October 21, 2014

CCLaP Podcast 121: "Chicago After Dark" Columbia College Contributor Party

CCLaP Podcast 121: 'Chicago After Dark' Columbia College Contributor Party

It's Monday Tuesday, which means it's time for another episode of the CCLaP Podcast. Today, it's a special half-hour live recording from last week's Chicago After Dark Columbia College contributor party, featuring performances from four of the book's authors as well as some work from student editor Taylor Carlile.

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Chicago After Dark Citywide Release Party

And don't forget our main general citywide party for Chicago After Dark, happening next Tuesday, October 28th from 6 to 8 pm, at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie). This will be our only party this year to feature all 31 contributors, and there will also be free food and alcohol, so I hope all of you will have a chance to stop by. Make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more information.

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:24 PM, October 21, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Podcast | CCLaP news | Chicago news | CCLaP Publishing | Events | Literature |
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Meet Chris Schahfer, CCLaP's newest book reviewer!

Meet Chris Schahfer, CCLaP's newest book reviewer

Hey, everyone, just wanted to take a moment and make sure you got introduced to CCLaP's newest book reviewer, Chris Schahfer based right here in Chicago. Chris is a graduate of Wayne State University who is now a creative writing MFA candidate at the local Roosevelt University; like all our other reviewers, he'll be posting a write-up about a contemporary book once every week or two, as well as an ongoing essay series over the next year in which he tackles notoriously thick and dense novels throughout history. Chris's first review, regarding Lydia Davis' Can't and Won't, just went live the other day, so I hope you'll have a chance to check it out. We're really glad to have him onboard, and I hope you grow to be as big a fan of his astute literary analysis as I've recently become.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:17 PM, October 21, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Chicago news | Chris Schahfer | Literature | Reviews |
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October 20, 2014

Book Review: "Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
By Gillian Flynn
[Press]
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

It's telling, I think, that when I was posting real-time comments about Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl to my friends at Facebook while I was reading it last week, I ended up remarking while still in the first half that the plot itself isn't really that clever, just basically a fictionalized version of the Scott Peterson affair from the early 2000s (in which an angelic suburban mom was found hacked up into pieces one day, and the more the media glare was laser-sighted on her husband, the more it was revealed what a scheming, soul-dead, sociopathic frat boy he really is). Because of course without revealing any spoilers today, it's impossible to see this book's surprise rise into "international phenomenon" status, including resulting smash Hollywood adaptation by the Oscar-winning David Fincher, without at least realizing that some awfully clever thing must happen somewhere in this pitch-black contemporary crime novel; and an awfully clever thing does eventually happen, and it's exactly as brilliantly evil as its reputation has it, and that's ultimately what's raised the book from "unusually well-done domestic thriller" territory into the DaVinci-Code-like level of popularity and influence it now has.

But as long as we're there in the first half and are still thinking that it's just a Scott Peterson story, we understand it as the best Scott Peterson-type story ever written, so much so that it wouldn't surprise us to find out that it had become such a huge runaway bestseller simply for its excellent character development, simply for its well-rounded look at all the principals involved and how each have both their good and bad sides which both come out in specific situations. And that in a nutshell is the genius of Flynn as a writer, and why her midlist low-profile crime thriller has blown up in a way that almost no other midlist low-profile crime thriller ever has; because she is a sophisticated, highly literary writer first and foremost, but unlike "literary novelists" who dabble in genre work, she is also obviously an unabashed fan of all the tropes that come with "ripped from the headlines" supermarket potboilers, giving us a book that highly satisfies the latter audience while also surprisingly impressing the former.

That's really the key to this book working, apart from any "gotchas" in the novel's admittedly very inventive storyline; it's because Flynn really sucks us into this world at first, and makes us if not entirely sympathetic to our narrator under suspicion, the charming yet put-upon Nick Dunne, at least understanding of the way his history, his family and his genetics makes him behave, inventing a crippling lack of self-confidence and an obsessive need to please others to explain his cold manner of fake-polite demeanor while in public, even while in the wake of a missing wife and under the scrutiny of a nation's worth of cameras. And there is the brilliant use of symbolism, too, a literary quality that's dropped in popularity since its heyday of late-1800s Europe, but deployed to such effective measure here: like the abandoned mall on the edge of town, for one good example, that used to employ the vast majority of the northern Missouri small city where Nick grew up (and where he and his wife now live, post-New-York and post-Great-Recession, yet another effective symbol), but that has become a menacing and mysterious haunted house since its closure and subsequent lack of demolition, becoming a dark and dangerous shantytown for meth-addicted unemployed workers that may or may not have played a major role in our hero Amy's disappearance. There are a dozen other examples like these that I could mention, traditional building blocks of "literary fiction" that Flynn gets so right here, and that gets us so emotionally invested in this story long before the big twists begin to happen -- from Amy's background as the true-life inspiration for a hit series of Young Adult books by her overprotective parents, featuring a Pollyannish version of her that can literally do no wrong, to the overblown scavenger hunts that Amy creates for each of their wedding anniversaries, which says so much about her and her obsessive need for grand projects taken too seriously, and says so much about him and his cool refusal to at least play along.

But like I said, though, Gone Girl does indeed have a major twist about halfway through -- and without saying anything about what it is, in general you can say that if the first half is a literary take on the Scott Peterson story, then the second half is a literary take on Lisa Nowak, the NASA astronaut who went bat-crap crazy in 2007 and tried to kill her husband's lover, by driving halfway across the country in the middle of the night with a trunk full of horror-show implements, and wearing adult diapers so she could just defecate in her pants and not have to stop the car. And that's a brilliant twist to add to a Scott Peterson-type story, because it calls into doubt everything we've read before -- suddenly we're not so immediately sure anymore just how much of a cad Nick actually is, and how much of his "guilt" is actually the result of a media frenzy spearheaded by a barely disguised Nancy Grace, which of course is one of the main points Flynn wants to make here. Ultimately the surprises in Gone Girl's second half act as much more than simple shocks designed to keep the reader engaged (although, brother, believe me when I say that they act as that as well); they're meant to comment on our modern society of digital finger-pointing, meant to comment on marriage and the impossibility of truly knowing someone 100 percent, meant to comment on gender and mental illness and the sociological effects of a prolonged period of national financial trouble.

