Chicago

Martin Preib reads from The Wagon

April 23, 2010
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Martin Preib reads from The Wagon

In the latest episode of our podcast, Chicago Audio Works, Chicago Police officer, author, one-time doorman, union organizer, and bouncer Martin Prieb reads from his new book The Wagon and Other Stories from the City and answers a few questions about his work and writing. Inspired by Preib’s daily life as a policeman—as well as his many other experiences working in the Windy City’s service sector—The Wagon offers a view of city life from the vantage point of one of it’s newest most trenchant, and authentic chroniclers. With material that ranges from noir-like reports of police work to streetwise meditations on life and darkly humorous accounts of his other occupations, The Wagon brings the city of Chicago to life in ways that readers will long remember. For more read this review in this week’s issue of the Chicago Reader (scroll down to the bottom of the page), or read a story from the book: “Body Bags.” Hear more readings, interviews, and other features from our authors on Chicago Audio Works. . . .

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Where Justice Stevens comes from

April 9, 2010
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Where Justice Stevens comes from

Illinois is perhaps unique for having fostered the careers of both some of the most upstanding, and of course, most corrupt political figures the nation has ever known. This morning various papers are reporting that a member of the former camp, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, has announced his retirement. His long career in the nation’s highest court has spanned nearly four decades and seven presidencies, and though an appointee of the Ford administration, he is notable for having maintained a non-partisan and adaptable stance towards many issues from the right to choose to affirmative action. You can navigate to just about any news source for more on the final chapter in Justice Stevens’ Supreme Court career, but perhaps the more engrossing read is the story of its beginnings, embroiled the kind of dramatic struggle between darkness and light that only a city like Chicago can deliver. Kenneth A. Manaster’s Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most spectacular Illinois political scandals (and there have been many) to tell the tale of the beginning of Stevens ascension to the high court. In 1969, while . . .

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Why Blair Kamin Matters

March 12, 2010
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Why Blair Kamin Matters

In a recent essay in the journal Places (part of the Design Observer group), Nancy Levinson argues against the recent trend of globe-trotting architecture criticism and proposes instead a return to local expertise. Of the current criticism, she writes: “You’ve got the editorial charge to be national and international, like the rest of the paper, and you’ve got the budget to roam. So you rack up the datelines: Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Moscow, Stuttgart, Basel, etc. etc. But the view from the tower is broad not sharp, panoramic but not particular. The inevitable result is that you are writing at the thin edge of scant knowledge: you are critiquing places you know only as a tourist, and buildings you know only from brief and usually tightly programmed visits, often in the company of the watchful designer. This is no way to gain meaningful experience or serious knowledge of a building or landscape or how it fits within its local setting and larger environs. But of the future of criticism, she singles out several critics (including Michael Sorkin, whose Twenty Minutes in Manhattan we distribute for Reaktion Books) who are “ somehow… deglamorize the global, to make it . . .

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Life behind a badge in Chicago

March 8, 2010
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Life behind a badge in Chicago

John Kass’s column in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune discussed Chicago police officer Martin Prieb’s forthcoming book The Wagon and Other Stories from the City—an authentic chronicle of life behind the badge on the gritty streets of Chicago. As Tribune columnist John Kass writes: about the real Chicago, the city of tribes, the city many of you know, not that fictional metropolis sometimes offered in magazines and TV shows.… There are no blonds in red dresses. No detectives with cleft chins.… And if there’s a hero, the hero is an intelligent man trying to figure things out. And from his first assignment driving the police wagon that hauls away the dead, to his run-ins with gangbangers and drunk yuppies while patrolling his beat on Chicago’s North Side, the perceptively crafted stories in Preib’s new book offer a uniquely insightful account of both the life of a Chicago cop and the city itself. For more read Kass’s article on the Chicago Tribune website. The Wagon and Other Stories from the City will publish May 2010. . . .

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Ben Hecht’s “Journalism Extraordinary”

March 1, 2010
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Ben Hecht’s “Journalism Extraordinary”

Yesterday was the birthday of Ben Hecht. Though best known for his second career as a Hollywood screenwriter (he won an Oscar for 1927’s Underworld and wrote or contributed to some of the most beloved films of all time), Hecht cut his teeth as a Chicago journalist before he headed west. Writing for the Chicago Daily News, he penned an enormously popular column called A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, which was assembled into a book in 1922 that bought Hecht his first dose of fame. A timeless caricature of urban American life in the jazz age, Hecht’s book captured 1920s Chicago in all its furor, intensity, and absurdism. From the glittering opulence of Michigan Avenue to the darkest ruminations of an escaped convict, from captains of industry to immigrant day laborers, he embodied many voices and many lives. As the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Hecht is attempting to do for Chicago something of what Dickens did for London; he stands appalled before the spectacle of the streets with their tumultuous, mysterious throngs.” The Press reissued A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago last year. Featuring sixty-four columns illustrated with striking pen drawings by Herman Rosse, our new . . .

