July 22, 2014

CCLaP Podcast 116: The CCLaP Showcase featuring Bill Hillman

CCLaP Podcast 116: The CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

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 the first 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). June's edition features a special performance from The Old Neighborhood author Bill Hillman, who has recently been making national headlines because of being gored by a bull at this year's festival in Pamplona (but listen to this episode for more of his thoughts on the subject).

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CCLaP Showcase: Eric Charles May

And don't forget about the July edition of the show, being held tonight at 6:30 pm, featuring the popular local writer and professor Eric Charles May, reading from his Chicago-set social realist novel Bedrock Faith. Do make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing for more information, and we hope to see all you Chicagoans there later this evening. Don't let the coming rainstorm keep you at home!

Continue reading "CCLaP Podcast 116: The CCLaP Showcase featuring Bill Hillman" »

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:15 PM, July 22, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Podcast | Events | Literature | Profiles |
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July 18, 2014

The CCLaP Weekender for July 18th is here!

CCLaP Weekender for July 18, 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 Gonzalez; a photography feature highlighting the work of California artist Heather Killion; and our usual look at the upcoming week of local literary events happening all across the city. 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: Eric Charles May

And don't forget about the July 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, July 22nd at 6:30 pm, it will feature the popular local writer and professor Eric Charles May, reading from his Chicago-set social realist novel Bedrock Faith. 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 10:02 AM, July 18, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Literature | Photography | Profiles |
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CCLaP Rare: The "Beau Geste" trilogy (Beau Geste, Beau Sabreur, Beau Ideal, 1925-28), by P.C. Wren, First Editions First Printings

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

Beau Geste, Beau Sabruer, Beau Ideal (first editions, first printings), by P.C. Wren

(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).

Beau Geste (1924 [1925 American Edition])
Beau Sabreur (1926)
Beau Ideal (1928)
By P.C. Wren
First Editions, First Printings

DESCRIPTION: There are many moments in life when a cultural cliche becomes so widespread, we forget where it originated from in the first place; but that's not the case with the public's appetite for daring adventure stories set within the French Foreign Legion, in that it was literally one book that kicked off the mania in the first place, P.C. Wren's still delightful 1924 Beau Geste. Born in the Victorian Age and a childhood fan of H. Rider Haggard, Wren always claimed that he had worked as a fairgrounds boxer and other salty jobs in the years between public school and attending Oxford; and after a stint in the Indian Army during World War One, when he first decided to devote his life to writing literature, it was to this combination of swashbuckling and refinement that he turned, along the way establishing most of the tropes about Foreign Legion stories that even exist (including the idea that it's where bad boys end up in an attempt to redeem themselves, and the public's marriage of the Legion specifically to the deserts of North Africa). Beau Geste wasn't the first story Wren had written on the subject, and by all accounts it didn't seem to do that well when first coming out (but see below for more on this); but it was an infamous 1926 movie version that really captured the public's imagination, an Oscar nominee that was one of the very first really huge Hollywood megahits, and one of the last silent films to be so.

That's when you suddenly saw an explosion of Foreign Legion stories in magazines, bookstores and movie theaters, including two official sequels by Wren himself over the next several years; and Wren's British and American publishers wanted a piece of this action too, releasing brand-new illustrated second editions in 1927 (signed and numbered in the case of the British version). It's mostly copies of that much more popular 1927 edition that you see for sale online; but this copy today is one of the ultra-rare 1925 true first American editions, from before the movie made it a runaway bestseller. This particular auction is an extra-special one as well, because it also includes first editions/first printings of the book's two equally popular sequels, 1926's Beau Sabreur and 1928's Beau Ideal (both of which came out at the same time in both the US and UK, due to the series' increasing international popularity). As of July 2014, this is the single only place on the entire internet where you can find all three of these books for sale together, not to mention at the affordable price they're being offered (literally half the cost of their insurance value, simply to encourage an actual sale), and this is a can't-miss opportunity for any serious fan of war stories, French Foreign Legion history, or Early Modernist adventure tales. Act quickly, because at this price these books are sure to be snapped up soon.