Ultimately, though, perhaps the best way to define Gone Girl is simply as a highly effective contemporary noir, despite the lack of all the cliches from the classic '30s and '40s definition of the term; because when all is said and done, what this book is really about is two pretty horrible people, who held it together just long enough to fall in love, then reverted back to their horrible selves so thoroughly that eventually they both became devoted to the idea of destroying the other, an impulse just kept in check until the day they both finally lost their jobs and were forced to move to a town neither of them wanted to be in. Regardless of any more general issues of gender politics that Flynn might be addressing here (and to be clear, an entire Master's thesis could be written on the subsumed issues of gender politics seen in this novel), ultimately she's telling the story of two unusual and unique cases, two people whose irredeemable natures, cowardly spirits, and propensities for doing the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time make them almost textbook examples of great noir characters, and what makes noir a separate genre away from simply tales about crime or the "war between the sexes." When viewed in this light, Gone Girl is about as perfect as crime noirs get, which is why today's it's becoming our sixth review of 2014 to receive a perfect score of 10. It comes highly recommended to one and all, one of those proverbial "books to read this year if you only read one book this year."

Out of 10: 10

Read even more about Gone Girl: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:08 AM, October 20, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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October 17, 2014

Chicagoans, hope to see you at tonight's Columbia College party!

Chicago After Dark Columbia College Contributor Party

Hey, Chicagoans, will you be close to the South Loop area tonight? Then I hope you'll have a chance to stop by the Columbia College contributor party for our new "city all-star" student anthology, Chicago After Dark, being held at the school's "Stage Two" space on the second floor of their 618 S. Michigan building from 7 to 9 pm tonight. It'll feature free food and drinks, plus around a half-hour of performances culled randomly from the various contributors who will be there that night (including Virginia Ilda Baker, Hal Baum, Marquise Davion, Austin Eskeberg, Alyssa Fuerholzer, Charlie Harmon, Alicia Ann Hauge, Melissa Huedem, Amy Kisner, Elizabeth Major, Maggie McGovern, Ka'Mia Miller, Nicole Montavlo, Rachel Lee Ormes, Zack Reiter, and Megan Shattuck); and although it's mostly a way for the Columbia contributors and their friends to celebrate the book, certainly we welcome any member of the public to come by, so I hope you'll have a chance to attend too. Check out its Facebook event for more, and I look forward to seeing you tonight!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:05 AM, October 17, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Events | Literature |
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Book Review: "Predator: the Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution," by Richard Whittle

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)
 
Predator, by Richard Whittle
 
Predator: the Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution
By Richard Whittle
Henry Holt and Company
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
Drone warfare. Those two words unleash a maelstrom of outrage, hysteria, and paranoia. Former Pentagon correspondent Richard Whittle traces the development and deployment of the Predator drone in Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution. He takes us into the shadowy territory of covert operations, military procurement, and new weapons development. Despite this being a history of covert military operations and groundbreaking inventions, this isn't about triumphalist saber-rattling or wallowing in the throes of cheap patriotism. Whittle does offer enthusiastic moments of gee-whiz technological innovation, but this is tempered with a grounded objectivity gained from years working as a journalist.

(Predator can be read in concert with other intelligence histories like The Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets, and The Shadow Factory, all by James Bamford, about the National Security Agency.)

To the general public, drone warfare is a new thing. Whittle traces drone warfare back all the way to the Second World War. Drones originated as remote-controlled and unmanned aircraft. An early experiment included claimed the life of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., eldest brother of JFK. He flew an explosives laden Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress into enemy territory. Ideally, after parachuting to safety, the unmanned B-17 would fly to its target destination. Unmanned aircraft and primitive drones were also used by the Army and Air Force for target practice. As with any new technology, there was institutional and bureaucratic resistance. When General Atomics, the manufacturer of the earliest Predator, proposed its use to the armed services, it met with universal rejection. The Army preferred using helicopters; the Air Force scoffed, devoted as it was to the cult of the fighter pilot; and the Navy had better things to do.

Then history intervened. In this case, the civil wars resulting from the breakup of Yugoslavia. A combination of reconnaissance needs, mountainous landscape, and budget constraints came into play. Unlike spy satellites and stealth recon planes (SR-71 and U-2), the drone could linger. Not just for hours, but for days. Unseen and unheard by enemy forces, it could paint a target (laser-sight it) for an air-strike.

Technological change brings institutional change. But institutional change was neither gradual nor immediately accepted. For decades intelligence analysts pored over still photographs. This was the case with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the CIA interpreting what those small rectangles were on the Cuban island. Trucks? Nukes? Then, all of a sudden, with the Predator, the CIA and the Pentagon were getting live streaming video. The analysts literally didn't know what to do with the information. Along with this embarrassment of riches came the usual hiccups. One of the unsung heroes of the drone revolution is a techno-scientist named Werner (he prefers to remain anonymous). Like Q from James Bond, he continually develops new technologies or workarounds for issues with the drone. In its earliest conception, the drone was piloted with line-of-sight technology, so the GCS (ground control station) had to remain nearby. Werner created a workaround where it could take off and land via a GCS, but in the interim fly via satellite. (Whittle goes into detail about the various hand-offs and the technical specifications involving different bandwidths.) This is astonishing. Not only does the drone remove the pilot from the craft, but with this innovation, the drone can be handed off to different pilots in a different geographical location!

Despite the caricatures given to drone warfare by critics, piloting the drone isn't the same as waging war via Playstation. There is a pilot and a sensor operator. As a consequence of its reconnaissance capabilities, drone pilots could see figures running away after a successful hit. (Note: Due to technological limitations, they could see figures, not individual faces.) But because of this, many were emotionally shaken by their duties. Drone pilots came closer to snipers than bomber pilots dropping their payloads at 30,000 feet.

When drones became weaponized during the Afghanistan campaign, the drone was outfitted with the twenty-pound Hellfire missile. In its first operation, it spotted and tracked Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. Unfortunately, due to a snarled chain of command, the drone never fired its missile on the target. After this farcical mishap, the chain of command for drone operations was streamlined. But this left a big unanswered question: Who would pull the trigger? In addition, who would be held responsible for any assassinations by Predator drone? The CIA was reluctant to seize responsibility due to the longtime ban on assassinations.

Whittle takes us through the corridors of power and the clashes between Predator advocates and gun-shy politicians. Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor in the National Security Council, badgering Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Clinton became gun-shy of drone warfare following the botched Sudan bombing of a pharmaceuticals plant. Bush and company brushed off Clarke to focus on Iraq to the point of it becoming a perverse fetish. Clinton's reluctance was tragic, Bush's Iraq obsession was farce. Then 9/11 happened.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush Administration's reluctance vanished. The Predator racked up a sizable list of hits, including Al-Qaeda's #3 Mohammad Atef. But it's not all wine and roses for unmanned warfare. The Obama Administration has expanded drone warfare to an alarming degree. Drones have hit targets in Yemen and Syria, both places where the United States has not declared war in an any official capacity. Part of this involves who pulls the trigger on the drone. Currently, the CIA has control over Predator operations, but critics have said it would make more sense for the Pentagon to have control. There are also legal, moral, political, and diplomatic questions that remain unanswered. With Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent statement saying ISIS will involve "thirty years of war," these questions better get resolved quick.

