Chicago

A new fiction imprint from Northern Illinois University Press

December 2, 2009
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A new fiction imprint from Northern Illinois University Press

Good news from the world of publishing isn’t easy to come by, so a new outlet for Midwestern writers of literary fiction is a welcome development. Thus we tip our collective hats to our good friends at Northern Illinois University Press and their new imprint Switchgrass Books, which debuts with Season of Water and Ice by Michigan writer Donald Lystra and Beautiful Piece by Joseph G. Peterson, who we are pleased to count a colleague here at the Press. Set somewhere in Chicago during the 1995 Chicago heat wave, Peterson’s noirish novel is the gritty, hallucinatory story of a risky relationship and its inevitable, chilling climax. Meanwhile, Lystra’s book tracks the life of young Danny DeWitt and his father as they struggle with issues of love and family in rural northern Michigan in the 1950’s. Set side by side Switchgrass’s inaugural releases represent the rich diversity of the Midwestern literary landscape and the hidden talent lurking there. To find out more about Switchgrass books navigate to their website or listen to this recent interview with NIU press director Alex Schwartz talking about the new imprint and it’s first two releases on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight. Our warm congratulations. . . .

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What sort of person is Chicago?

November 11, 2009
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What sort of person is Chicago?

Chicago: A Biography—Dominic Pacyga’s engaging new history of the Second City—was featured recently in both the Reader and the Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row blog. The Reader has an interview with Pacyga that ranges from his childhood experiences in the Back of the Yards neighborhood to the persistence of twentieth century paranoia about anarchism. From the interview: A biography? You’re treating Chicago like a person? This book is an attempt to give an overview of the city’s life. So I tried to do what I think a biographer does: he looks at various ups and downs in a person’s life, talks about the turning points, and tries to shed light on the person’s character. So it’s anecdotal? It’s a history that tells the story of race and ethnicity, technology, economic development, and politics, through various high and low points. If that’s anecdotal then I guess so. Were there any surprises? Even after teaching the history of Chicago for 30 years, I wasn’t aware of the paranoia about anarchism that has been in the city, from the Haymarket on, till about 1968. That struck me. Lucy Parsons, the wife of Albert Parsons, who was hung after the Haymarket affair , was . . .

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Granta and 57th Street Books showcase 5 great books about Chicago

October 29, 2009
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Granta and 57th Street Books showcase 5 great books about Chicago

Granta magazine‘s latest issue is all about our fair city of Chicago, featuring fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and photography by a number of renown contributors, including Press authors like Nelson Algren, Stuart Dybek, Anne Winters, and Roger Ebert (for the online edition only). Demonstrating the city’s role beyond its reputation as “the hog butcher of the world” or the playground of famous gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger, Granta‘s Chicago edition focuses on the city, in acting editor John Freeman’s words, “as a microcosm for America” and “a nexus for world culture.” To celebrate the launch of the issue Granta has canvassed some of the best local bookstores and asked them to provide a list of their five favorite books about Chicago. Currently the Granta website is showcasing the selections from 57th Street books. 57th Street’s five selections: The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko, Division Street: America by Studs Terkel, as well as two recently published by the Press: Neil Harris’s The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age, and D. Bradford Hunt’s newly released Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing. With The Chicagoan historian Neil . . .

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Chicago’s biography

October 13, 2009
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Chicago’s biography

Several new reviews of Dominic Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography have popped up on the radar recently, one in the Chicago Sun-Times and another on Drexel University’s online magazine The Smart Set. Both focus their attention on Pacyga’s book for reversing the usual top-down approach to the telling of Chicago history, letting the stories of ordinary people narrate this “biographical” account of city life. Thomas Frisbie quotes Pacyga in his review for the Sun-Times: “I try to look at everyday people as much as I can, at people in neighborhoods, how they build their community, how they survive, how they prosper or don’t prosper,” said Pacyga, who grew up in the Back of the Yards, attended De La Salle Institute and worked at the Union Stockyards when he was in college. There are sections, for example, on “Ted Swigon’s Back of the Yards” and “Angeline Jackson’s neighborhood.” Swigon was an altar boy at St. John of God’s Church and attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary before transferring to De La Salle. Jackson came from Mississippi to Chicago, eventually moving to Englewood. “ tells a lot about how that neighborhood went through racial change and how it went through physical change,” Pacyga said. . . .

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Two local authors on Chicago Tonight

October 9, 2009
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For two consecutive nights WTTW’s Chicago Tonight has featured interviews with University of Chicago Press authors from our regional list. On Wednesday evening Dominic A. Pacyga was invited on the show to discuss his fascinating new chronicle of our fair city in Chicago: A Biography. A south side native who spent his college years working at the Union Stock Yards, in his new book Pacyga offers a comprehensive catalog of the city’s great industrialists, reformers, and politicians, while giving voice to the city’s steelyard workers and kill floor operators as well. And on Thursday, Liam T. A. Ford made an appearance to talk about his account of one of the most prominent of Chicago’s landmarks in Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City. As Ford tells it, the tale of Soldier Field truly is the story of Chicago, filled with political intrigue and civic pride. More than just the home of ‘da Bears, Ford’s book traces the stadium’s multiple roles as both one of the city’s most important a cultural centers—drawing crowds of thousands for everything from rodeos and NASCAR races, to Catholic masses, and political rallies—to a bargaining chip for city politicians from the infamous Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson, . . .

