Chicago

Swimming in the Chicago River? Da Mare says it’s not likely

June 4, 2010
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Swimming in the Chicago River? Da Mare says it’s not likely

On Tuesday, news broke that the Obama administration had written a letter in April to the Illinois Pollution Control Board calling for efforts to make the Chicago River safe for swimming. Mayor Daley responded, with his characteristic verbal finesse, advising the feds to “go swim in the Potomac.” By Thursday, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the official body who oversees the river, chimed in, claiming, according to the Chicago Tribune, that “making the Chicago River safe enough for swimming would waste taxpayer money and put children at risk of drowning.” The MWRD also said “the river has been altered so dramatically that new efforts to improve water quality would not be worth the costs.” In addition to being dyed green every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (an effect achieved using orange dye), the Chicago River is most famous for having had its flow reversed in the nineteenth century (the river now runs away from the lake). But has the waterway been changed too much to make it healthy for swimming? The debate seems to have stopped at da Mare’s door, but if you are curious to read more about the river, we recommend paging through David M. Solzman’s The . . .

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The Wagon in the Wall Street Journal

May 12, 2010
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The Wagon in the Wall Street Journal

A new review of Martin Prieb’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City that ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal begins: Police thrillers are so widely read and police dramas so commonplace on television that many people think they have a good understanding of what a cop’s world is like. But in truth that world is seldom revealed with anything approaching verisimilitude. We get it with “The Wagon.” Commenting on the first story in the collection the review continues: As with police work itself, the book is only sporadically about gunfights, car chases and collaring criminals. Any television show that depicted the tedium of a police officer’s typical day wouldn’t draw much of an audience. In truth, most cops go through their entire careers without firing their weapon except on the practice range, but almost all of them are sooner or later called to deal with a dead body. Every cop, no matter how many he has encountered since, remembers his first one. But few cops are able to describe that rite of passage as convincingly as Mr. Preib does in “Body Bags.” And if won’t take the WSJ‘s word for it you can see for yourself by navigating . . .

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Press Release: Preib, The Wagon and Other Stories from the City

May 4, 2010
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Press Release: Preib, The Wagon and Other Stories from the City

Martin Preib is an officer in the Chicago Police Department—a beat cop whose first assignment as a rookie policeman was working on the wagon that picks up the dead. Over the course of countless hours driving the wagon through the city streets, claiming corpses and taking them to the morgue, arresting drunks and criminals and hauling them to jail, Preib took pen to paper to record his experiences. Inspired by Preib’s daily life as a policeman, The Wagon and Other Stories from the City chronicles the outer and inner lives of both a Chicago cop and the city itself. The book follows Preib as he transports body bags, forges a connection with his female partner, trains a younger officer, and finds himself among people long forgotten—or rendered invisible—by the rest of society. Preib recounts how he navigates the tenuous labyrinths of race and class in the urban metropolis, including a domestic disturbance call involving a gang member and his abused girlfriend and a run-in with a group of drunk yuppies. Preib’s accounts, all told in his breathtaking prose, range from noir-like reports of police work to streetwise meditations on life and darkly humorous accounts of other jobs in the city’s . . .

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Press Release: Gibbons, Slow Trains Overhead

April 29, 2010
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Press Release: Gibbons, Slow Trains Overhead

Few people writing today could successfully combine an intimate knowledge of Chicago with a poet’s eye, and capture what it’s really like to live in this remarkable city. Embracing a striking variety of human experience—a chance encounter with a veteran on Belmont Avenue, the grimy majesty of the downtown L tracks, domestic violence in a North Side brownstone, the wide-eyed wonder of new arrivals at O’Hare, and much more—these new and selected poems and stories by Reginald Gibbons celebrate the heady mix of elation and despair that is city life. With Slow Trains Overhead, he has rendered a living portrait of Chicago as luminously detailed and powerful as those of Nelson Algren and Carl Sandburg. Gibbons takes the reader from museums and neighborhood life to tense proceedings in Juvenile Court, from comically noir-tinged scenes at a store on Clark Street to midnight immigrants at a gas station on Western Avenue, and from a child’s piggybank to nature in urban spaces. For Gibbons, the city’s people, places, and historical reverberations are a compelling human array of the everyday and the extraordinary, of poverty and beauty, of the experience of being one among many. Penned by one of its most prominent writers, . . .

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Martin Preib in the Chicago Tribune

April 27, 2010
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Martin Preib in the Chicago Tribune

Last Saturday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune ran a review of Martin Preib’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City. With most of its content gleaned from a recent interview with Preib, the review offers some interesting background on the experiences that have inspired his writing, including his work with the Chicago Police Department and in various other capacities within Chicago’s service industry. You can read it read it online at the Printers Row blog (Preib is also scheduled to appear at the Printers Row Lit Fest June 12 and 13). Also, read a story from the book: “Body Bags” and listen to Preib discussing his work on the Chicago Audio Works podcast. . . .

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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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