CONDITION: Text: Good Plus (G+). In general all three volumes are still in good shape and with a tight binding, but with a crack along the inner hinge of both Geste and Sabreur, slight fraying to their fabric edges, various small stains on all covers, and in general showing their 80-plus-year age. All inside covers are blank and in good condition, except for the back cover of Ideal, which displays a fascinating stamp from the "Rental Library of Doubleday, Doran Book Shops Inc., 1106 Boardwalk, Steeplechase Pier, Atlantic City N.J.," along with a series of handwritten due dates from 1928. Dust Jacket: Missing for Geste and Ideal, in Poor condition for Sabreur. Although at least all the panels of this extremely rare dust jacket are still present, please be aware that they are all unattached from each other at this point (held together with a Demco mylar sleeve), and in the kind of delicate condition you would expect from a thin paper wrapper that is now 88 years old. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to Identifying First Editions, an agreement of date on the title page and copyright page of each book, and lack of additional printing notices, makes all of these first editions, first printings.

PROVENANCE: Geste: Acquired by CCLaP on September 2, 2013, at the Oak Park Book Fair. Sabreur: Acquired by CCLaP in July 2014 from Late Blue Highway Bookstore in California. Ideal: Acquired by CCLaP in July 2014 from After-Words Bookstore in Chicago.

eBay auction
MINIMUM BID: US$400 / BUY THIS MOMENT FOR $800 / FREE SHIPPING
(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, July 18, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Rare | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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July 16, 2014

CCLaP Podcast 115: Randy Richardson

CCLaP Podcast 115: Randy Richardson

It's Monday Wednesday, which means it's time for another episode of the CCLaP Podcast. Today, it's a one-hour talk with local writer Randy Richardson, a co-founder of the Chicago Writers Association whose older murder mystery Lost in the Ivy was just re-released this year in a new edition by Eckhartz Press. Also featuring the music of Earthen Sea and The Broadcast.

Links to the things and people mentioned in today's episode:
Randy Richardson
Lost in the Ivy
Eckhartz Press
Wrigleyville Nation
Chicago Writers Association
Chicago Writers Hall of Fame
Cheeseland
Beverly Arts Center
Earthen Sea
The Broadcast

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, July 16, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Podcast | Chicago news | Literature | Profiles |
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July 11, 2014

Book Review: "Rumble in Brooklyn: A Memoir," by Joseph Trigoboff

(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.)
 
Rumble in Brooklyn, by Joseph Trigoboff
 
Rumble in Brooklyn: A Memoir
By Joseph Trigoboff
Bare Knuckles Press
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
Life was pretty easy in the Fifties. Sock hops, drive-ins, and Wolfman Jack on the radio. All this was true ... up to a point. If you were white and lived in the suburbs. History is about the recording of events and their interpretation. History is also about erasing the unpleasant bits and wrapping them in a fuzzy blur of nostalgia. Rumble in Brooklyn: A Memoir by Joseph Trigoboff tells the story of Joe's childhood and early college years in the Fifties and early Sixties. Growing up in a family of secular "cultural Jews" (meaning: non-practicing) in East New York, Brooklyn, we read plenty about doo-wop, teen crushes, and visits to the local candy stores. There's also knife fights, gang-on-gang rumbles, and intense antisemitism and racism. Good old days? A more innocent time? If you believe that, would you like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

The memoir tells the story of Joe growing up on the mean streets of East New York. With his young friends, they talk about music, girls, and mobsters. Joe grew up in the part of Brooklyn that mobsters used as their dumping grounds. On his way to school or walking to a friend's house, Joe would see these men hanging out in front of social clubs. When he wasn't obsessing about music and girls, he was running to escape the anti-Semitic violence from the Italian gangs. Even inside the neighborhood synagogue, the Jewish community was beset by harassment, graffiti, and violence. It should be noted that is shortly after World War 2. In this memoir, the reader witnesses the ever-shifting contours of American hate. Once black and Puerto Rican families begin moving into the neighborhood, the Italian gangs want to become allies with the Jewish gangs. Nothing can make one pro-Jewish that good old fashioned American anti-black race hatred. It would be tragic if this wasn't so depressingly predictable. This also explains why Sikh families were attacked in the days following the September 11th attacks, because racists are violence-prone idiots.

