I will be teaching two literature courses, The Forsyte Saga and Chekhov’s Short Stories at the Oakton Community College Emeritus Program during the Fall 2017 semester. I will be co-teaching the Chekhov course with my friend and colleague Bob Boone. Written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga is considered by many to be some of the best British fiction ever written and consists of three novels and two interludes. It chronicles the vicissitudes of the upper-middle class Forsyte family from late Victorian England through the aftermath of the First World War.
There is a brilliant conciseness and purposeful functionality in the characterizations and dialogues of Chekhov’s short stories that have set the bar for all writers. His carefully crafted writing resonates with honesty and compassion, allowing the readers to explore the motivations and actions of his characters. The Forsyte Saga will meet five consecutive Thursday mornings at 10:00-11:30 from October 5 through November 2; Chekhov’s Short Stories will meet six consecutive Tuesday mornings at 10:00-11:30 from October 10 through November 14. You may register online at http://www.oakton.edu/conted or call 847-982-9888.
Congratulations to Caro Llewellyn, who now returns to her native Australia, as she takes on an exciting new endeavor as Director, Experience and Engagement at Museums Victoria, Australia’s largest museum organization. I had the distinct privilege last year working with Caro, and her partner Jill Brack at 20 Square Feet Productions, on some of the community-based programming for visiting Polish authors in Chicago. Caro has been one of our nation’s top literary event producers, a passionate advocate of bringing literature and authors into neighborhoods and communities. She has created such major events as the celebrations surrounding the New York Public Library’s Centennial and the PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature. Thank you Caro for all you have done to enrich the fabric of our literary world. Best of luck in Australia.
Today I made my first visit to the American Writers Museum, which opened at 180 N. Michigan last month. It certainly is an honor to have the only national museum of its kind located in Chicago. My friend Roberta Rubin, the former owner of The Book Stall bookstore in Winnetka and truly one of the great literary advocates in the Chicago area, is one of the key individuals in making this museum a reality. It was extremely gratifying to see “The Roberta Rubin Writer’s Room” which is currently exhibiting Jack Kerouac’s original scroll for On the Road.
Since the museum space is only 11,000 square feet, there are physical limitations as to display options. Digitally the museum is state-of-the-art. There are very nice rooms dedicated to children’s literature and Chicago authors. In the Writers Hall, one wall features 100 American deceased writers; the other wall displays 100 American literary works. However I felt that both these walls, at times, seemed to use historical and political considerations, over literary significance, as criteria in the selection of these writers and books. I would have also liked to see a little more of the personal touch in the museum’s permanent collection. For instance, perhaps something on the order of a desk on which Emily Dickinson composed some of her poetry, or maybe the walking boots that John Muir wore on the nature walks that inspired his books. Also, permanent exhibits of universally acknowledged great American living writers such as Philip Roth and Toni Morrison might be a nice added touch. Nevertheless, the American Writers Museum is a work in progress and worthy of our support. The Chicago literary community should rally on its behalf by promoting it among friends and family, as well as providing positive input on future programming to its staff.