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Local Book Notes: Portraits Of Chicago, The Walmart Republic & Unknown Americans

1. Chicago Portraits from the Tribune due out September 15th.

From the press materials:

"For more than 100 years, the prize-winning photographers at the newspaper have been documenting life in Chicago. Along the way, they've amassed an unmatched collection of photos of the city's denizens and visitors. The resulting photo archive is a priceless assortment of the famous, infamous, and otherwise fascinating subjects who have lived in - or just passed through - Chicago.

"For the first time, the finest Tribune portrait photographs have been collected in one comprehensive volume. The collection comprises a rare accounting of the innumerable images and faces we may encounter every day but unwittingly skim over.

"From black-and-white photos of Chicago flappers to a young Oprah Winfrey; iconic Chicago sports figures to notable politicians; from everyday Chicagoans to the famous artists and musicians who have visited the city, Chicago Portraits captures the individuals who people the Windy City in all its complexity.

"But the book isn't just a fascinating and colorful look into daily life in Chicago; it also serves as a unique showcase for the unsung photographers who, day after day for over a century, have produced this remarkable collection of indelible portraits."


"Notable subjects include Jim Belushi, Oprah Winfrey, Studs Terkel, Rev. Jesse Jackson, John Malkovich, Harold Washington, Walter Payton, Billy Corgan, Vince Vaughn, Gillian Flynn, Tavi Gevinson, John C. Reilly, Tracy Letts, members of the Chicago Blackhawks, Barack and Michelle Obama, and many, many more."


Comment: Yeah, I bet those are the least interesting photos of all! Also, as it's been said a million times, Chicago needs a better brand of celebrity. At least, hopefully, no Bill Kurtis!


Here's a digital look-see:


2. Freedom of Shadow: A Tribute to Terry Adkins.

"Join the Poetry Foundation for a performance of Freedom of Shadow: A Tribute to Terry Adkins, an oratorio for solo voice and electronics by Douglas Kearney and Haitian-born experimental musician and sound artist Val Jeanty on September 20th at 6 pm. This event takes place at the Poetry Foundation building located at 61 W. Superior Street."



* Terry Adkins' obituary in the New York Times.

* Terry Adkins' Artworks.


Kearney in the forthcoming October 2014 issue of Poetry:

"Early in 2013, I started a granted collaboration with installation artist, musician, sculptor, etc. etc., Terry Adkins, Only a year later, Terry died of a heart attack. Following his passing, I chose to proceed and continue with work in tribute to his art and its impact on mine - but focused on remembering Terry's alter ego, a figure named 'Blanche Bruce' (after the first black U.S. senator elected to serve a full term). That work - an oratorio for voice and digital turntables - is called Freedom of Shadow."

More from the Poetry Foundation:

"As a companion piece to the September 20 performance of Freedom of Shadow, Berlin-based schriftkunstler (writing artist) Drury Brennan takes over the Poetry Foundation gallery wall to compose ulteriori ombre (further shadows), a massive calligraphic reaction to Kearney's original text. The exhibition will be up from September 18 through October 24. Both the exhibition and performance are free and open to the public. Space is limited. A reception follows the performance on September 20."


Preview: Douglas Kearney and Val Jeanty perform "Blanche Bruce Does the Modernism" from the oratorio.


3. The Walmart Republic.

"The Guild Literary Complex has teamed up with the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts for a night of dancing, poetry, and general revelry to celebrate Quraysh Ali Lansana and Christopher Stewart for their most recent collaboration - a collection of individual poems - entitled The Walmart Republic (Mongrel Empire Press).


"This free, open-to-the- public party takes place Saturday, September 13th from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. at the Logan Center for the Arts - Performance Penthouse (915 East 60th Street, 9th floor, Chicago)."


From the Poets' Quarterly review:

"The Walmart Republic: a land where chain megastores not only crush smaller shops but also take on a civic role: town hall, meeting place - shopping as public entertainment and engagement. The Walmart Republic is the America that Quraysh Ali Lansana and Christopher Stewart's poetry crosses, telling the stories of their separate journeys from the Bible Belt to Chicago, yet these poems do not mock the landscape or its inhabitants in the manner of People of Walmart. Instead, empathy underwrites and counterpoints absurdity, even as the stories of a black man and a white man build, through contrasts and points of connection, a novelistic view of the U.S. in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

"In these poems, characters who often might be treated as stereotypical figures of fun are given dignity."


