Dreiser’s “Jennie Gerhardt” to be Discussed at Cliff Dwellers

Theodore Dreiser’s first novel, Sister Carrie, was published in 1901 and was quite successful, but it took a decade for his second novel, Jennie Gerhardt, to finally be published in 1911. Doubleday, the publisher of Sister Carrie did not want to handle a second book of Dreiser about what they called an “immoral woman.” Initially this second novel of Dreiser’s  was called “The Transgressor” and it centered around Jennie Gerhardt, a “kept woman” of first, George Brander, a United States Senator, and then after his death, a wealthy manufacturer, Lester Kane
Unlike Carrie, Jennie was a woman of substance and character. She truly cared for these two men and knew that their commitment to her would help keep her family out of poverty. She was able to probably marry Kane, but if so, his family would have disinherited him.
Jennie’s poor working class roots could never gain the acceptance of Kane’s family, and she knew that a marriage to Kane, who she truly loved, would ruin him. Dreiser’s Jennie is a woman in charge, so very different than the docile Carrie in the earlier novel.
In 1911 Dreiser and Harper Brothers reached an agreement to publish a toned-down version of Jennie Gerhardt. Dreiser, in financial straits, had no option but to accept these terms. The University of Pennsylvania Press, eighty-one years later, in 1992, finally released an unexpurgated edition which as University of Pennsylvania Professor James West writes in his introduction to this edition “Slang and profanity have been restored. Dreiser’s blunt, unadorned style has been reinstated…………..Most important, Jennie’s original role has been restored, and she now functions effectively as a counterweight to Lester.”
The Cliff Dwellers book club will be discussing “Jennie Gerhardt” on Saturday morning, September 28, at 11:00 am. The discussion goes to around noon. This presentation is free and open to the public. We welcome newcomers to join us and remain afterwards for lunch to experience the good company, excellent food, and spectacular views of the Cliff Dwellers. The Cliff Dwellers is located on the 22nd Floor of 200 South Michigan.

The Pit by Frank Norris to be Discussed at the Cliff Dwellers on July 20.

Although the author Frank Norris was Chicago born, he is not known as a Chicago writer, leaving the city at age fourteen with his family as they moved to California. Graduating from Berkeley, Norris went on to an adventurous career in journalism which included stints as a news correspondent in South Africa in 1895-96 for the San Francisco Chronicle between the time of the two Boer Wars, and as a war correspondent for McClure’s Magazine during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Norris had five novels published between 1898 and 1902. Two of them, McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1899) and The Octopus: A Story of California (1901) were part of a trilogy that was published before his death in 1902 at the age of thirty-two. The final novel of the trilogy, The Pit: A Story of Chicago was published posthumously in 1903.
The Pit was included in the recently published Chicago By the Book: 101 Publications that Shaped the City and Its Image. Timothy Spears, whose essay on The Pit is in the book, writes ”although literary critics have complained about the florid writing and the ill-defined relation between the novel’s love story and business plot, they have admired Norris’s fine-grained descriptions of the trading pits of the Board of Trade…………..and how his canny representations of ‘fictional’ values resembles the volatile manipulations of our own time.”
Please join us this coming Saturday morning, July 20, at 11:00 for a discussion of The Pit at the Cliff Dwellers Book Club, at 200 S. Michigan. The discussion is free and open to the public. Our guests are welcome to join us at the club for lunch afterwards.

Rosellen Brown at the Cliff Dwellers Book Club on January 26


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 reservations@cliff-chicago.org.
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.

Cliff Dwellers Book Club

CLIFF DWELLERS BOOK CLUB READING LIST (Balance of 2018)

March 24-The South Side- Natalie Moore
April 28- 1001 Afternoons in Chicago-Ben Hecht
May 26-City of Scoundrels- Gary Krist
June 30- Life Itself-Roger Ebert
July 28- Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America-Elizabeth Fraterrigo
August 25-To Sleep with the Angels- David Cowan and John Kuenster
September 22-The Lazarus Project –Aleksander Hemon
October 27-The Logic of a Rose-Billy Lombardo
November 24-Forever Open, Clear and Free-Lois Wille
Our Chicago-themed book club is free and open to the public. We begin promptly at 11:00 am. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan on the 22nd floor. Moderator for the book club is Richard Reeder, who can be contacted at richardreeder34@gmail.com

Upcoming Literary Events

January and February are the perfect months to attend literary events in Chicago. The weather outside is usually horrid; thus, limiting our outdoor activities. It is truly a time conducive to listening to authors discuss their books. Here is an interesting lineup of author events for you to consider at three separate venues starting next month:
January 27-Stuart Dybek will be discussing “Coast of Chicago.”
February 22-Angela Jackson will be discussing “A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks.”
The Cliff Dwellers Book Club
200 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago.
Discussion begins at 11:00 am
Free and open to the public. Lunch is available at the club after the discussion.