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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

March 1, 2010
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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

With the Supreme Court due to hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging Chicago’s ban on handguns in the city, Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight aired the second of a two part special on the history of Chicago’s ban this morning. On the program contributor Robert Loerzel walks through some of the major events—including the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing riots on Chicago’s South Side, the assassination of J.F.K., and even the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II—that helped to gain public support for Chicago’s handgun ordinance. But despite the mountains of negative publicity that guns have received, especially in the nation’s urban centers, the question of whether allowing people to own or carry guns deters violent crime still remains. Back in 2000 the University of Chicago Press published one of the most influential and controversial books on the issue, John R. Lott, Jr.’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Slated for an updated third edition later this month, Lott’s book employs some of the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever conducted on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws to directly challenge common perceptions about the relationship between guns, crime, and . . .

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Key ingredients for “baking up a good school”

February 25, 2010
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Key ingredients for “baking up a good school”

In an article that appeared in yesterday’s Chicago Journal, reporter Megan Cottrell offers a nice summary of the results of a study conducted by researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research and recently published in Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. The study, conducted over a seven-year period, aimed to track the effects of the 1988 decentralization of the Chicago Public School system—a move that granted parents and communities significant resources and authority to reform schools. But, as Cottrell notes, the researchers found that the results of these reforms varied greatly from school to school, some dramatically improving the academic performance of their students, while others floundered. In their book, Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton have sifted through mountains of data to identify the key ingredients required to, as Cottrell’s article puts it, ‘bake up a good school.” Cotrell writes: A good school, it turns out, is a lot like a cake. Put in sugar, eggs and oil, but forget the flour, and all you end up with is a sweet, sloppy mess. Without all the right ingredients, success will continually evade you. It all starts with the chef. . . .

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The New Republic‘s The Book website reviews Chicago

January 26, 2010
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The New Republic‘s The Book website reviews Chicago

The New Republic has just debuted its new online book reviews site, and in the midst of clicking around we were pleased to note that The Book as it’s called, is featuring one of our titles amongst its inaugural reviews. In an article posted to the site last Wednesday, Harvard economist Edward L. Gleaser reviews Dominic A. Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography—a thoroughly detailed and uncommonly intimate portrait of the city and its inhabitants written by a native Chicagoan. In his piece Glaeser inventories a few of the main topics in the book including Chicago’s rapid industrial growth in the early 20th century, the city’s role in the invention of the skyscraper, and Pacyga’s unique focus on the stories of the city’s working class. Navigate to TNR‘s The Book to read the full review and see a gallery of photographs from the book. . . .

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What can we learn from the Chicago public schools?

January 22, 2010
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What can we learn from the Chicago public schools?

Elaine Allensworth, co-author of a new study recently released by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, was invited on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight yesterday to discuss the book’s findings. The book tracks the effects over a twenty year period of the radical program of reform put in place by the Illinois General Assembly in 1988—a program which has utilized some controversial tactics to accomplish its goals from the consolidation of students, to staff replacements, to wholesale school closures. Listen in as Allensworth and others deliver an insightful analysis of the project to reform Chicago’s public school system on the Chicago Public Radio website, then read an excerpt from Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. . . .

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Chicago through the eye of a poet

January 8, 2010
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Chicago through the eye of a poet

The Tribune‘s Julia Keller recently penned an article about a man who knows the city “like the back of his hand,”—and is one of its most prominent writers—Reginald Gibbons, whose evocative collection of writing about our fair city in Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories comes out April 2010. Though a native of Houston, Gibbons’ new collection reveals that his muse is clearly the city of Chicago, where he has lived and taught for many years as a professor of English at Northwestern University. As Keller writes: It was coming to Chicago—a place in which, to Gibbons’ eye, the past and present commingle in rackety yet luminous profusion—that truly set fire to his imagination, he says. “I got such a powerful feeling in Chicago, a feeling I’ve never gotten in New York—the historical echo of the spaces downtown, the feeling that everyone who has ever worked here is still here. There’s a profoundly good feeling of being connected with the generations.” And in Slow Trains Overhead Gibbons combines this connection to the city of Chicago with his inimitable command of language to capture what it’s really like to live in this remarkable city. Embracing a striking variety of human . . .

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