I had a chance this weekend to attend a cocktail party sponsored by the Chicago Tribune's newly redesigned "Printers Row" book section*, and hosted by the always effervescent Amy Guth (who's been interviewed here for the podcast in the past, don't forget), held over at the Irish lit-oriented pub Beckett's at Belmont and Lincoln. The party was unofficially in honor of the Trib's annual Nelson Algren Award** for literary excellence, although there were no official announcements or the like; it was more of a celebration of the local lit scene in general, and an excuse to throw a fun party in the middle of this howling winter we're going through this year. I had a really fun time, plus got a chance to meet several new Chicago authors for the first time (including Delphine Pontvieux, Jamie Freveletti and Mark Brand, all of whose books will be reviewed here later this year), so wanted to thank Amy for convincing me to get out in this crappy weather in the first place.
*Yes, I know, the new name of the Trib's book section is confusing to locals, in that there is also a "Printers Row" neighborhood here in Chicago and an annual "Printers Row Book Fair," neither of which has anything explicitly to do with the Tribune's book section (although the paper in general is the main sponsor of the fair). Better I think simply to celebrate the Trib trying this online experiment to begin with, when so many other newspapers are simply shutting down their book sections and never looking back.
**And yes, I finally got a chance to laugh with members of the Tribune staff about the irony of that paper sponsoring an award named after Algren; because as I learned last year when doing my "Algren at 100" essay series, Algren and the Tribune staff detested each other when he was alive, with him accusing the paper of being essentially the Fox News of the Great Depression, and them actually conspiring with Polish business leaders as recently as the 1950s to falsely accuse him of being a Nazi sympathizer. As regular readers know, I sadly had to stop that essay series last summer soon after it began, because of breaking my hip in a bad bicycle accident; in answer to the numerous questions I've received on the subject since then, I will definitely be starting up those essays again in spring of this year, once it's warm enough and I'm in good enough shape to start bicycling again. (As part of the essays, I'm bicycling around town to the various locations Algren talks about in his books, and taking pictures of what they look like today.)