Chicago, Please Stop Sucking As A Literary City

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).

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Me and Jennifer Weiner in NOT-Chicago

 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.

Ahem.

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.

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22 thoughts on “Chicago, Please Stop Sucking As A Literary City

  1. love this. Naperville is FAR, man. and didn’t it just get voted most boring suburb or maybe that was snobbiest suburb?? something like that. i guess that’s why they’re shipping ’em out there? dunno. i live in the city, but i honestly would much rather do things like this OUT of the city– but NOT Naperville out. come on now. xo

    • Well, in that case….I sure do love books and if I could read in the back and host the book clubs, then….

      On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:

      >

    • I guess I’ll have to move to NYC or stay where I am, write my own book, develop a following and have a party at my house.

      On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 3:31 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:

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  2. I’m with you. I love Chicago, but man, we really are the second city. Naperville, however, I just can’t explain. It can’t just be that it’s easier to park there. It’s Illinois, so I assume somebody, somewhere, is getting paid off.

  3. Hey, Mama,
    I didn’t see you at LitFest, the Tribune sponsored book extravaganza that hosted thousands with a hundred or so authors, author events and book signings. It happens in Printers Row the first weekend in June every year. The Trib also hosts many author events throughout the yearI’ve met Gillian Flynn (You can’t believe how distant a cousin) Jamie Freveletti, James McBride, Kevin Young, Julia McBride, Allison Pataki, Barbara Ehrenreich, Paulette Livers, Pia Padukone,and had lunch this year with Stuart Dybek. Never got out of the loop.Oh yes, almost forgot Jamaica Kincaid and others I can’t recall at the moment.
    And how about the Poetry Foundation, founded and HQ’d right here in downtown Chicago. Now they’ve moved all the way up to Superior Street. I’ve met Kay Ryan, Billy Collins, May Karr and others. I never left the city. I don’t for any book events. Oh, and I forgot the authors I met at the Humanities Festival.
    And, many of these were lacking book vendor sponsors because Amazon has put most book stores out of business. And now they’re going after the publishers. Want someone to pay you to publish your book? Cancel your Amazon purchases. They are trying to run everything. And they won’t do any better than Sears did or Walmart is doing. But they will put people out of business. And keep people from getting into business.
    Rant over.

    • Oh, I’m done with Amazon, alright. And you’re right about Printer’s row….I was conveniently leaving that off. I also love the Chicago Writer’s Conference, but still. Feel my Naperville angst! 😉

      Thanks for keeping me honest and how amazing is Ms. Flynn??? your cousin!

      On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:34 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:

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