In the spirit of NYRB Classics, the Chicago Review of Books is launching a small press to bring classic Chicago literature back into print: Chicago Review of Books Press.
This summer (June 9), we’ll begin with the first great “Chicago novel” — Henry Blake Fuller’s The Cliff-Dwellers — ranked #6 of all time by Chicago magazine, and written by Chicago’s first LGBTQ novelist.
For now, we’re only printing 300 copies, and they’ll go on sale in our booth at Printers Row Lit Fest, June 9-10. Remaining copies will be available online the following week. Printing will be in the capable hands of Minneapolis’s Bookmobile — the same people who print for Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, and more — so we can guarantee they’ll be beautiful. Our edition will include the original novel, more than 20 illustrations, and a new introduction by yours truly. Click here to read an excerpt.
Originally published in 1893 — the year of the World’s Fair detailed in The Devil in the White City — The Cliff-Dwellers was the first novel to introduce Chicago’s new form of urbanism to the rest of the world, and is often considered the first great novel about a modern American city.
Set in the fictional Clifton building on LaSalle Street (based on Chicago’s earliest skyscrapers like the Monadnock and the Tacoma), The Cliff-Dwellers “shocked and outraged” Chicagoans at the end of the 19th century for its unflattering depictions of the city’s cutthroat industrialism, violence, and preening upper class. Nonetheless, critics fell in love with it. Writing in Harper’s Bazaar, the most influential literary critic of the era, William Dean Howells, called it “a work of very great power . . .Chicago may feel no thrill of vanity in Mr. Fuller’s work, but I can fancy her quite large-minded enough to feel a glow of pride in it.”
Henry Blake Fuller, Chicago’s first “famous” writer, was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2000. Born in Chicago in 1857, he gained national acclaim thanks to his Chicago-set fiction, particularly in The Cliff-Dwellers (1893), With the Procession (1895), Under the Skylights (1901), and Bertram Cope’s Year (1929, sometimes called the first American gay novel).
Fuller was a frequent contributor to The Dial, and one of Harriet Monroe’s earliest supporters and collaborators on Poetry magazine in the 1910s. One of Chicago’s oldest private arts and literary clubs, The Cliff Dwellers, was named after Fuller’s novel, and founded by his friend and fellow writer, Hamlin Garland.
See you at Printers Row!