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Michael Czyzniejewski, Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions

Czyzniejewski

Michael Czyzniejewski's Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions is an imaginative, funny and thoroughly entertaining read. However, these pieces are not really "stories", as there is little here in terms of narrative; instead, they are better described as fictional monologues, with each presented in the first-person voice of a broad range of Chicago's famous and infamous citizens from throughout the city's history. ("Dramatic fictions" was included in the title, quite wisely, for legal reasons. None of these should be mistaken for real-life accounts.)

Czyzniejewski puts an interesting twist on many familiar characters, reimagining them in pronounced departures from their public images: the second Mayor Daley delivers a verbal smackdown to Frank Gehry (in the men's room of the Michigan Avenue Bennigan's, no less) for the architect's excessively fanciful design for the Millennium Park bandshell; Jane Addams offers an apologia for abandoning Hull-House and her social justice crusade for the comforts of a five-bedroom McMansion in suburban New Lenox; Dennis Rodman takes full credit for instigating tattoo mania amongst the middle class; Skip Dillard (onetime DePaul basketball star, and later gas station holdup man and prison inmate) embraces Buddhism and its promise of reincarnation, which would offer him a second chance at life; Mayor Jane Byrne reminisces (quite touchingly) about her father and his onetime claim to be one of the subjects depicted in Edward Hopper's famed painting Nighthawks; early settler Jean Baptiste Point du Sable encamps at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland and tells that city, in painful detail, all of the ways it will never be Chicago.

These are just a few examples; I could easily go on and on, describing each of the forty delightfully witty monologues. Instead I recommend buying the book, or at least reading selected pieces at Curbside Splendor (the book's publisher) or Knee-Jerk Magazine. One need not be a Chicagoan to enjoy this book, although its pleasures will indeed be even greater amongst the locals.

April 17, 2012 in Books | Permalink

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