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

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

The Chicago Literary Renaissance

At the onset of the 20th century, Chicago had become the nation’s Second City, a Midwest Leviathan, a center of commerce and industry. The poet Carl Sandburg, born in downstate Galesburg, arrives in Chicago in 1912. He describes Chicago as “Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler, / Stormy, husky, brawling/City of the Big Shoulders.”

Unbounded energies are released in Chicago in many different directions. One of which is the creative energies that result in the Chicago Literary Renaissance during the first quarter of the new century. The city’s Literary Renaissance is primarily fueled by two women publishers, Harriet Monroe and Margaret Anderson. A native Chicagoan, and a writer herself, Ms. Monroe established Poetry, a magazine totally dedicated to that particular literary form of expression, in 1912. Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay were frequent contributors, as well as countless others. Today, Poetry, in its 103th year, is going strong as ever.

Margaret Anderson, also a writer, leaves Indianapolis to come to the creative hub of Chicago. In 1914, she establishes a literary journal called The Little Review. Soon The Little Review publishes the early works of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Later on, excerpts from James Joyce’s Ulysses are published, for the first time in America, in the journal.

Chicago becomes a magnet drawing in creative geniuses to its bosom. Ben Hecht leaves his home in Racine, Wisconsin, and comes to town in 1910. Although making a living as a newspaper writer, Hecht begins his work as a playwright, teaming with Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, in several one-act plays performed at Jane Addams’ Hull House. Years later, Hecht and Charles MacArthur write what I believe to be the most entertaining of Chicago plays,The Front Page. While living in Chicago, Hecht wrote several novels and numerous short stories, but his greatest writing, by far, were the 500 fictive pieces that appeared every day on the back page of the Daily News, which he called 1001 Afternoons in Chicago.

Edna Ferber leaves her newspaper job in Appleton, Wisconsin, and arrives in Chicago in 1909, eventually settling in the Windermere Apartments in Hyde Park. From this base in Chicago, she writes novels of the like of So Big (winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1924), Cimarron, and Show Boat that make her the most prominent woman novelist of her time.

Sherwood Anderson comes to Chicago in 1912, after failing horribly in business back in his home state of Ohio. Deserting his wife and children, Anderson’s creative juices are unleashed in our “stormy, brawling and husky” city, and eventually he completes Winesburg, Ohio, a collection of interrelated fiction vignettes that is considered one of the masterpieces of American writing.

The Chicago Literary Renaissance eventually fades away as both Andersons, Hecht, Ferber, Sandburg and Hecht leave the city in the mid to late1920s. Harriet Monroe remains and continues publishing Poetry here in Chicago.






Bob Wulkowicz introduced me to the writing of Stuart Dybek. Wulkowicz appeared one day outside my cubicle at the Mayor’s Office of Employment housed in the old Kraft Building on Peshtigo Court. I think it was 1982, and the long forgotten Jane Byrne was Chicago’s mayor at the time. He was told by someone over at City Hall that I was the guy he ought to see to help him with his project that had to do with some kind of electronic signal that he devised for the Outer Drive on-ramps.

As I witnessed countless times in my twelve years of non-continuous employment with the city, the guy was steered to the wrong office. Wulkowicz should have been directed to see the bureaucrats at the Department of Transportation, but instead he landed at my cubicle where I helped plan job training programs for the city. Obviously he was at the wrong office.

Nonetheless, I started chatting with him, and after a couple of minutes we established instantaneous connections that often guys raised in Chicago’s neighborhoods make. He was raised in the West Pilsen/Little Village area. I lived in Lawndale until I was ten, and then moved to West Rogers Park. He went to Catholic schools, I attended CPS schools. We had the shared experience of riding the CTA trains and buses, sneaking into the box seats at the Cubs and Sox games, and watching in amazement and amusement how Chicago politics played out over the years.

Wulkowicz told me about a friend of his from the old neighborhood named Stuart Dybek who was a writer. He thought I would enjoy Dybek’s stories, and two days later he stopped by my office again and presented me Childhood and Other Neighborhoods as a gift. He let me know that the character Vulk in one of the book’s stories, “The Long Thoughts,” was based on him.

The next few years I saw Wulkowicz off and on. He worked briefly with the city, and then I heard he left town. In fact, he left the country and moved to Canada.

At a Printer’s Row Book Fair maybe ten years ago, I chatted with Dybek before he mounted the stage for a panel discussion where Studs Terkel was also a participant. I told Dybek my Wulkowicz story, and he, pointing at Studs, related that Wulkowicz was the one who first turned him on to Studs and his radio interviews on WFMT when they were both teenagers.

This weekend Dybek is one of the headliners at Printer’s Row. He has two new books out and has emerged as a major literary celebrity in Chicago.  If I can get his attention for a minute, I will have to ask him if he has heard from Wulkowicz lately.