Another facet of Rumble is Joe's personal struggle to get out of the neighborhood. His father, an educator, instills a love of literature in his son. Joe takes this passion and uses it as a means to enter college. As other friends went into the military and got shipped off to Vietnam, Joe went to college and studied literature. We also see how provincial and isolated the neighborhood experience is, since his friends have trouble seeing beyond their precious corners. In college Joe discovers the Beats and explores Greenwich Village. Among mob stories, one realizes how hermetically sealed the criminal subculture is. The memoir ends (spoilers?) with his family moving out of East New York and settling in the suburbs.

While this is a fascinating account of a live adjacent to the criminal element in Brooklyn, the telling fumbles. Trigoboff gives us his early life experiences, but fails to make them come alive on the page. Rumbles and street fights and random everyday violence become monotonous. Characters blur together, making it a challenge to tell one from another. The greatest sin isn't the violence or the hatred, but having it told in such a boring manner. This is disappointing, since I am a big fan of Goodfellas and The Sopranos. It's just hard to get behind a crime story when I'm bored.
 
Out of 10/7.0
 
Read even more about Rumble in Brooklyn: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, July 11, 2014. Filed under:
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June 30, 2014

METAPOST: We're hiring some book reviewers again

Well, for the first time in over a year, I'm happy to say that we are officially bringing some new book reviewers on board around here; so if you've always wanted to write insightful long-form essays here for the CCLaP blog, now is the time to drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com and let us know. We're trying things a little differently this time -- in the past, our aim has always been to hire a small amount of critics for actual pay and have them do a lot of writing -- but since we're no longer publishing the paper magazine that generated the pay for book reviewers in the first place, now we're looking to hire a lot of reviewers for each doing just a small amount of writing (one to two pieces a month at minimum, although as much more than this as you might want), done now on a volunteer basis simply for the fun of being published, and for acquiring the credentials needed to request free books from publishers.

Don't forget, we have very exacting standards around here of what kinds of reviews we like to publish, which is what always makes it so hard to hire new people: your thousand-word reviews of books you deliberately choose (or shorter for books that are assigned to you) should be funny but not silly, insightful but not pretentious, smart but not academic, sometimes controversial but never insulting, with a much bigger emphasis on what went right instead of what went wrong, and with a liberal dollop of literary history thrown in, to give readers a better idea of how that book fits into the overall history of that particular genre or style. Over half the reviews you'll write for us will be of books that you yourself deliberately choose to review, and that you track down a copy of yourself, specifically because you think in advance that you're going to like that book; in fact, that's what we vastly prefer emphasizing here at CCLaP, smart reviews of great but unknown books that deserve a larger audience, versus critical reviews of popular books that everyone has already heard of. But that said, we do also receive several hundred books a year directly from publishers and authors, and this will also be part of your job with us, to do much smaller reviews of these books and to always at least be respectful and courteous of them, no matter how bad they might be (and they can sometimes get quite bad, just to give you fair warning). We'll also get you the credentials needed to get set up at mainstream reviewing services like NetGalley and Edelweiss, so that you can be requesting and receiving books from major presses on a regular basis; and of course we'll get you directly introduced to the several dozen small publishers we hear from on a regular basis, and you can expect to be regularly receiving titles from such great outfits as Pyr, Akashic, Soft Skull, Curbside Splendor, Eraserhead Press, Two Dollar Radio, Pedlar Press, and a whole lot more. Although it's not technically required, it is very strongly recommended that you own a Kindle, in that a growing amount of presses don't even send out paper review copies anymore, and it's overwhelmingly the Kindle format that most presses send when they send an eBook review copy.

Like I said, to express an interest, please just drop me (Jason Pettus) a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com, and please be prepared at that point to share three representative examples of the kinds of long-form reviews you'd be doing for CCLaP as well, either by pointing to them online or including them as a Microsoft Word/Open Office attachment. We especially love enthusiastic members of GoodReads.com, who are already demonstrating a record of frequent write-ups simply for the love of sharing their opinions, so I especially encourage all of you who are heavy users of that service (and also Shelfari, LibraryThing, Riffle, Smashwords, Amazon, etc etc) to drop us a line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:39 PM, June 30, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Literature | Reviews |
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Hey, it's a bonus stop for Mason Johnson's "Sad Robot Stories" book tour!