January 14-Devin Murphy will be discussing “The Boat Runner.”
February 11-Renee Rosen will be discussing “Windy City Blues.”
Emanuel Congregation Speakers Series
5959 North Sheridan Road,
Chicago. Discussion begins at 10:15 am
Free and open to the public

January 15-Ronald Balson will be discussing “The Trust.”
February 26-Laurie Levy will be discussing “The Stendhal Summer.”
Max and Benny’s Author Series
461 Waukegan Road, Northbrook. Discussion begins at 7:00 pm
No admission charge for speaker. Attendees order food off the menu.
If interested in attending any of these, rsvp at richardreeder34@gmail.com

Angela Jackson Celebrated at the Cliff Dwellers


In a lovely ceremony on the evening of October 27, Angela Jackson joined the likes of other esteemed Chicago writers such as Stuart Dybek and Scott Turow in being awarded an honorary membership in the Cliff Dwellers for “distinguished service in the field of literature.” A poet and novelist of great renown, Ms. Jackson has just written a remarkable biography of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks entitled “A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun.”
Ms. Jackson will be discussing this highly personalized biography at the Cliff Dwellers book club on Saturday morning, February 24, at 11:00 am. Please mark your literary calendars accordingly. This discussion is free and open to the public. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute.

The Cliff Dwellers Book Club

Please note that the date for June has been changed. Angela Jackson, Gary Krist and Billy Lombardo will be joining us for the discussions of their books. These events are open to the public. Attendees are welcome to stay for lunch at the club afterwards. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 S. Michigan Avenue, across the street from the Art Institute.

February 24- A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life and Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks-Angela Jackson
March 24-The South Side- Natalie Moore
April 28- 1001 Afternoons in Chicago-Ben Hecht
May 26-City of Scoundrels- Gary Krist
June 30- Life Itself-Roger Ebert
July 28- Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America-Elizabeth Fraterrigo
August 25-To Sleep with the Angels- David Cowan and John Kuenster
September 22-The Lazarus Project –Aleksander Hemon
October 27-The Logic of a Rose-Billy Lombardo
November 24-Forever Open, Clear and Free-Lois Wille
Moderator for the book club is Richard Reeder, who can be contacted at richardreeder34@gmail.com

Two April Events Featuring Renee Rosen

Renee Rosen is one of my favorite contemporary authors writing novels based on Chicago social history. Her 2014 book, What the Lady Wants, brilliantly tells the story of Marshall Field, both as the great Chicago businessman, as well as a man deeply conflicted in his personal life. Renee’s recently published book, Windy City Blues, is a tale of an interracial love affair set in the context of Chicago’s iconic Chess Records and the Civil Rights movement. I will be facilitating two events with Renee this month. On Saturday morning, April 22, at 11:00 she will be discussing What the Lady Wants at the Cliff Dwellers book club at 200 S. Michigan Avenue downtown. Two days later, on the evening of April 24, at 7:00, Renee is the featured author at the Max and Benny’s book series where she will be presenting on Windy City Blues. Both of these events will be well attended, so if you plan to go to one or both, please contact me for further information on reserving a place at richardreeder34@gmail.com or on the Comment section of this post.

Eric Charles May Discusses “Bedrock Faith” at Cliff Dwellers in March

bedrock-faith-cover

The Cliff Dwellers next book club on Saturday morning March 25 features Eric Charles May as he discusses his novel Bedrock Faith. The book, written in 2014, grabs the reader in so many different ways as it is poignant, amusing and tragic, often in the same chapter. But it does grab you, and you remain fixed on the book until its conclusion. Set in a middle-class African American community on Chicago’s Far South Side, the author brilliantly narrates the challenge of a cohesive group of long settled residents dealing with the horrific actions of a mentally unhinged neighbor. The discussion begins at 11 and is free and open to the public. Mr. May will be staying afterwards for lunch, which you do need to make a reservation at reservations@cliff-chicago.org.

Cliff Dwellers Book Club 2017 Reading List

cliff-dwellers-club-image
The Cliff Dwellers book club has a focus on books that have a Chicago interest, both past and present; fiction and non-fiction. Contemporary writers are invited to participate in the discussion of their books, and often attend. This year, Ethan Michaeli, Eric Charles May, Renee Rosen, Mary Burns, Susan Nussbaum and Michael Raleigh have agreed to join us.  This month we begin our fourth year. I have had  the honor of facilitating the discussions since the beginning of the book club. We meet at the Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan, every fourth Saturday of the month (except December), at 11:00 am. Participation in the Cliff Dwellers book club is free and open to all, members and non-members alike. Often discussions continue afterwards at lunch.  Please email me at richardreeder34@gmail.com if you are interested and/or have any questions. Here are the 2017 reading selections:

January 28- Sister Carrie-Theodore Dreiser
February 25-The Defender, Ethan Michaeli
March 25-Bedrock Faith-Eric Charles May
April 22-What the Lady Wants-Renee Rosen
May 27-Empire of Deception-Dean Jobb *
June 24-The Reason for Time-Mary Burns *
July 29-Love and Shame-Peter Orner
August 26-Good Kings Bad Kings-Susan Nussbaum
September 23-Prairie Avenue-Arthur Meeker*
October 28-In the Castle of the Flynns-Michael Raleigh
November 25- The Girls-Edna Ferber
*May be relocated offsite if the Cliff Dwellers has a large event that day.