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Local Book Notes: Operation Bookdrop, Pinsky's PoemJazz & Taking The Prairie School To Europe

1. Operation: Book Drop.

"The Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday, Oct. 3 will deliver more than 5,000 books to Chicago public schools as part of the American Federation of Teachers' First Book National Book Bank," the union says in a press release.

"Operation: Book Drop is a reading recovery and restoration initiative by the Union to keep the appreciation of literature at the forefront of education in schools that have suffered from severe budget cuts by the mayor's office and Chicago Public Schools.

"CPS considers a school without a library if that school doesn't have a teacher designated as a librarian. This year's layoffs and budget cuts decimated librarian staff in a district that already lacked libraries in 160 schools. Nearly 190 elementary schools in CPS - more than 40 percent - do not currently have a teacher designated in a librarian position, according to CTU analysis of the district's Sept. 5 position file.

"This total has been increasing since 2011, when 135 elementary schools - just below 30 percent - lacked librarians. Fifty high schools do not have a teacher designated in a librarian position, which is 56 percent of all district-run high schools. This is double the total from 2011.

"At Nancy B. Jefferson Elementary School on the West Side, the school has been unable to buy books or fulfill department orders for two years and will experience even more drastic supply and position cuts this school year.

"Teachers chose books for their students and placed the orders themselves to try and mitigate the effects these budget cuts had on their classrooms," said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. "Even the so-called 'welcoming schools,' which were supposed to have better resources, don't."

"CTU staff and members will deliver books Thursday to the the South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School; Hyde Park Academy; South Shore International College Prep, and; Whittier Elementary.

"Whittier Elementary in Pilsen was promised a library by the district in 2010, but has been under-resourced and undervalued in the years since, culminating in the demolition of the La Casita field house in August by the mayor's office. Books that were once used by Whittier students are now stored in a canister on the demolition site."

See also: Mayor Rahm's Grand Experiment: Libraries Without Librarians.

2. The Architecture of Barry Byrne: Taking the Prairie School to Europe.

"One of the first significant apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright, Barry Byrne (1883-1967) was a radical architect who sought basic principles as fervently as his mentor Wright and his inspiration Louis Sullivan.

"From these roots he developed a design philosophy that began with the function of the building. He followed Wright's principles but forged an individual style more reminiscent of Sullivan and Irving Gill, with taut planar skins enveloping modern space plans.

"In 1922 he designed the first modern Catholic church building, St. Thomas the Apostle in Chicago, and in 1924 he traveled to Europe where he met Mies, Mendelsohn, Oud, and other modernist architects. He was the only Prairie School architect to build in Europe, designing the concrete Church of Christ the King, built in 1928-31 in Cork, Ireland.

"In this book, architectural historian Vincent L. Michael charts the entire length of Byrne's work, highlighting its distinctive features while discussing the cultural conditions that kept Byrne in the shadows of his more famous contemporaries. Byrne lacked the architectural ego of his mentor Wright and believed true architecture was intrinsically humble, concentrating for much of his career on Catholic churches and schools throughout North America, many of them now considered landmarks.

"A dedicated modernist who rejected historical mannerisms and celebrated contemporary materials and processes, he was also a devoted Catholic, progressively participating in the liturgical reform movement from the 1920s until his death. In his practice his modernism and Catholicism came together, revolutionizing the ground plans of Catholic churches in anticipation of the reforms of Vatican II forty years later.

"Creative, vibrant, and relentlessly intellectual, Barry Byrne was, like all great artists, a collection of contradictions. Illustrated by more than one hundred photographs and drawings, this biography explores the interplay of influences and impulses - individualism and communalism, modernism and tradition, pragmatism and faith - enduring throughout Byrne's life and work."

See also Blair Kamin's review: Frank Lloyd Wright Apprentice Cast His Influence Over Chicago Suburbs.

Note: Vince Michael is a brother of Tom Michael, a friend of the Beachwood's and the impresario behind Marfa Public Radio.

3. PoemJazz With Robert Pinsky And Laurence Hobgood.

"The 59th annual Poetry Day is a presentation of PoemJazz, Robert Pinsky's innovative dialogue between poetry and music. PoemJazz intertwines language and instrument, emphasizing the physical and melodic qualities of voice, as well as the way jazz improvisation can sometimes seem to speak. The result is an organic new whole of sound and sense. A book and CD signing follows.

"Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented three terms as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure he established the Favorite Poem Project, a program that movingly explored poetry's place in American lives. Among his books are eight award-winning collections of verse, translations of Dante and Milosz, critical works and anthologies. In 2010, Poetry published his libretto to Tod Machover's groundbreaking opera, Death and the Powers.

"Pianist and composer Laurence Hobgood lived in Chicago from 1988 to 2006 working with numerous musicians, most notably vocalist Kurt Elling, with whom he collaborated on six Grammy-nominated recordings for the Blue Note label. The two still perform together at the Green Mill in Chicago."

Performance scheduled for Thursday, October 10, 6 p.m. at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center. Free admission.


Here's Pinsky performing PoemJazz in his hometown of Monmouth, New Jersey, last March. Musicians: Bassist Ben Allison and guitarist Steve Cardenas.


4. Sneed And McOmber.

"Chicago novelists Christine Sneed and Adam McOmber will discuss their fiction in a Society of Midland Authors program Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor. Sneed and McOmber will speak at 7 p.m. A social hour, with complimentary snacks and a cash bar, begins at 6 p.m. Admission is free, and no reservations are required. The public is invited.

"Chicago magazine recently named Sneed's novel Little Known Facts (Bloomsbury USA) the Best New Book by a Local Author. Sneed is also the author of the short story collection Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry (Bloomsbury USA).

"McComber's novel The White Forest (Touchstone), published last year, came out in paperback this summer. He is also the author of the short story collection This New and Poisonous Air (BOA Editions). He teaches at Columbia College and is an editor for the literary journal Hotel Amerika."

5. Don't Kiss Me.

"Lindsay Hunter, author of the acclaimed new short story collection Don't Kiss Me, will read from her work as part of this fall's Roosevelt University Reading Series at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7 in Roosevelt's Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave.

"Hunter, a long-time Chicago resident originally from Florida, writes fast-paced, voice-driven stories, usually from the perspective of characters on the margins of society.

"In a review of Don't Kiss Me, the Boston Globe says 'although she trades in the unsavory, Hunter's style is both ingenious and mature' and concludes that 'Hunter is such a talented writer that she makes the unimaginably unpleasant seem natural, and terrifyingly so.'

"Prior to her most recent book, Hunter published a collection of stories called Daddy's with local press Featherproof Books. She is the co-founder and co-host of the renowned flash-fiction reading series Quickies!.


Comments welcome.


Posted on October 3, 2013

MUSIC - At Home Chicago Blues.
TV - How America Doesn't Teach History.
POLITICS - The Remote Learning Divide.
SPORTS - Cancel Culture.

BOOKS - Go Ahead, Eat Those Cheetos.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Suffering With Stoics & Cynics.

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