Drones are cost-effective long-range reconnaissance and ground-attack weapons. They remove the pilot from immediate danger. They also open a Pandora's Box of issues. The technology makes them capable of long-range assassinations, raining death from above in a darkly ironic twist to the planes hijacked by Al-Qaeda. But every technology is only as good as its user.
 
Out of 10/9.0
 
Read even more about Predator: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, October 17, 2014. Filed under: Karl Wolff | Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |
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October 16, 2014

CCLaP Rare: "Slaves of New York" by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz (1986), First Edition First Printing

(CCLaP is now selling rare and unusual books through the main website, shipped to customers through USPS Priority Mail and with full refunds always guaranteed. To see the latest full list of volumes for sale, please click here).

Slaves of New York
By Tama Janowitz (1986)
First Edition, First Printing

DESCRIPTION: Oh, Tama Janowitz, you saucy Postmodernist minx! Although time has not been kind to her subsequent career, in 1986 her celebrated book Slaves of New York vaulted her into national attention and adoration, a hip and contemporary "novel in stories" that got her placed by the media into the notorious "literary brat pack" that also included Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. (And of course the high-profile 1989 Hollywood adaptation of the book, starring Bernadette Peters, Steve Buscemi, and Janowitz herself, didn't hurt.) Loosely based on events from her real life (among other things, Janowitz was well known in those years for being buddies with Andy Warhol), the book is a series of related vignettes about artists bumming around a pre-gentrified lower Manhattan in the early '80s, a fascinating look at how commerce and slumming came crashing together in those years to produce the re-gentrification of the area for the first time in decades, all through a vibrant and possibly overhyped gallery scene that eventually produced such superstars as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Keith Haring and more. Janowitz's literary qualities as a writer are still hotly debated to this day (see online reviews of her newest work for vitriolic evidence of this), but it can't be denied that Slaves of New York is a fascinating and important historical document of a time now passed -- a magical age when hipsters could still secure entire warehouses of space in the East Village for a song, and when Brooklyn was still a far-off wasteland of dumpy blue-collar immigrant families -- and a must-have touchstone for any collector of Postmodernist first editions (not to mention a perfect gift for that nostalgic, aging Gen-Xer in your life). Being offered at a very affordable price today, this is a great acquisition for those looking to fill out the '80s shelf of their personal library.

CONDITION: Text: Very Good (VG). Mostly in excellent shape, except for a dent in the front cover, and the starting of foxing on the page edges (see photos for more). Dust jacket: Very Good Plus (VG+). Almost in like-new condition, with price unclipped, except for a bit of dirt and one small wrinkle on the front cover. Stated "First Edition" on the copyright page; existence of "1" on copyright page marks this as a true first printing as well.

PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Hyde Park Book Fair, Chicago, October 2014.

eBay auction
MINIMUM BID: US$20 / BUY THIS MOMENT FOR $40
(If coming across this in the future, see CCLaP's main page at eBay for the relisted auction URL)

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, October 16, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Rare | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Profiles | Reviews |
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October 15, 2014

CCLaP Rare: "Push" by Sapphire (1996), SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

Push, by Sapphire, SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

(CCLaP is now selling rare and unusual books through the main website, shipped to customers through USPS Priority Mail and with full refunds always guaranteed. To see the latest full list of volumes for sale, please click here).

Push
By Sapphire (1996)
SIGNED First Paperback Edition, First Printing

DESCRIPTION: It's a bit of a minor miracle that Ramona Lofton, otherwise known by the pen-name Sapphire, even had a writing career to begin with -- one of four siblings raised by a single parent (and an Army brat to boot), she was a homeless high-school dropout who managed to self-fund her GED, then a college dropout and self-professed "wandering hippie" before eventually getting her MFA at Brooklyn College in the mid-1970s, eventually getting involved with slam poetry right at the birth of that movement in the mid-'80s. It's all of these experiences and more that went into her debut novel, 1996's Push, an astounding and controversially graphic look at a young black teen who literally has everything in the world against her (mentally challenged, an incest and abuse survivor, overweight and hard to get along with), which in the linguistically clever style of Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon tells the tale of Precious's eventual triumph literally in the semi-literate, barely comprehensible language that she only knows at the beginning of the tale, the sentence structure and spelling magically improving bit by bit in front of our eyes as Precious frustratingly succeeds and fails and succeeds and fails in a tough special-needs program in New York City. (BONUS: Read CCLaP's 2010 critical review of Push.) It was the first 100 pages of this unfinished novel that started a bidding war in the mainstream publishing industry, eventually landing Sapphire a half-million-dollar advance to complete it; then it was the Oscar-winning Hollywood adaptation and legitimate cultural phenomenon thirteen years later that cemented Sapphire's role as one of the most influential African-American writers of the entire Postmodernist period. Destined to eventually be one of the most important books for collectors of writers of color, and for fans of Millennial-Era fiction in general, its relatively low price today is a steal compared to what its eventual value will be in just another decade or two, a smart acquisition for the young and serious book collector with the long-range view in mind.

CONDITION: Very Good Plus (VG+). Mostly in excellent shape, except for two small bends in the lower-right corner of the front cover (see photos for more). Signed by Sapphire on the half-title page and dated "5/12/97." Please note that this is a first edition of the PAPERBACK version, issued the same month as the author's signature (May 1997, one year after the hardback version). Existing "1" on the copyright page marks this as a first printing as well.

PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Hyde Park Book Fair, Chicago, October 2014.

eBay auction
MINIMUM BID: US$40 / BUY THIS MOMENT FOR $60
(If coming across this in the future, see CCLaP's main page at eBay for the relisted auction URL)

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, October 15, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Rare | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Profiles | Reviews |
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October 14, 2014

Book Review: "Can't and Won't," by Lydia Davis

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Can't and Won't
By Lydia Davis
Farrar Straus & Giroux
Reviewed by Chris Schahfer

It's natural to think of experimental and realist fiction as two different poles: authors either write form-busting stories that ask readers to rethink what a story can be, or they write small-scale dramas about ordinary people told in a down-to-earth form. If we're to follow this thought through to its logical conclusion, a story in the experimental mode will be more concerned with its form, with factors like chronology and presentation, while a story in the realist mode will be more concerned with content, with factors like plot and characters. Lydia Davis has always bridged this gap, though: her stories focus on ordinary people doing ordinary things, but she's always been interested in how many different ways she can tell about those ordinary people doing their ordinary things, and through a combination of the two modes filter ordinary life through a completely new lens. More on that later.

