Dude, Chicago, we gotta talk. I gave myself a 36-hour cooling off period, but I’m still consumed with roiling emotions (rage, indignation, rage).
How can it be that so many literary events do not take place within the actual city limits? Why do we make authors and their fans trek out to Naperville, fifty three miles from downtown Chicago? Did you know that Jennifer Weiner’s driver got lost on the way to Naporville and then Ms. Weiner threw up in the bumper-to-bumper traffic?
This is how we compete with NYC and LA?
I’ve got nothing against the suburbs, but why can’t I take the Michigan Avenue bus or the red line to see writers like Ms. Weiner? Or Jill Smokler? My babysitting fees for a night with Jennifer Weiner? Over $100.00, in part, because the highway back to Chicago flooded, and we sat on I-290 without moving for over an hour. That wasn’t exactly “in the budget” as they say.
Fine. Weather happens. But why do I have to go back out to Naperville if I want to see Chris Colfer of Glee fame, talking about his new book The Land of Stories? If I want to see Jen Mann from People I Want To Punch In the Throat, or Jane Smiley, and I do, then I better pinch my fucking Benjamins because $100 IN BABYSITTING and oh my god, gas to Naperville.
Even the crowd-drawer Emily Giffin, who did stop at Bloomgingdale’s on North Michigan Avenue on May 28th, first stopped in Naperville. Of course she did– that’s the literary epicenter of Illinois.
It’s not like I live somewhere far and out of reach. I live in the middle of this gigantic city. While I’m proud that our suburbs are thriving literary enclaves, I’m confounded about why we can’t scrounge up some interest in the actual city to host authors. Are we that bereft of literary culture or accommodating venues in this City? Didn’t we bid to host the Olympics? What, a state of the art archery center was totally doable but a modest theatre for a chart-topping author is simply out of the question?
Please don’t make me open an indie bookstore to host these events. I don’t look like Meg Ryan, I don’t write like Ann Patchett and I have enough conflicted feelings about Amazon.
Can we agree to work on this together? I’ll do my part. (What that consists of outside of this well-written screed is not yet clear, but I’ll keep my eyes open for opportunity to remedy this.) You do yours.
Please stop sucking as a literary city.