Congratulations to my friend and literary mentor Bob Boone, who has recently been selected as Featured Illinois Author for 2019 by the prestigious literary publication Willow Review. Bob founded Young Chicago Authors (YCA) in 1991 with the purpose of involving teenagers in creative writing. Thousands of Chicago area youth have benefited from the program which is still going strong today. In 2009, Bob accepted an award at the White House for his work at YCA.
Bob’s own writing include two collections of short stories: Forest High and Back to Forest High; a memoir: Inside Job: A Life of Teaching; a sports biography: Hack: The Meteoric Life of One of Baseball’s First Superstars: Hack Wilson. Bob has also written four textbooks and has co-authored three creative writing books with Mark Henry Larson
Bob continues to teach creative writing classes in the Chicago Public Schools and Oakton Community College, as well as moderating the Open Mic at the Glencoe Public Library.
Bob Riesman, the author of I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, will discuss his book and show the BBC documentary film: Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain, in which he served as the consultant, at Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan, on the morning of Sunday, February 24 starting at 10:30. The program will conclude about noon.
Both the book and film explore Big Bill’s career from his rise as a nationally prominent blues star in the 1930s, to his influential role in the post-World War Two folk revival. Big Bill’s overseas tour in the 1950s had a great influence on Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton and helped ignite the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s.
Both Bob and his book were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis last year.
The program is free and open to the public. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a terrific buzz going on around a new documentary film entitled Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and his father George, a friend of the artist Stanislaw Szukalski. As a young man, Szukalski was a major force in the artistic literary and artistic renaissance in Chicago during the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Two of my favorite quotes are attributed to Szukalski, by Ben Hecht in his book “A Child of the Century” during the artist and sculptor’s time in Chicago. Here they are:
“If you can work for food, love a woman, fight all your troubles and then have something left over, something unused, something that you have put to work—–then you are an artist——maybe.”
“I put Rodin in one pocket,
Michelangelo in another,
And I walk toward the sun.”
Rosellen Brown is a distinguished author whose novels include Tender Mercies, Before and After and Civil Wars. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary publications including Best American Short Stories, Best Short Stories of the Century and the O. Henry Prize Stories. She is the guest of the Cliff Dwellers Book Club on Saturday morning, January 26, where she will discuss her latest novel, The Lake on Fire.
The discussion begins at 11:00 am in the Sullivan Room at the Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd Floor, and ends about noon. The discussion is free and open to all, and we encourage attendees to remain for lunch to enjoy the great food (credit cards accepted for non-members) and partake of the great view of the city. Please reserve your space for lunch by contacting email@example.com.
The Lake on Fire superbly depicts the class and cultural tensions that were pervasive in Chicago just before, during and slightly after the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Worker discontent in the city was still simmering in the aftermath of the deadly clashes of the Battle of the Viaduct in 1877 and the Haymarket Affair of 1886. Economic conditions and labor strife were worsening because of the Panic of 1893, which soon led to a depression.
Ms. Brown embodies these tensions magnificently in the characters of Chaya-Libbe Shaderowsky and her younger brother Asher, and Gregory Stillman and his brother Ned. Chaya and Asher were Jews whose poor family had left Eastern Europe for a better life in America. Gregory and Ned were born with “a silver spoon in their mouths” and were part of Chicago’s economic and cultural elite. Yet the author brilliantly weaves a narrative spiced with romance, idealism, greed and violence where these four characters’ lives are inextricably connected with each other.
The teeming Maxwell Street Market surrounded by tenements and sweat shops come alive in this book. Asher’s gutsy escapades on the Midway during the Fair keep the reader amazed and surprised. The inclusion of historical personages in the story, especially Jane Addams, is truly a delight. The Lake on Fire is definitely a must read for any lover of Chicago historical fiction.
Please come out to Skokie’s new hot venue for the arts, Euro Echo Café, 7919 Lincoln Avenue, on Sunday afternoon, January 13, from 3:00 pm to 6 pm as we honor the legacy of Blues great Eddy Clearwater. There will be heartfelt tributes from fans and friends. Come on up and say a few words about what Eddy meant to you. Eddy’s fabulous photo collection will be displayed. And, of course, the Eddy Clearwater Band will jam. Bring an instrument of your choice and join them as they play. Join me and my friend Tony Fernandez as we host this tribute to the one and only Chief of the Blues, Eddy Clearwater.
At Emanuel Congregation this evening, our Rabbi, Craig Marantz, wove the words and wisdom of Amos Oz into the narrative of the service. Oz, the great Israeli author, passed away earlier in the day. May his memory be a blessing. Here are some passages from Oz that Rabbi Marantz shared with us this evening:
“I find the family the most mysterious and fascinating institution in the world.”
“Fundamentalists live life with an exclamation point. I prefer to live my life with a question mark.”
“A conflict begins and ends in the hearts and minds of people, not in the hilltops.”
“Two children of the same cruel parent look at one another and see in each other the image of the cruel parent or the image of their past oppressor. This is very much the case between Jew and Arab: It’s a conflict between two victims.”
Richard D’Oyly Carte, the Sol Hurok of Late Victorian Britain, had a brilliant idea to promote his production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience in North America. The operetta, wildly successful on the London stage, was a spoof of the aesthetic movement in The Arts, which was a rage in British intellectual circles in the 1870s and early 1880s. Simply put, this movement placed aesthetic values above moral and social themes in literature and the fine arts. “Art for Art’s Sake” was the rallying call of the aesthetes who prioritized beauty over pragmatism.
There was no better embodiment of aestheticism in Britain, both in intellectuality and personality, than Oscar Wilde, the transplanted Dubliner who was dazzling London with his wit and his tongue lashings of society and its institutions. D’Oyly Carte decided to underwrite a lecture trip for Wilde to North America to stimulate interest in aestheticism there before Patience was introduced to the stages of the continent.
And indeed, Wilde’s lecture tour was highly successful. Large audiences packed theaters and halls in the hundreds and sometimes thousands to hear the young Irishman (28 years old) speak in his unfettered and unique manner. Wherever he spoke, controversy followed. Wilde in Chicago was a perfect example of this.
On February 13, 1882, Wilde, in his speech before 2,000 people assembled at the Central Music-Hall, located at Randolph and State and the first important building designed by Dankmar Adler, remarked that the Chicago Water-Works Tower is “a castellated monstrosity with pepper-boxes stuck all over it.” Then, in an interview with the Tribune the next day, the reporter queried him “are you aware that you wounded the pride of our best citizens by referring slightingly to our water-tower?
Wilde retorted with “I can’t help that. It’s really too absurd. If you build a water-tower, why don’t you build it for water and make a simple structure of it, instead of building it like a castle, where one expects to see mailed knights peering out of every part. It seems a shame to me that the citizens of Chicago have spent so much money on buildings with such an unsatisfactory result from an architectural point of view. Your city looks positively dreary to me.”