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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The British writer Deborah Levy recently wrote that flamenco is “a dance of seduction and pain.” Ana Castillo’s 1999 novel Peel My Love Like An Onion is a glance into the seduction and pain experienced in the life of the flamenco dancer and singer Carmen la Coja (Carmen the Cripple in Spanish). Carmen, a polio victim as a child, overcomes her disability, to become an internationally proclaimed flamenco star.
The book focuses on how Carmen copes with the two great loves of her life, the older gypsy musician Agustin, and his gypsy godson, the young flamenco dancer Manolo. The author’s narrative weaves in the emotions that are so often reflected in flamenco dance—love, passion, deceit and remorse.
Ms. Castillo, who also is a distinguished poet, was born and raised in Chicago, and most of Peel My Love Like An Onion is set in Chicago. Her poetic imagery abounds in the book such as “my milkless breasts and my love that I had offered and given of so freely discarded like compost to be buried.” She also forgoes the use of quotation marks when characters speak in the narrative, which is somewhat confusing for the reader at first, but doesn’t seem distracting as the story moves on.
So join us at the Cliff Dwellers on Saturday, August 27 as I facilitate a book club discussion on Peel My Love Like An Onion. The discussion is free and open to the public, and starts at 11:00 a.m. Stay for lunch and enjoy the great food and the beautiful 22nd floor view at the Cliff Dwellers, located at 200 S. Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute. The next book club selection will be A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis, to be discussed on September 24.
The Cliff Dwellers Book Club will be discussing Angela Jackson’s novel, Where I Must Go, when we next meet on Saturday, June 25, at 11:00 am. Ms. Jackson has graciously accepted our invitation to be there and participate in the discussion. Where I Must Go is a fictionalized account of the lives of a group of African American students at a major and prestigious university located on the lakefront just north of the city of Chicago boundary line in the turbulent times of the late 1960s.
The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan on the 22nd floor. The book discussion is free, and usually lasts about an hour. Many in the group stay for lunch and continue the conversation then. Please contact me at email@example.com if you plan to come.
Next January marks the start of the third year of our book club at the historic Cliff Dwellers club. I have enjoyed my role as the book club facilitator during these first two years, and look forward to facilitating the discussions once again in 2016. We read a blend of contemporary and past fiction and non-fiction written by Chicago writers. Several of the contemporary authors join us each year as we discuss their books. The book club participants are thoroughly engaged, and the discussions are lively and opinionated. The sessions are informative and fun. Discussions are always on Saturdays, and we begin at 11:00 in the morning. We usually end the formal discussion at about 12:15. Participation in the book club is open to all, and the discussion is free. Many of us stay afterwards and lunch at the club. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, 22nd Floor, and the view of Chicago is magnificent. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Here is the reading list:
January 23- The Old Bunch by Meyer Levin
February 27-The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja
March 19-The Beach Umbrella by Cyrus Colter
April 16-Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann
May 28-Boss by Mike Royko
June 25-Where I Must Go by Angela Jackson
July 23-Moon-Calf by Floyd Dell
August 27-Peel My Love Like an Onion- by Ana Castillo
September 24-A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis
October 22-The Fabulous Clipjoint by Frederick Brown
November 26-Many Lives, One Love by Fanny Butcher
Next Saturday (March 28) marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Algren. The Algren enthusiast here in Chicago can celebrate his birthday all day long. Beginning at 11:00 am, Algren’s book Never Come Morning, will be discussed at the Cliff Dwellers book club, meeting at 200 S. Michigan. Then one can head north to Lakeview (Algren would have hated the term “Wrigleyville”) and view Michael Caplan’s fine documentary film, Algren, at the Music Box, located at 3733 N. Southport, at 2:00 pm, followed by a special birthday celebration. More festivities will take place that evening at the Bloomingdale Artists Building, 2418 W. Bloomingdale in Bucktown, where the Nelson Algren Committee will host Algren readings, music, and an homage to the love of Algren’s life, his very own “Frenchie,” Simone de Beauvoir.
The launch of the Saul Bellow Centenary celebration will take place with a dinner program at the Cliff Dwellers, 200 South Michigan Avenue, on Friday evening, February 27, beginning at 5:30 pm. I will moderate a panel discussing Bellow’s life and work that includes the writers Don Evans and Dina Elenbogen. There will be some readings from Bellow’s work, as well as an open forum for audience members to share their Bellow stories. The culminating event for the Bellow Centenary will be on the author’s 100th birthday on the evening of June 10, at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, and author Scott Turow will be the featured speaker.
If you are interested in attending the February 27 event, please make your reservations at email@example.com. The cost of the event, which includes the program, light appetizers and dinner, is $40 per person.
The Cliff Dwellers has been hosting thought provoking literary events since the club’s inception in 1907. Such literary giants as William Butler Yeats and Vachel Lindsay graced its rooms in the early years. Cognizant of this great tradition, we were somewhat wary launching the new Cliff Dwellers book club this past January. Yet after three stimulating and informative sessions, the book club has been a smashing success. We are indeed fortunate in having the authors participate in the next two scheduled sessions. On Saturday, April 26, Christine Sneed will discuss her novel “Little Known Facts,” while William Hazelgrove’s novel “The Pitcher” is up for discussion on Saturday, May 31. The book club sessions start at 11:00 am and end about 12:30 pm. Often discussions continue over lunch at the club. If you plan on attending as well as staying for lunch, please make a reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org. The club is located at 200 South Michigan, directly across the street from the Art Institute.