Dad, a.k.a. Mike Royko, would have turned 78 yesterday, Sunday, September 19, and if he were still around, I would not greet him with a “Happy Birthday.” Many people, men and women alike, especially after a “certain age,” prefer to ignore their birthdays and wish the world would too. But the rest of us prefer to ignore their wishes and gleefully rub the day in the birthday boys’ and girls’ faces. Hey, we all get older, so get over it, right? Dad, though, was different. On September 19, 1979, Carol—Mom—died. He’d loved her since they were kids, married her when they were very young adults, and lost her on his 47th birthday. They had been coming up on their 25th wedding anniversary. She was 44. And that was it for birthdays. I might’ve tried a quiet, mumbled “happy birthday” one year, but the reaction, the grunt and turning-away, taught me not to try it again. So year after year, I’d try to find some excuse to stop by, either his home or down at the paper, and casually drop something off, like a book or CD, and never with any mention of why. He’d accept it with a quick “Oh, . . .

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In Which the Chicago Blog Makes an Important Announcement about the Mayoral Race

September 8, 2010
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In Which the Chicago Blog Makes an Important Announcement about the Mayoral Race

In the day since Mayor Daley’s surprise announcement that he won’t be seeking another term, speculation has run rampant and the rumor mill has been pulling twenty-four-hour shifts. So we thought we should be clear: unlike seemingly every other resident of our fair city, the Chicago Blog will not be running for mayor. Sure, we’ve got more than a century of accumulated knowledge about the City That Works (and how it works). And no candidate can come close to matching our backlist. But the rough and tumble of politics just isn’t for us. We’re more contemplative. Bookish, you might say. That doesn’t mean we don’t have some recommendations for those who are throwing their hats in the ring. First up are some good starting points for assessing Daley’s legacy—if you want to replace the king, you ought to take a close look at the crown first. Larry Bennett’s brand-new . . .

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Royko on ABC 7 News

September 3, 2010
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More television coverage of Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol. Last night David Royko sat down with WLS-TV news reporter Janet Davies: . . .

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