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“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” - G.K. Chesterton

June 28, 2019 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

“I intend to keep bossing others around."

I enjoyed this 2008 profile of Wanda Kurek, proprietor of Stanley’s, the last remnant of Whiskey Row, in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.

”If I quit I'll be like all those old ladies sitting there with their mouths open," she says. "That ain't gonna happen to me. No way. I don't intend to quit. I intend to keep bossing others around."  

Kurek recently passed away, at age 95. But the bar will continue on, which I’m sure is what she wanted.

June 26, 2019 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

“...dead, earth-bound things...”

In The Emigrants, Karl Oskar Nilsson is leaving his family farm in Sweden with his wife Kristina and their young children, headed for America. His parents Nils and Marta will remain behind, clinging to tradition, unwilling and unable to brave the unknown dangers of the New World.

Karl Oskar could not see either of his parents make the slightest movement. As they stood there on the stoop, looking after the wagon, they seemed to him as still and immobile as dead, earth-bound things, as a pair of high stones in the field or a couple of tree trunks in the forest, deeply rooted in the ground. It was as if they had assumed that position once and for all, and intended to hold it forever. And as he saw them in the half-mist, this early morning, so they were forever to return to his mind: Mother and Father, standing quietly together on the stoop, looking after a cart driving through the gate and onto the road and after a minute disappearing among the junipers at the bend. In that place and at that position his parents would always remain in his mind. After many years he would still see them standing there, close together, looking out on the road, immobile objects, two human sculptures in stone.

Kristina did not mention to Karl Oskar that she had happened to hear a remark by Nils as the wagon was ready to depart: "I must go outside and behold my sons' funeral procession."

June 21, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fading Ad: Laundry


This ad was revealed after a recent demolition in Champaign, IL. I can’t read the name of the company at the top, but I like the command: “SEND YOUR LAUNDRY / SEND YOUR CLEANING.” (There’s also another “SEND...” just below, but it was obscured by electrical equipment.) 712 S. Sixth Street, Champaign. 

June 14, 2019 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (3)

“...we would do poetry a favor..."

During a long-ago panel discussion involving Robert Duncan, Philip Levine and an unnamed third poet, the latter bemoaned those who didn't embrace poetry, believing they lacked any sense of beauty or even a reason for being. Duncan disagreed, saying:

"Some people do not twig to poetry, they may be inspired by things others don't care for - the operas of Wagner, the novels of Proust, the ballets of Merce Cunningham, the stories of Katherine Mansfield, the philosophical writing of Schopenhauer, the paintings of Francis Bacon. Perhaps they love the beauty of design, of Tiffany vases or of machinery, V-8 engines or drop forges. I think we would do poetry a favor if we stopped trying to shove it down the throats of those for whom it has no connection or resonance. But don't forget, if absolutely nothing turns you on, stirs you body and soul, you are in trouble."

I appreciate Duncan's sentiment, and especially his inclusion of "V-8 engines or drop forges" as objects worthy of aesthetic admiration. And I respect the warning he delivered in that final sentence.

(Quoted from Levine's My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry.)

June 10, 2019 in Art, Books | Permalink | Comments (3)



I made this really cool find yesterday: the 1964 Avon edition of Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy. Check out those rounded corners! I’ve never seen those before. The book was already on my list, it was priced at a ridiculously cheap $2, and it came from Open Books so the money’s going to a good cause. Buying it was an easy decision.

June 8, 2019 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)

Summer of Moberg

In a few days (after finishing Ward Just's Echo House, which I started last week while on vacation), I'll be starting up my annual Summer of Classics. This year I'm tackling the four volumes of Wilhelm Moberg's "Emigrants" saga: The Emigrants, Unto a Good Land, The Settlers and The Last Letter Home. I read the first volume in a Scandinavian literature class in college, and kept the book though I never really expected to re-read it; I picked up the second volume in an antique shop (a nice hardcover for only a few dollars) about ten years ago but never got around to reading it; and I'll borrow volumes three and four from my mom, who has the full set. The epic follows the lives of the Nilsson family from their departure from Sweden in the 1850 to their settling in the Minnesota Territory, and on into the 1890s. Though I don't generally prefer longer, densely written novels, I've always wanted to read this entire cycle, and can't think of any better time than Summer of Classics to do so.

June 3, 2019 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)