In some ways, this, her latest collection, is her way of running in place after 2007's excellent Varieties of Disturbance. I can't help but think of this as a slight step down from that book, but Varieties is a career high for her, so it's no big deal. For the most part, Can't and Won't is typical of Davis. The stories are of microscopic length: "Bloomington" and "Housekeeping Observation," among others, are just single sentences long, although they're both masterfully crafted sentences full of conflict, contradiction, and character. Their subject matters -- professors receiving prizes, customers' complaints about restaurants -- are so mundane that you might wonder why anyone would even write about such things. Yet her precision of language and her commitment to exploring new forms (besides the super-short stories she's made her name with, she loves using letters and studies as forms; there are three letters in this collection, for instance: one to a fictional frozen peas manufacturer, one to a peppermint candy company, one to a grant foundation) has a peculiar effect on the reader; you might catch yourself thinking harder about the small conflicts in these experiences that seem so minor than you had without reading Davis. You might realize these boring moments aren't so boring after all; they're full of these strange and rich and often funny details that Davis invites us all to look over; consider what you might otherwise miss in your rush to get through the mundane. These stories are so mindful, so meditative; full of jittery angst, yes, but with a sense of center among the angst that's also downright relaxing. Transformative is today's word. This volume contains stories about vacuum cleaners, abandoned luggage, and a variety of other topics that might be considered too mundane to write fiction about, until Lydia Davis stops you and makes you wonder just why you consider it too mundane.

Now, I find it hard to talk about a collection like this in terms of its individual stories; since Davis' stories are often so short in the first place, I find they function best within the context of one another, surrounded by brief (and sometimes, in fairness, not-so-brief; consider the brilliant "Cows") companions. However, a special mention for sheer brilliance must be made for "The Cows." This is an incredible story. It's about exactly what its title promises, cows on a ranch, but Davis lends conflict and even subtle character to her bovine subjects. It kept me enthralled for the whole of its length, and it's a longer piece. About cows. Just ordinary cows. That's one of the best short stories I've read all year. Couple these great stories with a few dream diaries (some of which are more interesting than others, I'll admit) and stories culled from Flaubert's notebook -- Davis has earned acclaim for her translation of the Madame Bovary author, and also has the courage to take on Proust -- and you've got another terrific collection. It might even change you a little if you let it.

Out of 10: 9.0

Read even more about Can't and Won't: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Chris Schahfer at 10:31 PM, October 14, 2014. Filed under: Chris Schahfer | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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Book Review: "The Martian," by Andy Weir

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian
By Andy Weir
Crown Publishing
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

If Andy Weir's originally self-published The Martian (now a national phenomenon from Crown Publishing, and about to become a major motion picture from Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon) had been just a short story, it would've been perfect -- a ten-thousand-word thriller about a NASA botanist who is accidentally left for dead on Mars after a disastrous mission, when in fact he's still alive, using THE POWER OF SCIIIIIIEEEENCE!!!!!! to keep himself surviving for the several years it takes for Earth to mount and send a rescue mission. But since this is a full-length novel, I am forced to judge it on those terms; and in those terms, the book has some serious freaking problems, not the least of which is that 300 detailed pages about THE POWER OF SCIIIIIIEEEENCE!!!!!! makes for some awfully dull reading, once you get past the sheer novelty of a highly technically accurate action thriller set on another planet.

That's the main problem I had with The Martian when all is said and done, far more than the traditional literary aspects that are either missing or badly handled -- merely that I had become fatally bored with the endless jargony mumbo-jumbo by the book's midway point, especially once you realize that in good scientific-paper style (betraying the scientific background of the author), you can simply read the first paragraph and last paragraph of any chapter to know exactly what actually happens in that chapter. Granted, that can be said about a lot of genre novels out there, whether or not they're scientific in nature; but what keeps a person reading in those cases are all the other literary aspects that an author might bring to a book -- complex characterization, a mature personal style, nuances in the storyline that are only revealed in the those paragraphs between the first and last ones of each chapter -- but given that The Martian completely forgoes all these things in favor of its "all plot momentum all the time" approach so endemic of self-published genre thrillers, there's literally no reason left to read this book than to find out "what happens," and unfortunately this can be done merely by reading one out of every twenty of the tech-filled paragraphs found within, making it easy to see why its ultra-simple adaptation might be so seductive to Hollywood producers.

Ultimately The Martian reads exactly like what it is -- a polyannish ode from a scientist fan to the impossible nobility of the NASA space program, a nobility that no government agency on the planet could ever actually live up to in the real world, and an angry reaction by a scientist writer to all the dumbed-down science-fiction stories that now exist, which itself becomes dryly problematic precisely because it's an angry reaction to dumbed-down science-fiction from a person who's a scientist first and a creative writer second -- and while all this would be forgivable coming from a tiny self-published volume that an unedited author might directly send me through Smashwords for review, it's unfortunately intolerable when learning that an extra million dollars has been spent on it, and an extra hundred publishing professionals have now looked at it, in their attempt to turn it into the massive mainstream national hit it now is. Unless you're a scientist yourself, and get off on 4,000-word descriptions of aeronautical mathematical formulas interspersed with clunky, sometimes slightly homophobic "dad jokes," just do yourself a favor and wait for the movie, where this book's admittedly addictive ticking-clock plot will undoubtedly be put to better use.

Out of 10: 7.8

Read even more about The Martian: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, October 14, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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October 13, 2014

Book Review: "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice
By Ann Leckie
Orbit Books
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Imagine a futuristic Roman Empire that spans that galaxy, working the same way the original one did -- with every new territory gaining all the benefits of any other Roman citizen after annexation, but with annexation happening whether they like it or not, including genocidal-style violence for those who resist. Now imagine that, as a way of providing the firepower to handle such a new annexation, the empire has built giant city-sized spaceships containing hundred of thousands of soldiers, run by a single AI whose consciousness has been split into dozens of zombie-like human "hosts," that allow her to be in multiple places at once and working on multiple things at once. Now imagine that it's a thousand years later, that the aggressive expansion of this empire has gone out of style, and that these massive ships are being retired in order to become permanent unarmed space stations instead, the AIs becoming nothing more than perpetually bored caretakers. If you were one of these AIs facing obsolescence, what would you do?

