Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News, Chicago

Hack: Our free ebook for May


One of the taglines—the pithy paragraph-end to an initial piece of copy—for Dmitry Samarov’s Hack goes something like this: “And from behind the wheel of his taxi, Samarov has seen more of Chicago than most Chicagoans will hope to experience in a lifetime.” True words, Y/N?

I’d argue, “partially.” Part of what makes Hack such an appealing read is that its characters—the back-seat inhabitants of Samarov’s daily commutes through Chicago and its environs—are immediately recognizable as the kind of fully formed Greek chorus that shuffles and barks its way through contemporary urban life. But what makes them memorable isn’t just that easy familiarity. It’s the combination of Samarov’s prose and illustrations (many made from inside the cab) and how they perform a sleight of hand with our most basic Nelson Algren-ism: “Lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives.”

In Hack, these characters aren’t so much lost-on-the-verge-of-a-breakthrough as they are lost to the time and place of Chicago, inescapably caught up in strawberry-shake vomiting laps past McDonald’s drive-thrus and Marie’s Riptide Lounge; shapeshifting into an audience for tiny yapping lapdogs and overstuffed luggage stationed outside of mortgage-rarefied condo buildings in freshly gentrified alcoves; wearing the cowboy-style straw hats and Day-Glo bracelets of limited youth en route from Dyer, Indiana, to some place eternalized in the English language as the “Freakeasy.” Maybe they aren’t lost at all.

There are moments when you might wonder if Samarov is lost—a limited edition sort of portable participant-observer—until you get into the rhythm of the writing, and then you realize he’s right at home, and  you don’t want him to stop offering up his end of correspondence from this leggy human comedy, not now, not ever, whether or not it’s cab-side on a summer weekend, regardless of whether there’s a gas surcharge, and in spite of the fact that the radio rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life is really going to KEEP PLAYING all Christmas Eve long.

Anyhow: we recommend it. The trailer below expands a little more eloquently with Samarov’s own words. And it’s our free ebook for May, so click here to download your copy.