If you are traveling in northern Florida, please make a point to visit the wondrous Story & Song in Fernandina Beach. Owners Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of what they call their “neighborhood bookstore bistro’’ which offers “books, light bites, coffee, wine, music, art and conversation.” As you can see by the blissful look on their faces in the photo, the business is truly a labor of love for them.
I loved the place and you will too. Besides marvelous books and scrumptious food, the programming schedule is amazing. For example, this coming April 17, at 7:30 in the evening, operatic soprano Robyn Marie Lamp will be in concert there singing “Songs from the Jewish Heart.” Check out the website StoryandSongBookstore.com for more details of the fabulous happenings there.
People are often surprised when they learn that the longest continuous Jewish Author Series in the Chicago area is not at a synagogue or a Jewish Community Center, but at Max and Benny’s Restaurant and Deli in Northbrook. The Max and Benny’s series began in March 2011 and is now going into its ninth year. Since 2014, the series has been running on a monthly basis. There have been about eighty author presentations so far and around 5500 people have attended these. There have been several non-Jewish authors featured as well, but these authors have each had a significant connection to the Jewish community.
The next featured author will be Nina Barrett, who will be discussing her book, The Leopold and Loeb Files, on March 25. The presentation begins at 7:00 in the evening, but most people arrive early enough to enjoy a delicious meal beforehand. Reservations are required and can be made by going to “Upcoming Events” on the homepage at maxandbennys.com.
We all seem to have various special and unique book collections tucked away on our bookshelves. Among my collections are the biographies and memoirs of American Presidents. I also have some nice collections of Chicago authors such as Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel. How about you? I would love you to share your special collection (s) with us. Maybe even include a photo or two.
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. There will be a reception and a reading featuring Bob on Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Grayslake campus of the College of Lake County in Room A013.
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 LarsonBob 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.
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.