That's merely page one of Ann Leckie's 2013 Ancillary Justice, with the story going in unexpected new directions starting on page two; and that gives you a good idea of why over the last year, this has become one of the only books in history to win the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke Award and BSFA Award simultaneously, an unheard-of event that demands that this novel be taken seriously, no matter how silly and '70s its cover art. And indeed, after reading this it's easy to see why it's been gaining so much attention, because it's the kind of perfect blend of mind-blowing theoreticals with action-oriented adventure that represents the "holy grail" of science-fiction, a space-opera and brain-teaser rolled into one perfect story bound to satisfy all genre fans no matter who they are. Told simultaneously through three different periods of this ship's thousand-year life, the complicated storyline on display relies on surprise for maximum effect, so I won't go much into the plot itself; but along the way it poses plenty of questions about what the emotional life of an artificially sentient being might be destined to actually be, and how the moral and ethical decisions an AI might make might be heavily influenced by its non-corporeal form and profoundly longer life span than the average human, taking everything about artificially intelligent behavior we've started combining into the "conventional wisdom" and turning it all on its head, within a sweeping vista that spans hundred of planets under an empire more influenced by Indian Hinduism than anything else. The book has a few problems at the very end, which is why it's not getting a perfect score today -- in a nutshell, too much Star Wars, not enough Philip K. Dick -- but in general one can very safely say that Ancillary Justice earns every award it's received in the last year, and I'm looking forward now to reading the other two coming volumes in this heady, satisfying series, including the sequel Ancillary Sword which came out just this month.

Out of 10: 9.5

Read even more about Ancillary Justice: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, October 13, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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October 3, 2014

The CCLaP Weekender for October 3rd is here!

CCLaP Weekender for October 3, 2014

This week's edition of our new e-magazine, The CCLaP Weekender released every Friday morning, is now online for your free downloading pleasure. It features a new piece of original fiction by Daniel S. Libman; a photography feature highlighting the work of globetrotting artist Lukas Horch; and our usual look at the upcoming week of Chicago literary events. Use the links below to access it right now.

Right-click here for PDF / Voluntarily donate 99 cents
Online version at Issuu.com (or just use the embedded version above if you're seeing it)

Chicago After Dark Release Party

And don't forget about the citywide release party we're having this month for CCLaP's new "city all-star" student anthology, Chicago After Dark! It's on Tuesday, October 28th from 6 to 9 pm at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie); it will feature free food and liquor, plus performances from five of our 31 contributors, as chosen randomly out of a hat. Although we're holding separate smaller release parties at all the contributing campuses as well, this will be the one and only opportunity to meet all 31 contributors together, so I hope all your locals will have a chance to come out. See this event's Facebook listing for even more.

Don't want to keep coming by the website for all this stuff? Then sign up for our weekly email newsletter, which will send you not only a reminder every Friday morning about each new issue of the Weekender, but also a recap of everything that has happened with the center in the last seven days (including news about recent author features and events from around the US, a look at all our latest eBay rare-book auctions, links to each book review we posted at the blog that week, and a lot more). To subscribe, simply sign up using the box below. We never sell your information nor send more than one email a week, and you can quit at any time!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:14 AM, October 3, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Photography | Profiles |
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Book Review: "Nebula Awards Showcase 2014," edited by Kij Johnson

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)
 
Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, edited by Kij Johnson
 
Nebula Awards Showcase 2014
Edited by Kij Johnson
Pyr
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
Once again I have the opportunity to review a volume of Nebula Award-winning authors and runners-up. Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, edited by Kij Johnson offers a variety of material to peruse and enjoy. Besides the winners and runners-up, there is an essay by Neil Gaiman on how to read the fiction of Gene Wolfe, this year's winner of Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master award. Johnson selects the Wolfe story, "Christmas Inn," a short story that reads like a Christmas holiday tale about family and togetherness. It also reads like a story about aliens, or cosmic horror, or humanity versus Nature. Which one is it? One of them, all of them? As Gaiman says, "(1) Trust the text implicitly. The answers are in there. (2) Do not trust the text farther than you can throw it, if that far. [...] (4) There are wolves in there, prowling behind the words." In addition, critic Michael Dirda likens Gene Wolfe's literary merit to Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy. Previous Grandmasters include Anne McCaffrey, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Robert Silverberg.

Kij Johnson edits this year's anthology. Johnson has a multifaceted career. She writes fantasy, worked as managing editor for Tor Books and TSR, is the creative director for AD&D settings Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms, and teaches creative writing at the University of Kansas "where she is associate director for the Study of Science Fiction." Like other awards, this year's winners left me largely unsatisfied. But I did find the runners-up entertaining.

The Nebula Award winner for Best Novelette, "Close Encounters," took an old premise, in this case humans encountering aliens and filtered it through the mind of an old farmer. Unfortunately, it comes across like William Faulkner-does-sci fi. The Noble Hillbilly patois distracts from the story. Writing dialect phonetically is a daring gambit.

Kim Stanley Robinson won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for 2312. This I did like, but I'm biased, since I've read his novels Antarctica and The Years of Rice and Salt. Robinson's novel is a Solar System-based, near-future, hard science "progressive" quasi-Utopian space opera. (I'm using the word progressive, because many of Robinson's critiques and ideals fall roughly into that niche of political leftism.) Robinson combines a crackerjack plot involving a suspicious death with stylistic experimentalism and fascinating digressions. In "Extracts (1)" he describes how to terraform an asteroid and populate it with animal and human life. The novel's experimental bravado, narrative drive, and just plain fun reminded me of Iain Banks's Culture novels.

The standout runner-up for Best Short Story was Cat Rambo's "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain." Rambo's short story melded elements from steampunk, automatons, the Multiverse, and erotica into a precise little package. The story follows the misadventures of Tikka, Minor Propagandist for the planet Porcelain's Bureau of Tourism. She falls in love with a human tourist and complications ensue. What is so wonderful is that Rambo makes the lives and culture of planet Porcelain plausible. Imagine a world populated with Chinese porcelain figures. Life may look pretty on the surface, but Porcelain is a tyranny and the Bureau of Tourism a shark tank full of ambitious civil servants. On top of all that, these humanoid porcelain figures have to take care of themselves or else they'll crack and fissure. If that happens, they are about as useful as the low-class clays that also live on the planet. With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and its exemplary CGI work, I'd love to see "Planet Porcelain" made into a feature film, or at least a short.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 has a lot to offer. With such variety, you will like certain stories but not others. But that's no different from Oscar winners and losers.
 
