William Faulkner was one of the most honored American authors in the 20th century, receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, two Pulitzer Prizes for fiction and two National Book Awards. Though with all the public conversation today of race in America, it is my impression that a Faulkner book rarely is selected for a college reading list, an adult education course or a book club. I wonder why?
Faulkner’s fiction depicts life in Mississippi during both during slavery and post-emancipation segregation. The stories are often about the cruelty of White people and the suffering of African Americans. The characters use harsh and raw language rife with the N-Word. Faulkner acknowledged the “human stain” left from the South’s brutal history. He wrote “the past is not dead, it’s not even past.” Yet Faulkner, both the writer and human being, believed that there was hope for the future as he said I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.”
Since Faulkner has been too long neglected, Bob Boone and I decided to teach a course on his writing at the Oakton Community College Emeritus program in Skokie. We call the course “A Taste of Faulkner.” It will be offered on six Thursday mornings from 10:00 until 11:30, from September 19 through October 31. There will be no class on October 24. Registration begins July 8. You can register at http://www.oakton.edu/conted.
Please come out to Skokie’s new hot venue for the arts, Euro Echo Café, 7919 Lincoln Avenue, on Sunday afternoon, January 13, from 3:00 pm to 6 pm as we honor the legacy of Blues great Eddy Clearwater. There will be heartfelt tributes from fans and friends. Come on up and say a few words about what Eddy meant to you. Eddy’s fabulous photo collection will be displayed. And, of course, the Eddy Clearwater Band will jam. Bring an instrument of your choice and join them as they play. Join me and my friend Tony Fernandez as we host this tribute to the one and only Chief of the Blues, Eddy Clearwater.
I will once again be teaching James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Oakton College Emeritus program in Skokie beginning Wednesday afternoon beginning September 26. The campus is located at 7701 North Lincoln Avenue. The class is from 1:30 to 3:30 and runs nine consecutive Wednesdays through November 21. Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel ever written in the English language. Admittedly, the reader is intellectually challenged by the book. But it is well worth the effort. On the surface, it is primarily a story of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus and their travels and travails through Dublin and its environs during the day and evening of June 16, 1904. The book concludes with Molly Bloom’s unforgettable soliloquy. The reader soon recognizes the genius of Joyce through the novel’s fantastic dialogue and cascading narrative. The marvelous cast of characters leaps forward out of Joyce’s unbridled imagination and into the reader’s mind and soul. I hope that some of you will consider taking this course, and feel free to share this information with others who may have interest. Registration can be done online at http://www.oakton.edu/conted or by phone at 847-982-9888.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com