Mason Johnson: The 2014 Sad Robot Tour

I know I said on Friday that we had reached the end of the virtual book tour for Mason Johnson's CCLaP novella, Sad Robot Stories; but I'm excited to say that one more stop actually squeaked in online this weekend! It is in fact a stop by the Weeklings arts-and-culture magazine, where Mason has penned a guest essay about the '80s sci-fi thriller Cherry 2000 and what this may or may not have to do with his adolescent sexual yearnings for robots. This is a wonderfully naughty way to end what turned out to be one of the more fascinating book tours we've ever produced, and I'd like to thank everyone at the Weeklings for getting this up right as the tour was ending. For those who missed it, here below is a full list of all the stops that ended up taking place; and of course if you still have never actually read the book, I encourage you to stop by right this second and download a free electronic copy for yourself.

June 16: Chicago Literati | June 17: Hypertext | June 18: Glorified Love Letters | June 19: Two Dudes in an Attic | June 20: Words, Notes, and Fiction | June 23: The Next Best Book Blog | June 24: Curbside Splendor | June 25: Guiltless Reading | June 26: Books, With Occasional Food | June 27: Banango Street | June 30: The Weeklings

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:24 PM, June 30, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Events | Literature | Profiles |
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June 27, 2014

It's the end of Mason Johnson's "Sad Robot Stories" book tour!

Mason Johnson: The 2014 Sad Robot Tour

It's the end today of the virtual book tour for Mason Johnson's CCLaP novella, Sad Robot Stories! I'd like to again thank everyone who helped to make this tour happen, with a special big thanks to our marketing director Lori Hettler for all her hard work in keeping this schedule held together, and to make a mention of the last few stops the tour took this week: namely, on Wednesday Mason was hanging out at Guiltless Reading, where he did a special new hilarious video that breaks apart the entire concept of "book trailers;" then yesterday Mason was at the Books With Occasional Food litblog, where he humorously mused on what robots must think of the various strange foods we humans eat; and then today Mason is finishing up the tour at the Banango Street lit journal, where he details the actual process of signing and finishing this book once he got involved with us here at CCLaP. It's been a fascinating two weeks, and I hope you've enjoyed following along with this as much as I have. Don't forget, we do virtual book tours like this once every couple of months for our books; so if you run a litblog and would like to participate in a future tour, please just drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com and let us know!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:01 AM, June 27, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Events | Literature |
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Book Review: "There Were These People," by Brian Leli

(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.)
 
There Were These People, by Brian Leli
 
There Were These People
By Brian Leli
Self-published
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
Not much gets said about the miscellany these days. It's a slippery shambolic genre, underappreciated when placed against the likes of the short story collection or The Great American Novel(TM). Not as immediately disposable as the latest pundit's screed or a candidate's campaign biography, yet it's not quite journalism either, at least not in the traditional sense. But that doesn't mean that the genre is lacking in examples. There's the cottage industry spawned by Schott's Miscellany, with volumes ranging in topics from literature to stage and screen to food and drink. There's the Lovecraft Miscellany, collecting all the random bits of writing, including his sonnet sequence. Anthony Bourdain had The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Bits, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bone. So to say There Were These People, by Brian Leli, is a literary miscellany would not mean I'm selling it short.

Leli, a teacher, writer, and photographer, collects fiction and non-fiction pieces in There Were These People. The collection has a global range, including pieces about England and Thailand, along with being written in a variety of styles. Memoir, confessional, journal entry, short story, and so forth.

In an entry set in London, England, Leli investigates the lives of several patients of St. Christopher's Hospice. He goes into detail recounting their former lives, focusing on those in the music therapy program. Whether patient or therapist, Leli recounts their lives with empathy yet avoiding the crass sentimentality that can sometimes derail things, a common pitfall in the literature of disease. It remains the stand-out piece of this collection.

Other notable pieces include another London piece charting the life of Aaron Biber. Biber is an elderly barber who fled Germany during the Second World War. Since the riots, he hasn't had a lot of business, but this doesn't bother Biber. The riots occurred after a fatal police shooting of a 29-year-old. Yet Biber still carries on, despite the panic and hysteria. The London riots contrast sharply with the street chaos leading up to Hitler's back room power grab. But politics stays in the background, since Leli chooses to focus on Biber's account as an individual. Because the riots threatened to destroy his business, he becomes the focus of a social media campaign to preserve his shop. It survives, but Aaron keeps on keeping on. Again, the story is told with all sensationalism and sentimentality removed. While the writing itself seems a little flat, it is an advantage. It isn't about the author's literary flourishes or witty bon mots. The story's focus remains Aaron Biber and his daily life. It works beautifully.