Out of 10/9.0; and higher for science fiction and fantasy fans.
 
Read even more about Nebula Awards Showcase 2014: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, October 3, 2014. Filed under: Karl Wolff | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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September 29, 2014

The "Chicago After Dark" release party has a date!

Chicago After Dark Citywide Release Party

CCLaP's newest book, the "city all-star" student anthology Chicago After Dark, has been selling like gangbusters since its release last week, easily the fastest selling title in our entire history so far; and now I'm happy to announce that we've set up a citywide release party to celebrate the book, which will be taking place on Tuesday, October 28th over at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie), from 6 to 9 pm. It'll feature free food and drinks, plus a selection of performances from random contributors drawn out of a hat; this will be the one and only promotional event we'll hold for the book that will feature all 31 contributors brought together for the first time, so I hope you'll have a chance to come out and help celebrate the first of what will hopefully be many such annual anthologies to come. As always, there's a Facebook event as well with all this information, so please feel free to join it if you're planning on coming out.

Chicago After Dark Columbia College Contributor Party

We're also setting up smaller parties at each of the ten contributing campuses this fall and winter, so to have a more focused celebration just for those particular students; our first one to officially announce will be at Columbia College (lead institution on this project, and from where nearly half the contributors hail), being held on Friday night, October 17th, from 7 to 9 pm, at the college's "Stage Two" space on the second floor of their 618 S. Michigan building. This will also feature free food and drinks, in a more theatrical-type atmosphere, and will include more random performances from Columbia contributors as drawn out of a hat. (Possible performers include Virginia Ilda Baker, Hal Baum, Marquise Davion, Austin Eskeberg, Alyssa Fuerholzer, Charlie Harmon, Alicia Ann Hauge, Melissa Huedem, Amy Kisner, Elizabeth Major, Maggie McGovern, Ka'Mia Miller, Nicole Montavlo, Rachel Lee Ormes, Zack Reiter, and Megan Shattuck.) As always, this too has its own Facebook event, so I encourage you to say "yes" there to help us determine how much food and drink to buy.

We'll have other campus-specific parties like these to announce in the coming weeks and months; and in the meanwhile, if you're a student or professor on one of these campuses yourself and would like to help us get a space and date booked there, please feel free to drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com. And of course don't forget to check out the actual book if you still haven't; like all of CCLaP's books, the electronic version is completely free to download if you want, so there's really no excuse to not read a copy. I hope to see you Chicagoans out at both of these events coming up soon!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:52 AM, September 29, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Chicago news | Events | Literature |
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CCLaP Podcast 120: The CCLaP Showcase with Paulette Livers

CCLaP Podcast 120: The CCLaP Showcase with Paulette Livers

It's Monday, which means it's time for another episode of the CCLaP Podcast. Today, it's a special one-hour live recording from the September edition of our new "CCLaP Showcase" reading series and open mic, held at the fantastic City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie). This month's edition features a special performance from local author Paulette Livers, reading from her novel Cementville.

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Chicago After Dark Citywide Release Party

And don't forget that the October edition of the Showcase is a very special event, the official citywide release party for our new "city all-star" student anthology, Chicago After Dark. As always, it's being held at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie), on Tuesday, October 28th from 6 to 9 pm. Do make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more information, and we hope to see all you Chicagoans there!

Continue reading "CCLaP Podcast 120: The CCLaP Showcase with Paulette Livers" »

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:23 AM, September 29, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Podcast | CCLaP news | Events | Literature |
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September 22, 2014

CCLaP Podcast 119: Author Paulette Livers

CCLaP Podcast 119: Paulette Livers

It's Monday, which means it's time for another episode of the CCLaP Podcast. Today, it's a one-hour talk with local writer Paulette Livers, author of the haunting and darkly poetic Vietnam War novel Cementville. Also featuring the music of MRTN and John Mark Nelson.

Links to the things and people mentioned in today's episode:
Paulette Livers
Cementville
Ox-Bow Artist Residence
Counterpoint
Mighty Sword Studio
MRTN
John Mark Nelson

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Download the MP3
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CCLaP Showcase: Paulette Livers

And don't forget about Paulette's featured performance at the next edition of the CCLaP Showcase, happening TOMORROW at 6:30 pm at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie). There will also be room for six open-mic slots, for performances of five minutes apiece (strictly timed); if you'd like to sign up in advance for one of these slots, drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com. (Don't forget that the entire thing will be recorded for our podcast as well.) Do make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more, and we hope to see all you Chicagoans there!

Continue reading "CCLaP Podcast 119: Author Paulette Livers" »

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:13 AM, September 22, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Podcast | CCLaP news | Chicago news | Literature | Profiles |
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September 19, 2014

Book Review: "'Zine," by Pagan Kennedy

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)
 
'Zine, by Pagan Kennedy
 
'Zine: How I Spent Six Years of My Life in the Underground and Finally ... Found Myself ... I Think
By Pagan Kennedy
Santa Fe Writer's Project
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
From 1988 to 1993 Pamela "Pagan" Kennedy wrote an autobiographical 'zine called "Pagan's Head." During the 'zine heyday of the early Nineties, a book called Pagan's Head was published by St. Martin's Griffin in 1995. Like The Big Lebowski and Blade Runner, it's initial run ended in a flop. But luckily The Santa Fe Writer's Project (SFWP) has decided to re-issue the book. Not only that, SFWP has launched The Pagan Kennedy Project, with the goal of re-issuing all her books.

Kennedy was part of a hipster group located in Allston, Massachusetts. The other hipsters also put out their own 'zines. Now you're asking yourself two questions: What's a hipster? and What's a 'zine? For 'zines, the best place to start would be Joshua Glenn's exhaustive and idiosyncratic history of 'zines. You can find it by Googling "Regression towards the zine." It is on the website he runs, Hilobrow.com. In 'Zine Joshua Glenn is known as Josh, a moody sociology student. In Glenn's taxonomy, the 'zine is a descendant of the pamphlet. It is also interrelated, but different, from similar media forms. 'Zines shouldn't be confused with science fiction fanzines or "little magazines" (Partisan Review, Paris Review, etc.) 'Zines also existed in a variety of formats, from hand-assembled xeroxed affairs like "Pagan's Head" to larger glossy-covered pop culture artifacts like Glenn's own 'zine "Hermenaut." Don't let the DIY aesthetic fool you. Glenn would call that "authenticity-mongering." When asked by a mainstream journalist what a 'zine is, Glenn replied, "It is a periodical I would like to read." Publishing a 'zine means an intentionally niche audience (this isn't Time or Newsweek) and total creative control over content. Kind of like a blog ...

