A Singular Take on Cultural History: On Luc Sante’s “Maybe the People Would Be the Times”

Luc Sante

If Luc Sante wrote the phone book I’d read it. Twice. Happily, Sante’s new book Maybe the People Would Be the Times gathers pieces about music, art, and city life from the last twenty-plus years, so what he writes about is as compelling as the style with which he does it. Sante stubbornly refuses to write a stale line. Whether paying tribute to the young Patti Smith or imagining the subsequent lives of the original owners of 45s in his collection or recalling the long-gone businesses and denizens of the Lower East Side, he puts the reader right there, seeing what he saw, thinking what he thought.

Continue Reading

The Mythic, the Real, and the Profane: A Review of Leah Hampton’s “F*ckface and Other Stories”

Leah Hampton cover

Leah Hampton isn’t fucking around. You don’t call a short story collection what she called hers if the plan is to be indirect. But for all its bluntness, her writing is subtle and multilayered. As great as Hampton is at sketching out living, breathing people, she’s at least as adept at using symbol and metaphor. Even when I could see a plot cocking its fist back, I was helpless to dodge the blow to my gut. The worst part is I was laughing out loud moments before getting clobbered.

Continue Reading

Dispatches From a Life in Punk: A Review of Sam McPheeters’s “Mutations”

"Mutations" cover

There’s so little to be happy about these days that when something comes along that sparks some joy we cling to it like a life raft. The Tiger King didn’t do shit for me but I couldn’t put Sam McPheeters’ book Mutations down. I tore through it in a day and a half, skipping meals and work along the way. I doubt I would’ve read it any slower if there was no plague outside my door or if we had a human being for a  president, it’s that good.

Continue Reading

Ben Katchor’s Singular Cultural and Culinary History: “The Dairy Restaurant” Reviewed

Ben Katchor cover

Like the Bible, Ben Katchor’s book The Dairy Restaurant begins in the Garden of Eden. But his paradise is a clean, well-lit diner where a weary Jew can order a plate of gefilte fish or some blintzes and sit and dream. An encyclopedic elegy to a way of eating and living, it is mournful, exhaustive, and deadpan funny in roughly equal measure. It is also unlike any book I have ever read.

Continue Reading

A Country That No Longer Exists: An Excerpt From “Soviet Stamps”

"Soviet Stamps" cover

We’re pleased to present an excerpt from Soviet Stamps, the new book from artist, writer, and Vol.1 Brooklyn contributor Dmitry Samarov. Samarov describes it as follows: “Through written vignettes, artwork, and family photos the book charts Samarov’s emigration from the USSR in 1978, on to his attempts to fit into American society and peripatetic attempts to earn a living, while continuing to create artwork.” It’s available and can be purchased in New York at Quimby’s Bookstore NYC.

Continue Reading

Inside Christian TeBordo’s Uncanny Fictions

Christian TeBordo

I met Christian TeBordo years ago at the Rainbo Club. He’s a regular. His spot is by the door, facing west. There’s a calm, self-contained quality to the way he carries himself. There’s no smartphone, notebook, or any other accessory on the bartop in front of him; just his pint of beer on the bar and a thoughtful expression on his face. He doesn’t look bored or lonely or sad like so many solitary drinkers do. The visit to the bar is clearly part of a routine. I find out later it’s the mid-point stop on his return from work between the Blue Line and home. For years we waved familiarly but rarely talked. I’m not in the habit of intruding on others’ space without a good reason. I knew TeBordo was a writer of some kind and that he was a professor at Roosevelt University, but not much more than that.

Continue Reading

Exploring Nelson Algren’s Literary Legacy: A Review of “Never a Lovely So Real”

The other day at the coffee shop, a young woman asked me what I was reading. When I told her it was a new biography of Nelson Algren, she drew a blank. It wasn’t until I mentioned Algren’s long affair with Simone de Beauvoir that her face lit up with recognition. This woman is well-read and has lived in Chicago a few years, but she’d never heard of arguably the city’s greatest chronicler. And she’s not alone. Though Algren won the very first National Book Award in 1950, and was considered a top tier writer for a decade or so thereafter, he’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway or Faulkner anymore. I’m hoping that Colin Asher’s definitive portrait of the man might change that.

Continue Reading

“Jinx”: An Excerpt from Dmitry Samarov’s “Music to My Eyes”

Today, we’re pleased to present an excerpt from Dmitry Samarov’s forthcoming book Music to My Eyes, due out on April 1st on Tortoise Books. In it, Samarov turns the spotlight on several of the musicians who have impressed him most over the years, bringing together his impressions of their sound with memories of a changing Chicago — and, of course, his artwork, capturing the energy and emotion of musicians playing before an audience.  

Continue Reading