In a Chicago story, he meets a man on the train singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The narrator has a transcendent experience through the music. Unlike the journalistic pieces from London, this one is told through a series of numbered bullet points. The following story begins "Dear Tom Waits" and involves Brian waking up in the Cultural Center. The letter is confessional and details Brian's contemplations. It also displays the thin veil separating writers from stalkers. Writers require material for their works and collecting this material can, in retrospect, seem a bit stalkerish.

There Were These People offers a varied introduction to the writings of Brian Leli. From unadorned journalistic pieces to more mannered formal experiments, it represents a writer with promise and the ability to turn life experiences into uniquely engaging pieces.
 
Out of 10/8.0
 
Read even more about There Were These People: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | Shelfari

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, June 27, 2014. Filed under:
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Thanks for coming out to the CCLaP Showcase! And look who's featuring next month!

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

Shots from the CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman

I want to thank everyone who made it out in the middle of a rainstorm this Tuesday, to attend the inaugural edition of our new reading series, the CCLaP Showcase over at City Lit Books in the Logan Square neighborhood. The storm unfortunately kept things intimate that night, but a fun time was had by all, and headliner Bill Hillman was his usual funny, gregarious self. The recording of the show will be going up at the podcast not this coming Monday but the Monday after that, so I hope you'll have a chance to check it out when it's available. As always, my many thanks to not only the staff of City Lit for having us, but to summer interns Anna Thiakos and Taylor Carlile for producing and running the show.

The CCLaP Showcase, July 2014: Eric Charles May

And hey, look who we got to be the feature for our July show, coming up on the 22nd -- it's popular local writer and professor Eric Charles May, whose Chicago-set social realist drama Bedrock Faith was loved by our reviewer Travis Fortney back when he reviewed it a few months ago. I've never actually seen Eric perform before, so I'm really looking forward to this, and I hope you are too. As always, there will be six open-mic slots available as well, at five minutes apiece (strictly timed); so if you'd like to sign up for one in advance, simply drop us a line at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com with your name and short bio. Here's hoping the weather will be a little kinder to us next time, and do make sure to stop by this event's Facebook page for more details.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:55 AM, June 27, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Chicago news | Events | Literature |
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The CCLaP Weekender for June 27th is here!

CCLaP Weekender for June 27, 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 typed version of our April podcast interview with author Justin Kramon; a photography feature highlighting the work of Italian artist Alessandro Passerini; and our usual look at the upcoming week of local literary events happening all across the city. 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: Eric Charles May

And don't forget about the July 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, July 22nd at 6:30 pm, it will feature the popular local writer and professor Eric Charles May, reading from his Chicago-set social realist novel Bedrock Faith. 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, June 27, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Literature | Photography | Profiles |
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June 24, 2014

The CCLaP Showcase with Bill Hillman is tonight!

CCLaP Showcase: Bill Hillman

I hope to see all you Chicagoans out tonight at the inaugural 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). Tonight's show will feature the great local writer Bill Hillman, author of the recent coming-of-age tale and big national hit The Old Neighborhood, plus six other great local writers reading in the show's open-mic slots. We'll be bringing free beer and wine, so make sure to stop by after work (the show starts at 6:30) for a nice Tuesday happy hour! For more information make sure to go by the event's Facebook listing; otherwise we look forward to seeing you there.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:51 AM, June 24, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Chicago news | Events | Literature |
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It's week two of Mason Johnson's "Sad Robot Stories" book tour!

Mason Johnson: The 2014 Sad Robot Tour

(UPDATE: Today's stop over at Curbside Splendor is now live as well!) It's week two of the virtual book tour for Mason Johnson's CCLaP novella, Sad Robot Stories! Today Mason is hanging out with CCLaP's own Lori Hettler, over at the 'Next Best Book Blog', where he has shared a new video detailing the place in his apartment where he does all his writing. And here's a rundown again of all the stops from last week, for anyone who missed a day...