What's a hipster? You'll find the hipsters Kennedy hung around with to be of a different variety than the Williamsburg type. Taking a cue from Joshua Glenn's idiosyncratic periodicity for his project on American generations, I'm going to split the "hipster-type" into four waves. The First Wave Hipsters flourished in the Twenties and Thirties. Think of the hep cats and Cab Calloway. The Second Wave Hipsters built upon the first, embodied in the Beat Generation of the Forties and Fifties: bebop, Beatnik literature, drugs. (Later co-opted into the caricature of Maynard G. Krebs.) The Third Wave Hipsters came from a hippy tradition (itself a descendant of Allen Ginsburg's ideas in the Beat Generation). These Third Wavers were politically vocal, ambivalent about pop culture, and had career malaise. The Third Wave existed roughly from the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties. It finally disintegrated after Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show and American monoculture slowly began to fragment from the effects of a publicly available Internet. The Fourth Wave Hipsters came about in the early 21st Century, but have turned inward: becoming aesthetic obscurantists and perpetual reactions. In addition to liking pop culture beneath a seething dollop of irony, they pride themselves in liking bands before they were cool. (Granted, I may be making this into a caricature.)

Back to Allston in the latter years of the Reagan Administration. Pagan Kennedy worked as a freelance writer for such publications as PC Week and The Village Voice Literary Supplement. What's fascinating to note is how Kennedy's status as a writer is the opposite of where many writers find themselves today. She wrote in prestigious publications, eventually had a literary agent, and busied herself by attempting to write the Great American Novel. (Unlike today, where everybody and their mom has a blog. Not only that, a blog is seen as a means to getting into The Big Show, meaning, legitimate journalism.) But novel writing had left Kennedy bored and fake. She wrote her novel with publication in The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker as the goal. But that meant imitating the style of John Updike and writing about slightly bored upper-middle-class white people from Westchester, New York.

It's a good thing Kennedy got bored, since that motivated her to put together (literally) "Pagan's Head." Written as a kind of middle finger salute to the entrenched literary establishment, "Pagan's Head" gloried in pop culture, personal confession, and misfit inventories. It even accrued a fan base. In her 'zine, Kennedy told of her unironic love for The Partridge Family, but simultaneously deconstructed why she loved it so much.

In addition to pop culture, "Pagan's Head" gives the reader helpful information on Allston-area thrift stores and her kitschy adventures on multiple road trips to the American South. There's opinion columns, letters to the editor, and comix. We read about her love for the Knoxville World's Fairgrounds and the Sunsphere. (Although more probably know it from that one Simpson's episode where Bart and his friends visit the Wig-sphere.) One of my favorite stories was about her trip to New York. As an aside she talks about the bathrooms of leftist magazines.

"And as you might expect, the bathroom at The Nation is significantly more shabby than at the Voice. The Nation's bathroom is the type where the mirror has fallen down and forever after remains propped against the wall, as if it's about to be fixed; the graffiti tends towards quotes from Fourier. In general, there's an atmosphere that says, "Hey, we're in this bathroom meditating on social injustices in Sudan, not the peeling paint."

"Meanwhile, the bathroom at the Voice is institutional and inelegant, but clean. The graffiti tends towards slogans, gossip, and conspiracy theories. "Feminine" pads and tampons are provided free! There is an atmosphere of no-frills comfort that says, "All people -- male and female, gay or straight, white or black -- are equally entitled to a decent bathroom experience!"

Throughout its run, "Pagan's Head" allowed Kennedy to create a version of herself as media persona. She used it to shield herself from the grief she experienced when her father died from cancer. Later, she let the mask slide a little bit when she detailed her experiences when she had ovarian cancer. She expressed her fears, confusion, and dismay at the medical establishment in a heart-wrenching comic.

The 'zine finally petered out with the arrival of the publicly available Internet in 1996. Immediate available of information, chatrooms, discussion boards, and free blogging software made the 'zine obsolete. Now with the Internet approaching its twentieth year, it has become easier and easier to connect with people and/or fall down the rabbit hole of information overload. 'Zine is a wonderful snapshot of how people detailed their pop culture obsessions and connected with fellow misfits in the pre-Internet days. Today Pagan Kennedy is a columnist at The New York Times Magazine, the by-word for mainstream journalism.

But the 'zine lives on on the Internet: Roadsideamerica.com used to be a 'zine and Hilobrow.com had its beginnings as a 'zine. Donna Kossy, author of Kooks and Strange Creations, had her start in 'zines and was Pagan Kennedy's roommate.

Bonus: Did you know there's a connection between CCLaP and the Allston hipsters? Michael McInnis used to run The Primal Plunge in the Allston Mall. It carried all manner of 'zines. Then McInnis moved to Chicago to found Quimby's. Jason Pettus, founder of CCLaP, wrote reviews for Quimby's magazine-book catalog hybrid. Then the Internet happened, which made the catalog irrelevant. Then CCLaP happened ...
 
Out of 10/9.0
 
Read even more about 'Zine: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari | Wikipedia

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, September 19, 2014. Filed under: Karl Wolff | Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |
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The CCLaP Weekender for September 19th is here!

CCLaP Weekender for September 19, 2014

This week's edition of our new e-magazine, The CCLaP Weekender released every Friday morning, is now online for your free downloading pleasure. It features a new piece of original fiction by Tim Fitts; a photography feature highlighting the work of French artist Claude Somot; and our usual look at the upcoming week of Chicago literary events. Use the links below to access it right now.

Right-click here for PDF / Voluntarily donate 99 cents
Online version at Issuu.com (or just use the embedded version above if you're seeing it)

CCLaP Showcase: Paulette Livers

And don't forget about the September edition of our new reading series and open mic, the CCLaP Showcase being held at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie). Being held on Tuesday the 26th at 6:30 pm, it will feature local author Paulette Livers, performing from her darkly poetic Vietnam War drama Cementville. There will also be room for six open-mic slots, for performances of five minutes apiece (strictly timed); if you'd like to sign up in advance for one of these slots, drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com. (Don't forget that the entire thing will be recorded for our podcast as well.) Do make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more, and we hope to see all you Chicagoans there.

