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Local Book Leftovers 2014

Emptying the notebook.

1. Becoming Richard Pryor.

"Becoming Richard Pryor is a book that breaks new ground, even if it has a tendency to take its insights very seriously and its audience's knowledge of the Pryor oeuvre for granted. It spends a long time on this tormented funnyman's childhood years in Peoria, Ill.," Janet Maslin wrote for the New York Times last month.

"Pryor got a lot of mileage out of the fact that he grew up in his grandmother's brothel. [Author Scott] Saul gets a lot of mileage out of explaining what kind of matriarch that pistol-packing grandma, Marie Pryor, was, and what a huge influence she was in Richard's life.

"The details about his father, Buck, a pimp and a brawler, are also unexpectedly revealing, especially because Richard was the only one of his children whom he chose to keep. Mr. Saul does not dwell on the luridness of this background, because, to the young boy who lived it, it was almost ordinary.

"He details the amazing way Richard found his way out of the life for which he seemed destined and into the world of the performing arts. If this book has a heroine, it is Juliette Whittaker, the drama teacher who recognized this shy kid as the true original that he was."

2. Escape From Art Institute Mountain.

"The late author and illustrator Alexander Key became famous for his children's science fiction novels in the late 1960s. The most famous of those books, Escape From Witch Mountain has been made into a movie three times," the Tallahassee Democrat reported last month.

"But before the Maryland-born Key found his niche, he wrote and illustrated a pair of historical novels about nearby Apalachicola, where he lived for a decade as a young artist.

"The two books, The Wrath and the Wind (1949) and Island Light (1950) had long been out of print - until now. Thanks to a group of North Florida enthusiasts, both books have been re-issued. And the generally acclaimed superior of those two books, The Wrath and Wind, will be the centerpiece of discussion Thursday night at Mission San Luis."

Here's the local angle:

"At 18, he enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute, becoming a book illustrator, who illustrated hundreds of books, including his own. He also took up writing, cranking out short stories for pulp magazines such as Argosy and Clue Detective.

"In the early 1930s, with the Great Depression in full swing, Key and his first wife, fellow Chicago Art Institute student Margaret Livings, moved to Apalachicola."

See also: Alexander Key.

3. Illinois Historic Farms.

4. What Teenage Drivers Don't Know.

"What Teenage Drivers Don't Know is a supplement to drivers ed curriculums that contains information many motorists only find out through years of experience behind the wheel," the Tribune reported earlier this week.

"What should you do when your car hits a patch of black ice? How should you dress and behave if you have to appear in traffic court? How should you drive and what should you watch for in a parking lot?

"The answers to these questions and more can be found in a new book that might soon be used by drivers education students in both Naperville school districts.

"What Teenage Drivers Don't Know is the work of John Harmata and Paul Zientarski, both of Naperville."

5. A Field Guide To Chicago Jagoffs.


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 1, 2015

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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