Last Monday Mason was at Chicago Literati, who ran an excerpt from the book containing all-new illustrations by Alex Nall;

Then on Tuesday Mason was at Hypertext, where he detailed all the robots (fictional and otherwise) who had a heavy influence on his childhood;

On Wednesday Mason stopped by Glorified Love Letters, where he made a humorous list of famous songs "sung by robots" (examples -- Jonathan Coulton, Kanye West);

On Thursday Mason was at the Two Dudes in an Attic litblog, where he discussed the emotional process that went into dealing with his first-ever (and so far only) negative review of the book;

And on Friday Mason was hanging out at Words, Notes, and Fiction, where he participated in a far-ranging interview about his influences, his writing habits and more.

Don't forget, the tour continues all this week -- later today Mason will be hanging out with our friends at Curbside Splendor, then will be traipsing along to Guiltless Reading, Books With Occasional Food, Banango Lit, and finally The Weeklings to finish things off. I hope you get a chance to visit them all; and by all means, if you still haven't downloaded the free ebook version of Sad Robot Stories, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:13 AM, June 24, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Events | Literature |
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June 20, 2014

The CCLaP Weekender for June 20th is here!

CCLaP Weekender for June 20, 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. Today is a special edition, entirely devoted to Chicago photojournalist Rich Myers' images from his recent trip to Ukraine and the violent conflict taking place there, including a guided interview about his experiences led by fellow local journalist David Masciotra. The issue also includes our usual look at the upcoming week of local literary events happening all across the city. 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: Bill Hillman

And don't forget about the inaugural 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). The first show on Tuesday, June 24th at 6:30 pm will feature the great local writer Bill Hillman, author of the recent coming-of-age tale and big national hit The Old Neighborhood. 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, June 20, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Photography |
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June 19, 2014

Book Review: "Everything Must Go," by La JohnJoseph

(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.)

Everything Must Go, by La JohnJoseph

Everything Must Go
By La JohnJoseph
ITNA Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

This is the second title I've now received by the intriguing ITNA Press, a small publisher dedicated to providing a home for especially dark, especially obtuse manuscripts; and "especially dark and obtuse" is a perfect description for playwright La JohnJoseph's newest book, a story on the serious side of the genre known generally as "bizarro" (a genre with just as large a humorous side, to be clear), set in an undated future where an apocalypse has disrupted all normal laws of physics and space/time on Earth, and where our main character can do things like age three years in a matter of days simply by choice, or have long convoluted psychic conversations with her still-gestating but fully mature baby who is still inside her womb. And that in a nutshell is always the problem with books like these, and why I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with bizarro novels in general; for while there is much to admire here simply in terms of style, audacity, and the pure beauty of the language itself being used, since this is little more plot-wise than a written-out cartoon that deliberately makes no narrative sense at all, I find it extremely difficult to get emotionally invested in books like these or even to finish them, instead tending to look at such titles as a great 50-page short story couched within a 200-page manuscript, and with it not really mattering where exactly you start and stop reading within that 200-page manuscript itself, a disappointing experience when you're a big fan of three-act novels like I am. Absolutely recommended (and strongly so) for existing fans of bizarro, that recommendation gets a lot trickier when it comes to the general public, and whether or not you should pick this up depends a lot on whether you read novels more for the story (in which case no) or for the writing (in which case definitely yes).

Out of 10: 8.0, or 9.0 for existing bizarro fans

Read even more about Everything Must Go: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, June 19, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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June 18, 2014

Book Review: "Well Oiled," by Rubin 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.)

Well Oiled, by Rubin Johnson

Well Oiled
By Rubin Johnson
Self-published
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

To be sure, there's a great book to be written regarding the subjects being bandied about in Rubin Johnson's Well Oiled; set not exactly in the near future but not in the far future either, it complexly weaves together such current hot topics as bitcoins, geocaching, the future of "environmentally sound" oil drilling (and the futility of even using such a phrase), and professional triathlete racing of all things. But unfortunately, Johnson fails at bringing a light touch to the admittedly large amount of exposition that needs to take place here, instead delivering sometimes entire chapter-length Wikipedia entries on the subjects at hand, just these massive infodumps that will make one's eyes glaze over if, for example, like me you don't have even the slightest interest in professional sports; then combined with the more general problems of any so-so novel (weak characters, an uneven pace, etc), you're left with a book that certainly gets an A for ambition but sadly a C for execution. It gets an only limited recommendation today, just for those who have a very specific interest in the subjects just mentioned.

