I was 9 the first time I heard Chicago had been destroyed. It was the summer of 1996 and Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day was on a rampage. Bill Pullman’s President Thomas J. Whitmore told the audience Chicago was dead, incinerated by fire or, as Will Smith’s character put it, that “green shit.”
At first glance, Stork Mountain sounds like a typical, coming-of-age immigrant narrative, when a young Bulgarian in America returns to his homeland to escape student loan debt. But Miroslav Penkov—author of the acclaimed short story collection, East of the West—uses classic narrative forms as a springboard for a dark, dreamlike debut novel steeped in Balkan history and legend.
The Confidence Game is a revealing and engrossing primer on how con artists work and why we’re such suckers. But for all the insights Konnikova offers, fraudsters will continue to separate fools from their money (she refers to the confidence game as “the (real) oldest profession”) because our ingrained trust and gullibility make us easy prey for the right scam.
Ron Rash’s Poems: New and Selected acts as interpreter, cryptographer, and historiographer. His poetry transcends hundreds of years—familial history forgotten, misread, and unknown. His makes a stubborn and unchanging place accessible to us, to family that forgot, and to anyone who looks to one day return to a place they miss. Ron Rash sees the American South as only a mystic preacher and time traveler can, and he’s damn sure worth listening to.
Last night, the 2016 Chicago Humanities Festival kicked off at the Bottom Lounge with a conversation between Jessa Crispin (former Chicagoan, founder of Bookslut and author of The Dead Ladies Project and The Creative Tarot), and Irvine Welsh (current Chicagoan and Scottish author of Trainspotting, Filth, and this year’s A Decent Ride).
The theme of translation pulses through every story in the collection, which spans science fiction, magical realism, and what Liu has coined “silkpunk,” a science fiction-fantasy hybrid inspired by East Asian antiquity. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a rare combination of lavish prose, characters in fascinating, unique situations, and heart-wrenching moments.
Enter J. Scott Brownlee—a poet from Llano, Texas and a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective that emphasizes place-based writing of personal witness, cultural memory, and the aesthetically marginalized working class—to disrupt the notion that poetry is for the elites.
Kafka’s surreal tale of sudden and shocking transformation has since become a staple framework of fiction. In his debut novel Blackass, Nigerian author A. Igoni Barrett puts a unique spin on Kafka’s idea: instead of a lowly clerk mutating into a giant insect, a young Nigerian man turns white overnight.