From the Poetry Foundation:

"Ali Lansana is from Enid, OK; Stewart was raised in Dallas, small Texas towns, and Chicago neighborhoods. A white man and a black man born in post Kennedy, post-King southern and Midwestern USA, though both disagree with those geographical tags.

"Through these poems, the poets assert that their births, their ways of seeing, and their pains are rooted in what Ali Lansana's OU film professor termed 'the Walmart Republic,' a land where shopping center is community center; where the failures of the father are re-learned in the lessons of the son."


"Not just a night of readings, the evening's program also celebrates Ali Lansana's 50th birthday and will be a full house of voices and grooves - featuring Angela Jackson and Elise Paschen, as well as performances by In the Spirit and Team REBIRTH. avery r. young will present an original performance in response to the provocative writing in The Walmart Republic.

"Hosted by Mario Smith, Vocalo DJ Ayana Contreras will facilitate dancing and good times, with beverages by Informal hors d'oeurves and cake will be provided. Copies of The Walmart Republic will be for sale at the event by Women and Children First."


4. Unknown Americans On The North Shore.

Cristina Henriquez and Rebecca Makkai: Two Chicago novelists in conversation.

Tuesday, Sept. 9th, 6 p.m., at the Harold Washington Library, sponsored by the Society of Midland Authors.

"Henriquez's new novel, The Book of Unknown Americans, was chosen by Amazon as the best novel from the first half of 2014, and it was a recent 'Book of the Week' selection at Oprah Winfrey's O magazine website.


Kakutani, New York Times: "'We're the unknown Americans,' says a character in Cristina Henriquez's second novel, 'the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them.'

"That declaration bluntly articulates the theme of The Book of Unknown Americans, as does the novel's choral structure - made up of first-person reminiscences from an array of characters from Latin American countries including Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay, Nicaragua and Venezuela, all of whom talk to us directly about their reasons for coming to the United States.

"These aspects of Ms. HenrĂ­quez's novel may make it seem like a timely story, given the current debate over immigration and the surge of young illegal immigrants now crossing over the border into the United States. But they also emphasize the novel's more schematic and tendentious aspects. In fact, Unknown Americans is at its most powerful not when it's giving us a documentarylike look at immigrant life in one Delaware (yes, Delaware) town, but when it's chronicling the lives of its two central characters: a beautiful Mexican teenager named Maribel Rivera and her admiring friend and neighbor, Mayor Toro. It is Maribel and Mayor's star-crossed love that lends this novel an emotional urgency, and it's the story of their families that gives us a visceral sense of the magnetic allure of America, and the gaps so many immigrants find here between expectations and reality."


Makkai's second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is set on Chicago's North Shore.


Gentry, Tribune:

"'What is the opposite of memory?' asks a character near the end of Rebecca Makkai's second novel, The Hundred-Year House. 'What is the inverse of an echo?' Fate, of course, is the answer; history spelled backward, with the causality swapped to make past events contingent on future ends. Whether we see this as magical or sinister depends, of course, on the ends.

"In a romantic comedy, fate is taking the wrong jeans home from the laundromat and finding the love of your life's phone number in the pocket; in a tragedy, it's taking the wrong jeans home from the laundromat and inadvertently destroying an entire family. But what if the charming meet-cutes of today required just such sacrifices from the past? What if you could feel yourself being yanked through life on the puppet strings of someone else's happy ending?

"The Hundred-Year House explores this disquieting premise under the guise of a metafictional comedy of manners, and succeeds by treating its subject with a deceptively light hand. Without the fine writing of an A.S. Byatt or the cutting wit of a Mary McCarthy, indeed without much sentence-level panache at all, Makkai has written a novel that reads almost like early Muriel Spark - clever, competent, and concealing an unsettling and skewed reality under the straightforward genre piece it initially presents itself as."


The discussion begins at 6 p.m. sharp, followed by a book signing.


5. Hyde Park Book Sale Wants Your Donations - And Will Even Come Get Them.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 3, 2014

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