Out of 10: 7.2

Read even more about Well Oiled: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:21 PM, June 18, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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It's day three of Mason Johnson's "Sad Robot Stories" book tour!

Mason Johnson: The 2014 Sad Robot Tour

It's day three of the virtual book tour for Mason Johnson's CCLaP novella, Sad Robot Stories! And in fact I didn't have a chance to mention the tour yesterday, so I actually have two links to share with you today: yesterday Mason was hanging out with our friends at Hypertext Magazine, where he put together a list of all the robots from Hollywood and beyond that had an impact on his impressionable youth; then today Mason is over at the Glorified Love Letters litblog, where he shares his opinions on the best pop songs that sound like they're being sung by robots. (Naturally, Jonathan Coulton has a prominent place on the list.) Tomorrow Mason will be hanging out with Two Dudes in an Attic, so I hope you'll have a chance to come by again then!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:59 AM, June 18, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP news | Events | Literature |
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June 16, 2014

It's the kickoff of Mason Johnson's virtual book tour!

Mason Johnson: The 2014 Sad Robot Tour

Who's the little robot who could? Why, Mason Johnson's Sad Robot Stories, which in the nine months since its release has grown to become one of the most popular books CCLaP has ever published. We thought this would be a perfect time to send him out on a virtual book tour, a two-week excursion that will see Mason visiting a whole series of our friends who run other litblogs and other literary-oriented websites; Mason will be conducting interviews at some places, recording brand-new MP3s at others, and running exclusive clips from the book at yet others. Today, for example, Mason is hanging out with our buddies at the newly revamped Chicago Literati, where they have recruited their in-house illustrator Alex Nall to do some new drawings to go with the book's excerpt; then over the next nine weekdays after that, Mason will be visiting the following locations:

June 17: Hypertext
June 18: Glorified Love Letters
June 19: Two Dudes in an Attic
June 20: Words, Notes, and Fiction
June 23: The Weeklings
June 24: Curbside Splendor
June 25: Guiltless Reading
June 26: Books, With Occasional Food
June 27: The Next Best Book Blog (run by CCLaP marketing director Lori Hettler)

It's going to be a lot of fun, so I hope all of you will have a chance to come back here every day over the next two weeks and follow along! And in the meanwhile, if you've never read this increasingly celebrated book yourself (check out the unending blurb list on the download page to see what I mean), I encourage you to download a completely free ebook version of it right this moment. As always, we look forward to reading your thoughts about it over at Amazon and Goodreads.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:17 PM, June 16, 2014. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Events | Literature |
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June 13, 2014

Book Review: "The Wars of Heaven: Short Stories," by Richard Currey

(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 Wars of Heaven, by Richard Currey
 
The Wars of Heaven: Short Stories
By Richard Currey
Santa Fe Writers Project
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
 
West Virginia during the Great Depression is the setting for The Wars of Heaven: Short Stories byRichard Currey. In six short stories and a novella, Currey paints a picture of life filled with unrelenting poverty and random violence. It is also a life filled with tragedy, comedy, and the challenges of faith, whether that faith is in unionizing the coal mines or the faith found in clapboard churches that dot the mountainous landscape.

In countless reviews, Currey's writing has been described as poetic. This comes from a writer who has won the O. Henry and Pushcart prizes. He has also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both fiction and poetry. Although citing a litany of awards doesn't make a great writer. (This can also be said for writers who pen bestsellers.) What makes The Wars of Heaven a pleasure to read involved Currey's verbal concision. Not a word is wasted in any of his stories. But the writing is such that one doesn't immediately think "literary," at least when that word means an undue attention to the sentence at the expense of the narrative. Currey combines a highly precise prose style with stories filled with compelling characters and forward-moving narratives.

The opening story hovers between an elegant short story and a prose poem. "Tyler's Ballad" tells the story of Edward Tyler, an elderly train engineer who marries a much younger woman. He remains oblivious to her melancholy until his brother discovers she committed suicide with a shotgun. Currey creates a believable setting and a powerful story arc all within seven pages. For anyone learning the nuts and bolts of writing a short story, he or she should read "Tyler's Ballad." This is just one of many sad stories in The Wars of Heaven. But there are several shades of sadness, a subtle gradation ranging from the relentlessly bleak like "Tyler's Ballad" to the darkly comical, as in "Believer's Flood."