Don't want to keep coming by the website for all this stuff? Then sign up for our weekly email newsletter, which will send you not only a reminder every Friday morning about each new issue of the Weekender, but also a recap of everything that has happened with the center in the last seven days (including news about recent author features and events from around the US, a look at all our latest eBay rare-book auctions, links to each book review we posted at the blog that week, and a lot more). To subscribe, simply sign up using the box below. We never sell your information nor send more than one email a week, and you can quit at any time!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:52 AM, September 19, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Photography | Profiles |
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September 17, 2014

Week of Updates: We have a new poster!

CCLaP Astrogirl poster, by Erik Rodriguez

CCLaP Astrogirl poster, by Erik Rodriguez

We're spending the week around here getting everyone updated on all the things that have been happening at CCLaP behind the scenes recently, and here's something I've been excited about announcing for a long time now -- we have a new screenprinted poster available! It's a donated design by revered local illustrator Erik Rodriguez, and printed in two colors onto heavy cardstock by Chicago photographer Rich Myers, all as a way of giving out something small and special to all our featured performers at our monthly reading series, the CCLaP Showcase; but we happen to have some extras left over as well, so we're selling them for a limited time for $9.99 to the general public until they're all gone again. At a tidy 8 by 12 inches, this will slip right into a regulation-sized envelope, so if you're interested make sure to order one right away, because there are only a couple dozen available before they'll be gone for good. My many thanks to Erik and Rich for making this poster happen, and don't forget that locals can also pick up a copy in the flesh at our next live event, the CCLaP Showcase with Paulette Livers happening next Tuesday at City Lit Bookstore in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie), starting at 6:30 pm. More updates coming each day this week, so I hope you'll have a chance to come by again for the latest!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:09 PM, September 17, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Chicago news |
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September 15, 2014

Week of Updates: Our newest book is here!

Chicago After Dark: A City All-Star Student Anthology

It's been a busy month behind the scenes here at CCLaP, with several old projects finally now finished and a couple of new projects under our belt too; and I'm happy to say that we're going to have a major new announcement for you here at the site every day this week. First up -- our newest book is now out! And in fact this is a brand-new type of book for us too, the first of what we hope will be a long-running annual series, a "city all-star" student anthology that features work from students at ten different universities across the city and suburbs here in Chicago. Entitled Chicago After Dark, it features fiction stories, nonfiction pieces, and poetry from 31 different contributors*, all themed around the idea of stories that take place at night in the city; it's the most ambitious book we've ever put together, one that took nine months and a team of seven people to assemble, and includes a brand-new introduction by revered author Don De Grazia of cult favorite American Skin.

*Contributors include: Virginia Ilda Baker (Columbia College), Hal Baum (Columbia College), Marquise Davion (Columbia College), Cam Enos (University of Illinois-Chicago), Austin Eskeberg (Columbia College), Francisco Espinal (Wilbur Wright College), Angie Flores (Dominican University), Alyssa Fuerholzer (Columbia College), Kendra Hadnott (National Louis University), Charlie Harmon (Columbia College), Alicia Ann Hauge (Columbia College), Eric Houghton (DePaul University), Melissa Huedem (Columbia College), Libby Kalmbach (DePaul University), Amy Kisner (Columbia College), Thom Kudla (DePaul University), Elizabeth Major (Columbia College), Maggie McGovern (Columbia College), Mary Mellon (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Ka'Mia Miller (Columbia College), Nicole Montavlo (Columbia College), Matthew Morley (DePaul University), Rachel Lee Ormes (Columbia College), Aaron Osborne (DePaul University), Phallon Perry (Northwestern University), Zack Reiter (Columbia College), Megan Shattuck (Columbia College), Robert Eric Shoemaker (University of Chicago), Lauren T. Silverman (DePaul University), Kendall Steinle (DePaul University), and Nicholas Szczepanik (School of the Art Institute of Chicago).

Chicago After Dark paperback

As always, the electronic version of this book is completely free to download if you wish, in four different versions (PDFs for American and European laserprinters, EPUB for most mobile devices, and MOBI specifically for Amazon Kindles), all of which can be found at cclapcenter.com/chicagoafterdark; or you can order a trade paperback version right this second for $14.99 plus shipping by clicking on the following button...

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...And of course don't forget that the book has its own listing at Goodreads.com, and I encourage my fellow GRers to add it to their library there and especially to post a few thoughts after reading it, in that word-of-mouth is absolutely the number-one way that small presses like ours increase sales of our books. We'll also be holding a whole series of events across the city this fall to help celebrate and promote the book, including release parties at nearly all ten schools involved, as well as high-profile events at next year's Story Week and Chicago Humanities Festival, so do make sure to check this website regularly for the latest. I have to say, I'm incredibly proud of this book, which took us freaking forever to actually put together into its polished professional state (a big reason we got so behind on all our other projects this summer to begin with), so I hope you'll have a chance to stop by its online headquarters right this moment and download or order a copy. More big announcements like this coming tomorrow and every other day this week, so I hope you'll have a chance to stop by again for it all!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, September 15, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction |
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September 12, 2014

The CCLaP Weekender for September 12th is here!

CCLaP Weekender for September 12, 2014

This week's edition of our new e-magazine, The CCLaP Weekender released every Friday morning, is now online for your free downloading pleasure. It features a new piece of original fiction by Oliver Zarandi; a photography feature highlighting the work of German artist Wolfwendy; and our usual look at the upcoming week of Chicago literary events. Use the links below to access it right now.

Right-click here for PDF / Voluntarily donate 99 cents
Online version at Issuu.com (or just use the embedded version above if you're seeing it)

CCLaP Showcase: Paulette Livers

And don't forget about the September edition of our new reading series and open mic, the CCLaP Showcase being held at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood (2523 N. Kedzie). Being held on Tuesday the 26th at 6:30 pm, it will feature local author Paulette Livers, performing from her darkly poetic Vietnam War drama Cementville. There will also be room for six open-mic slots, for performances of five minutes apiece (strictly timed); if you'd like to sign up in advance for one of these slots, drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com. (Don't forget that the entire thing will be recorded for our podcast as well.) Do make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more, and we hope to see all you Chicagoans there.

Don't want to keep coming by the website for all this stuff? Then sign up for our weekly email newsletter, which will send you not only a reminder every Friday morning about each new issue of the Weekender, but also a recap of everything that has happened with the center in the last seven days (including news about recent author features and events from around the US, a look at all our latest eBay rare-book auctions, links to each book review we posted at the blog that week, and a lot more). To subscribe, simply sign up using the box below. We never sell your information nor send more than one email a week, and you can quit at any time!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, September 12, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Literature | Photography | Profiles |
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