Man Booker Shortlist Discussion at Glencoe Public Library

I hope that you will join me on Wednesday evening, September 27, at 7:30 at the Glencoe Public Library as I discuss the six novels that were selected for this year’s Man Booker Literary Prize Shortlist. The winner will be announced on October 17 at a ceremony in London. Here are the shortlisted novels:

4321 by Paul Auster
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Autumn by Ali Smith


Roger Ebert Inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame

My friend Don Evans, the founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, is a master of producing great celebratory events honoring Chicago writers, past and present. Don runs his organization on a shoestring budget, yet his productions are always at beautiful venues, free to the public, and features some of the best of Chicago’s creative community as participants.
Last evening’s induction of Roger Ebert into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, held at the new American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue, was one such event. The emcee was Rick Kogan, the fabled Tribune features writer and radio interviewer. Rick told the story about how impressed his father, Herman Kogan, the editor of Panorama, the literary supplement of the Daily News, was when Ebert submitted a short piece to him on Brendan Behan, shortly after the Irish writer’s death in 1964. Panorama published the piece, introducing Ebert to Chicago’s newspaper audience.
A few years later, in 1967, at the age of 25, Ebert was hired by the Sun-Times, as its film critic. His career with the newspaper was enduring and prolific, lasting to his death in 2013. No American newspaper film critic was better than Ebert, who became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

However it was the medium of television that catapulted Ebert to fame, partnering in movie review shows first with Gene Siskel, and later with Richard Roeper. Last evening Roeper shared some wonderful personal memories about his late friend and colleague. Ebert’s editor for nearly twenty years at the Sun-Tmes, Laura Emerick, reminisced about the brilliance of his writing.
Ebert’s wife, Chaz, was the last and most powerful speaker at the ceremony. Like others she spoke of his writing genius, but she emphasized the greatness of his humanity and his passion for social justice, i.e. Ebert, the man, as a model for all of us to emulate.

The Case of the Highwood Library Sherlock Holmes Group

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes with the publication of A Study in Starlet in 1887. Now 130 years later, the great sleuth of Baker Street remains the world’s most popular fictional detective, with much exposure on television and the cinema. Yet, there is nothing quite like the brilliantly descriptive prose and coherent deductive reasoning found in Doyle’s great Holmes’ stories.
Sherlock Holmes reading and discussion groups have popped up around the world. There is a most congenial one locally here in northern suburban Chicago at the Highwood Library that meets and discusses a story every two months. My friend Brenda has been an enthusiastic member of this group now going on a decade.
The next discussion group of the Highwood Public Library will be October 3 at 7:00 p.m. Under discussion is “The Adventure of the Golden Prince-Nez.” If you have interest in this group, let Brenda know by contacting her at

Howard Raik Returns to the Chicago Stage

My dear friend and my favorite local theater scene septuagenarian actor, Howard Raik, is performing in a new play, Ashes and Acceptance, starting this weekend, and ending next weekend at The Gorilla Tango Theater, 1919 N. Milwaukee in Chicago. There are only six performances: August 4, 5, 6 & 11, 12, 13. All shows start at 8:00 pm. It is an original one-act play by local playwright Dakota Vaassen, about a father and daughter reuniting after forty years of estrangement. Don’t forget to bring your handkerchiefs.

Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist Announced

The Man Booker prize longlist was announced this evening. There are some very familiar literary names on the list, including Arundhati Roy, the Indian author win won the prize twenty years ago for The God of Small Things, as well two writers who have been shortlisted twice, the British novelist Ali Smith and the Irish author Sebastian Barry. Four Americans are longlisted, four British, two British-Pakistani, two Irish and one Indian. There are seven men and six women. Here is the 2017 longlist:
4321 by Paul Auster
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Autumn by Ali Smith
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


On a beautiful summer night, the full front of the house at Max and Benny’s was uncharacteristically quiet between seven and eight as they listened to author Scott Turow discuss his new book Testimony and other matters of interest. Testimony is set in Bosnia and The Hague, far from Turow’s familiar Kindle County. It delves into the mysterious world of the Roma people, and the inner workings of the U.N.’s International Court of Justice. The author visited both Bosnia and the Netherlands to do his research.

During the q and a, Ross Steinberg, a student of creative writing at Northwestern, asked him how a writer balances the demands of the craft with the realities of other things going on in one’s life. Turow, prolific and popular in writing, while also achieving great success in the field of law, said that discipline in writing was essential. “A writer has to get his tush in his chair each day, even it’s only for a half hour, and write.”
After the presentation, I talked to some of the folks who were there. Shelly Spak liked “the author’s subject matter and the way he established an immediate rapport with the audience.” Tony Fernandez found Turow’s “frank discussion of the Roma and the International Court of Justice especially interesting to the layman. I learned a lot this evening.”

I came away from the evening with a good feeling, observing that books and the literary world are still important in the lives of so many people.


Congregation Emanuel, located on the Lakefront, at 5959 N. Sheridan is launching its 2017-18 Speakers Series this fall. Programs are free and open to the public. This year’s series is dedicated to Emanuel’s late Rabbi Herman Schaalman, whose insatiable intellectual curiosity inspired so many over the years.
The first speaker is New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Eig, whose recently published book, Ali: A Life is being acclaimed as the most definite biography of the iconic Muhammad Ali. The author interviewed more than five hundred people who knew Ali, giving us a powerful and compelling personal account of the man known as “The Greatest.” Mr. Eig’s presentation is Sunday, September 24, at 11:15 am.

On Sunday, October 8 , Dean Jobb, the author of Empire of Deception, speaks at 10:15 am. The book is subtitled “The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation.” That master swindler, back in Chicago’s Jazz Age, was Congregation Emanuel member, Leo Koretz, whose investors included at least six prominent Emanuel members as well as congregational Rabbi Felix Levy. Please rsvp by emailing me at for either one or both of these events.