"Believer's Flood" involves the reminisces of an aged coal miner, wheezing with black lung. Like Job, he has endured a series of calamities. These hardships stem from Raymond Dance's attempts to unionize the Red Jacket Consolidated Coal and Coke Company in Red Jacket, West Virginia. The suffering and futility of the unionizing efforts, combined with Raymond's catastrophic domestic life, only sharpen the comedy. The comedy comes from the razor sharp irony of the entire situation. Raymond puts his life on the line and sacrifices his domestic happiness for a job he hates that will kill him with slow agonizing cruelty. (In yet another year of this interminable Great Recession, I'm sure a few readers will identify with Raymond's situation.)

The titular short story focuses on a botched robbery and gunfight. For this story, Currey creates a literary style similar to Molly Bloom's soliloquy at the end of Ulysses. The narrator, a not-too-bright wannabe outlaw, tells the tale in long winding sentences. This storytelling comes in sharp contrast to the terse and taciturn stories told by stoic workingmen.

The short story collection ends with the novella, "The Love of a Good Woman." Delbert Keene narrates the first part and the second two parts are told in third person. The novella traces the misadventures of Delbert as he gets divorced and committed to an insane asylum. After being discharged, he joins the circus and participates in what some see as a terribly planned bank robbery. He infuriates people around him because he is a dreamer and a kind of amateur public intellectual. He seems completely out of place wherever he goes, but remains gleeful and positively oblivious to the common practicalities of this flint-hard West Virginia existence. Whereas the short stories before this were a spectrum of tragedy, the novella is a lighthearted comedy. Beyond the well-polished sentence and verbal concision, Currey is a master arranger. The comic tale at the end of these sad stories harkens back to Greek theater with the satyr following the Sophoclean tragedy. "The Love of a Good Woman" offers necessary breathing space and a break from the sadness. He still fills the story with the requisite poverty and suffering, but this time the situations have a comic twist. It is with the slightest tonal shift that can turn a tale of unrelenting sadness into one of gut-busting hilarity. Currey, like Samuel Beckett, can ride the fine line between the two tones with a deft touch.

I'm giving this a perfect 10, not only because it is fine writing, but because these are stories that can be enjoyed because they entertain. For those interested in the Great Depression, this can be enjoyed in the same way as the HBO series Carnivale. This also makes a nice addition to the bookshelf for those who like to read Depression-era writers like John Steinbeck, Samuel Beckett, and William Faulkner.
 
Out of 10/10
 
Read even more about The Wars of Heaven: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, June 13, 2014. Filed under:
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Book Review: "The Love Box," by John Oliver Hodges

(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 Love Box, by John Oliver Hodges

The Love Box
By John Oliver Hodges
Livingston Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Because of all the short stories I'm now forced to read as part of my job running CCLaP, I can honestly say that it's nearly impossible for someone to impress me anymore with yet another book of them; and that's what makes John Oliver Hodges' The Love Box so remarkable, not only that he manages to do this but with a book cover that's barely above a Photoshop hack job, unfortunately yet another common sight around here that usually portends a quite mediocre book to come. Hodges' stories, however, have a kind of almost magical realism to their bleakness that makes them so intriguing, sort of like George Saunders meets social realism, and it's the collective wallop of these pieces that far outweigh whatever problems the book has in cosmetic touches like its cover. A collection that will remind some people of Kathy Acker and others of Dennis Cooper, in both cases for an almost surreal quality to the extreme sex and violence that is sometimes on display, these pieces take almost a minimalist approach to plot creation, sometimes skipping over entire necessary backstories and just plopping us right into the middle of the complicated, unexplained action; and in this The Love Box shares a lot with cutting-edge science-fiction, and indeed it would not be far off to say that these stories pick up where the edges of Philip K. Dick's humanist work left off, only now with a distinctly 21st-century feel and an alt-lit attitude. A sneakily brilliant book hiding under plain dressing, The Love Box is a good example of the true pleasures of being an indie-press critic, precisely for the opportunities to stumble across arresting, thought-provoking titles like these that one might otherwise never get a chance to check out. It comes highly recommended to one and all.

Out of 10: 9.3

Read even more about The Love Box: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:05 AM, June 13, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |
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