My new book “1001 Train Rides in Chicago” will be published by Eckhartz Press around the 4th of July. It is a work of fiction that contains 64 short vignettes of people who ride the eight lines of CTA trains. The cover design (which you see above) is by Leonid Osseny. Leonid will also be providing some sketches of the passengers on the trains. It is hoped that my readers will experience some empathy with these fictional characters. Their common thread is that they are members of our human community, and like all of us, they seek to find meaning and purpose in what is often a difficult world. I want to share some of my characters with you on this blog. So today please meet Antoine Hargrove.
Antoine Hargrove has been working as a wheelchair attendant at O’Hare for nearly two years. He had never been to the airport before he started working there. Although he is now 27 years old, he still hasn’t flown on an airplane.
He gets to work by hopping on the Clark Street bus heading south. Then he boards the Blue Line at Monroe and Dearborn. O’Hare is the final destination on the train.
Antoine and his mother live in a subsidized low-income apartment in Old Town. The youngest sibling in the family, his brother and sister left a while back. Both his mom and dad use to work years ago at the Oscar Mayer plant in the neighborhood, where the work was steady and the benefits decent. Then the company shut it down and moved the jobs out of state.
His dad was never able to get a decent job after that. His diabetes got really got bad, and soon he passed away, leaving his mom to provide for three children working on the pittance of a salary that a Certified Nursing Assistant earns.
Working as a wheelchair attendant isn’t a bad gig. Most of the people he wheels are old or disabled, sometimes both. Every now and then he’ll have a nice discussion with someone who he is wheeling down the concourse. Frequently though it is pretty much dead silence on the person’s part. They just want to get to Point A to Point B as quick as possible, with no hassles or drama.
He never quite knows how he’s going to make out in tips for the day. He might be stiffed by a guy in a business suit, but a derelict-looking guy might put a twenty in his hand. The two things that he has learned on the job is that life is full of surprises and don’t judge people by their appearances.
March 7 promises to be a fun and informative evening, as Rick Kogan is the featured guest at the next Cliff Dwellers literary salon. I will be engaging Rick in conversation that evening. It should be a blast! We are expecting a nice turnout, so make your reservations early. Here is the info on the event:
DATE: MARCH 7, 2018
RECEPTION: 5:00-6:00 PM
BUFFET DINNER: 6:00-6:30 PM
PROGRAM: 6:30 PM
The Cliff Dwellers Club 200 S. Michigan, Suite 2200
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Please make your reservations at email@example.com or by calling 312-922-8080.
I am pleased to announce that I will be teaching a seminar on Ben Hecht’s book “1001 Afternoons in Chicago” at the Newberry Library in five Thursday evening sessions, starting February 15 and ending March 15, from 5:45 to 7:45. The sixty-four incredibly imaginative sketches in the book capture the heart and soul of Chicago’s bustling urban landscape during the early 1920s. There couldn’t be more of an appropriate venue to have this seminar, since the Hecht archives are housed at the Newberry, and Walnut and Dearborn, where the library is located, is designated “Honorary Ben Hecht Way” by the city of Chicago. For registration information go to http://www.newberry.org or call 312-255-3700.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
I will be teaching two literature courses, The Forsyte Saga and Chekhov’s Short Stories at the Oakton Community College Emeritus Program during the Fall 2017 semester. I will be co-teaching the Chekhov course with my friend and colleague Bob Boone. Written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga is considered by many to be some of the best British fiction ever written and consists of three novels and two interludes. It chronicles the vicissitudes of the upper-middle class Forsyte family from late Victorian England through the aftermath of the First World War.
There is a brilliant conciseness and purposeful functionality in the characterizations and dialogues of Chekhov’s short stories that have set the bar for all writers. His carefully crafted writing resonates with honesty and compassion, allowing the readers to explore the motivations and actions of his characters. The Forsyte Saga will meet five consecutive Thursday mornings at 10:00-11:30 from October 5 through November 2; Chekhov’s Short Stories will meet six consecutive Tuesday mornings at 10:00-11:30 from October 10 through November 14. You may register online at http://www.oakton.edu/conted or call 847-982-9888.
The Glencoe Public Library is launching its new Big Books series this spring with James Joyce’s Ulysses. I have the distinct honor of being the instructor for the course. There will be nine evening sessions, on Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:30, starting on April 6th. The course is free, and open to all, though Glencoe residents have priority if the class fills up. If you are interested in registering, please call the library at 847-835-5056.