I was disappointed that Bill Granger’s iconic novel, Time for Frankie Coolin, did not make it into the recently published Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications that Shaped the City and Its Image. Through the fictionalized trials and tribulations of Frankie, we better understand the interpersonal dynamics of the White Flight that dramatically changed Chicago’s demographics from 1960 to 1990, when Chicago lost 1,446,795 of its white residents.
Time for Frankie Coolin was first published in 1982 under the nom de plume Bill Griffith. Griffith was Granger’s mother’s maiden name. Granger was a hard-boiled Chicago journalist who wrote for three papers in 40 years. Well into his journalistic career, he started writing novels at a frenetic pace of about one a year; 25 in total. Public Murders and The November Man are probably his best known. Yet Time for Frankie Coolin remains his great Chicago novel.
In his Foreword to a new edition of the book in 2014, Bill Savage writes “Granger’s prose is simply outstanding, with dialogue that crackles and descriptive passages of the city and its landscapes that hearken back to Bellow, Algren, Farrell, Wright, and Sinclair.” I couldn’t agree more.
I invite you to join us at the Cliff Dwellers on Saturday morning June 22nd at 11:00 as we discuss Time for Frankie Coolin. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 S. Michigan, directly across the street from the Art Institute. The discussion is free and open to the public.
The next Emanuel Congregation author event on Tuesday evening, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. features Rosellen Brown, the 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 will discuss her most recent novel, The Lake on Fire, which 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 are Jews whose poor family had left Eastern Europe for a better life in America. Gregory and Ned are born with “a silver spoon in their mouths” and are 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 Exposition 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 a must read for any lover of Chicago historical fiction.
Please rsvp email@example.com
The Caxton Club has produced a most amazing book, recently published by the University of Chicago Press, entitled Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the Image of Chicago. It is a must possession for a Chicago bibliophile. These publications include both fiction and non-fiction books, magazines and periodicals, and reports and digests. Each publication listed is accompanied by a short essay and at least one visual image from it.
Chicago has many images to the general public, some good; some bad; some ugly. As this book demonstrates, the written word has shaped many of these images. Among the good are publications such as Louis Sullivan’s A System of Architectural Ornament and Carl Condit’s The Chicago School of Architecture that make the case that Chicago has been an innovative leader in architectural design in the world. Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams and Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky allow us to see how Chicago has been a leader in the movement for social change in our nation. Bernard Sahlins’ Days and Nights at the Second City and David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations have shown that Chicago has been in the forefront of the transformation of American theater.
Then there is the bad and ugly side of Chicago reflected in the institutional racism exposed in Richard Wright’s novel Native Son and the Chicago Commission on Race Relations report on The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot. Chicago: Gang Wars in Pictures by Hal Andrews has reinforced the image of Chicago as a violent city in the eyes of the world.
Chicago by the Book is now available at your favorite book seller. Do yourself a favor and go out and buy it. You won’t be sorry.
The Society of Midland Authors has announced the winners of its annual competition of best books published in 2018 by authors with Midwest connections. My friend Marlene Targ Brill did a splendid job in coordinating this contest, and I thank her for asking me to be one of the judges in the Adult Fiction category. The winners are:
ADULT FICTION: Kelly O’Connor McNees, “Undiscovered Country”
ADULT NONFICTION: Shane Bauer, “American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment”
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR: Will McGrath, “Everything Lost is Found Again: Four Seasons in Lesotho.”
CHILDREN’S FICTION: Samira Ahmed, “Love, Hate & Other Filters”
CHILDREN’S NONFICTION: Patricia Hruby Powell: “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque: Lil Hardin Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz”
POETRY: Claire Wahmanholm: “Wilder”
The annual awards dinner will be at the historic Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd Floor, Chicago, Tuesday evening May 14. Tickets are $75 each. Reservations can be made by PayPal or check at http://www.midlandauthors.com.
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.