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Press Release: Ford, Soldier Field

October 2, 2009
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Press Release: Ford, Soldier Field

As fall beckons with changing leaves and shortening days, one thing is certain: NFL football is back, and Chicagoans everywhere are packing their coolers and grills for a trip to Soldier Field. For decades, the stadium’s signature columns provided an iconic backdrop for the Chicago Bears, but few realize that it has been much more than that. Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City explores how this amphitheater evolved from a public war memorial into a majestic arena that helped define Chicago. Chicago Tribune staff writer Liam T. A. Ford led the reporting on the stadium’s 2003 renovation—and simultaneously found himself unearthing a dramatic history. As he tells it, the tale of Soldier Field truly is the story of Chicago, filled with political intrigue and civic pride. Designed by Holabird and Roche, Soldier Field arose through a serendipitous combination of local tax dollars, City Beautiful boosterism, and the machinations of Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson. The result was a stadium that stood at the center of Chicago’s political, cultural, and sporting life for nearly sixty years, long before the arrival of Walter Payton and William “the Refrigerator” Perry. Ford describes it all in the voice of a seasoned reporter: the high . . .

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A Chicago 2016 Reading List

September 28, 2009
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A Chicago 2016 Reading List

President Barack Obama announced this morning that he is heading to Copenhagen later this week to put in the good word to the International Olympic Committee for his hometown of Chicago, which is competing with Rio, Madrid, and Tokyo to host the 2016 summer games. Meanwhile, Chicago is counting down to the announcement on Friday, which is expected at around 11:30 local time. It’s an exciting week in the Windy City, as the Chicago 2016 bid committee wraps up years of campaigning (which included, as of late, appealing to morning commuters on CTA buses). But no matter what happens Friday, Chicago is undoubtedly a world-class city that deserves the attention and affection of the global community. So, in a last minute appeal to the IOC (who we are sure are loyal readers of The Chicago Blog), the Press presents a reading list that extols Chicago’s many virtues. Let friendship shine! Urban Nature Chicago’s motto is “Urbus en Horto,” or “City in a Garden.” And indeed, modern Chicago more than lives up to its name with an extensive park and beach system (covering more than 7,300 acres). To begin, any city naturalist would do well to check out Sally A. Kitt . . .

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What went wrong with public housing in Chicago?

September 24, 2009
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What went wrong with public housing in Chicago?

This week’s Chicago Reader has an excellent piece on the failure of Chicago’s infamous housing projects and D. Bradford Hunt’s new book on the subject Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing. Hunt offers a fresh and insightful look at why the highrise buildings of the Chicago Housing Authority became dilapidated post-apocalyptic wastelands that are now largely demolished. The Reader‘s Deanna Isaacs writes: Amid all the unemployment, poverty, and broken families, the institutional racism, political corruption, and bureaucratic incompetence, Hunt believes he’s found a relatively simple answer to the question of what went wrong with public housing in Chicago: too many kids. Taking into account all the other influences, he says, that was the single most important factor. The decisions that put multibedroom apartments filled with youngsters into hard-to-access towers were the CHA’s blueprint for disaster. Hunt wants to make it clear that he doesn’t blame “families for having lots of kids, or single mothers. The tenants are the victims here,” he says. “They wanted what everyone wants: building maintenance, security, and decent schools for their kids—and they fought to make the buildings work.” The devil is in “the policy choices.” The projects became ungovernable because there weren’t . . .

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The politics of Soldier Field

September 21, 2009
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The politics of Soldier Field

Football fans nationwide know Soldier Field as the home of the Chicago Bears—where a last-minute field goal defeated the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. But as Liam T. A. Ford’s book, Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City, reminds us, the Bears are latecomers to Soldier Field. For more than half a century before football became the stadium’s mainstay, it played host to everything from a worldwide gathering of Catholics, to heavyweight prizefights, and even rodeos—all while playing a pivotal role in the careers of some of Chicago’s biggest political bosses as well. As columnist John Kass notes in a recent article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, many big names in Chicago politics—Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson and Edward Kelly to name a few—were intimately tied up in the stadium’s construction and use as they pushed for the “great public works” that allowed them “to control gargantuan budgets and cement their power.” Drawing an analogy to the city’s recent bid for the 2016 Olympic games Kass asks, “Does any of this have the ring of current events?” As the day for the IOC’s decision draws nearer, and debates about the public payoff of the games get louder, as Kass points out, Ford’s . . .

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Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell trio at the Chicago Jazz Festival

September 3, 2009
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Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell trio at the Chicago Jazz Festival

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