Sunday, February 28, 2010

Passing Glances

"As long as I appeared to ignore insult and injury, I was a martyred hero to a lot of people...But the minute I began to sound off--I became a swell-head wise-guy, an 'uppity nigger.'" --Jackie Robinson

Even before this month began, I wanted to devote at least one post with a nod towards Black History Month. I went through a lot of potential options, from a look at Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing to readings in black non-fiction or classic fiction like Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. I'm not saying that I won't return to these ideas in the course of the year, and, obviously, any kinds of cultural studies or looks at black creativity shouldn't be limited to the shortest month of the calendar year. However, the more I thought about it, the more I had the urge to return to the fiction of Nella Larsen. Last year, I gained a lot from my reading of her 1928 novella Quicksand, and I made a note to return to what is generally considered her masterpiece, the 1929 work Passing. I took a black literature course eight years ago, and our reading of Passing was limited to some select passages. Having just read the work in its entirety, it's amazing to realize how much I had lost in that time.

Passing revolves around the intersecting lives of two women, former childhood friends who meet years later by pure chance. Clare Kendry is a black woman who has spent most of her life passing as a white woman, going so far as to use this to her financial and social advantage, marrying a well-to-do white man who happens to be racist. Her friend, Irene Redfield, is equally comfortable, but fiercely proud of her race, and married to a black doctor. She has the ability to pass too, and is seen doing so at the beginning of the novella, passing in order to get a table in a hotel restaurant. Clare, at least at first, enjoys her ability to pass in the white world, and doesn't seem to dwell too much on the disaster that would be her husband finding out about her true identity. Irene is both intrigued and dismayed by this, and her problems with her own husband become much more apparent as she is both repelled and drawn in by Clare's seductive nature. Brian Redfield is occasionally stubborn and mocking of his wife's problems, an adjective that is used multiple times in descriptions of his dialogue. These issues add up and continue the exploration of the problems examined in Quicksand, analyzing how black women of the time had to deal with both racism and the stirrings of feminism.

"Then why worry? The thing, this discontent which had exploded into words, would surely die, flicker out, at last. True, [Irene] had in the past often been tempted to believe that it had died, only to become conscious, in some instinctive, subtle way, that she had been merely deceiving herself for a while and that it still lived. But it would die. Of that she was certain. She had only to direct and guide her man, to keep him going in the right direction (Larsen 218)."

As the meetings between Clare and Irene become more constant (it would be a stretch to call it a true rekindling or friendship), the problems between the women become even more pronounced. Clare is dangerously leaving herself vulnerable to being "discovered" as black, and the more wary Irene grows, the more she herself grapples with the idea of "outing" Clare. In an early appearance, Clare's husband shows a violent hatred for the black race bubbling below his already racist beliefs. Not only would Clare be ruined, she very well would have her life in danger. Brian Redfield's actions don't help, as he takes a not-so-subtle liking to the beautiful Clare. The previous notion of "outing" takes on its more common trait, as Larsen's prose skillfully addresses what could be further romantic complications.

"But that was as far as she got in her rehearsal. For Clare had come softly into the room without knocking and, before Irene could greet her, had dropped a kiss on her dark curls.
Looking at the woman before here, Irene Redfield had a sudden inexplicable onrush of affectionate feeling. Reaching out, she grasped Clare's two hands in her own and cried with something like awe in her voice: 'Dear God! But aren't you lovely, Clare!' (Larsen 224-225)."

I don't remember the text in question, but I remember another college course in which, when asked about possible homosexual undertones in a passage, the professor made the honest point that the occasional "queer reading" can be misapplied to a given work. However, I believe that Larsen's intention here is to highlight a possible attraction between the two women. Whether this was due to the times or Larsen's intent to keep the primary focus on race instead of sexuality, nothing about homosexuality is rendered explicit. However, given her clear intelligence and ability to highlight varying social issues, it would be hard to imagine a writer not even assuming the secondary meanings. The fact that Larsen is so amazingly blunt about the racial problems doesn't mean that she couldn't have hinted at something more. These, of course, are merely opinions, lest I commit the fatal mistake of assuming a dead writer's true intentions. But then again, being a black woman was hard enough then (as it is now); being a black lesbian would have been an even bigger obstacle, not that Clare and Irene have anything easy to come by in their lives.

In my essay on Quicksand, I wrote that Larsen "opts to shout the problems of early 20th century America as loudly and clearly as possible." In Passing, this idea is no different, and the similarity between the two texts is striking, especially given that the later work is remembered so much more than the earlier one.

"[Irene] said: 'It's funny about 'passing.'' We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. We shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it.'
'Instinct of the race to survive and expand.'
'Rot! Everything can't be explained by some general biological phrase' (Larsen 216)."

And, with one simple citation, we can see why Passing is much more remembered. While the previous work did deal with equally strong issues, the saga of Clare and Irene is injected with a lot of issues that could either be ambiguous or painfully clear. The notion of "passing" is both hated but, as Irene's husband says, instinctual, no matter how low it may appear in today's view. At the time, as proud as many people were of their race, the bitter reality of the time meant that, if one could pass, it was at least an option for humanity in the face of a racist society. These ideas are partly why I found the Jackie Robinson quote to be so relevant. When he made his debut in the major leagues, he had an agreement with Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to spend his first two seasons refusing to fight back against slurs or physical violence. Rickey told Robinson that he'd be absolutely justified in fighting, but that any possible melees would kill the goal of desegregating baseball. After this agreement, many members of the white press criticized Robinson for speaking out against anything. In the 1920s, the time of the writing of Passing, any speaking out against the mindset of the times would have done more harm than good, no matter how justified the black community would have been.

Of course, I'm more or less just stating the obvious as studied from history. As I believe I've mentioned in previous posts, as a white male, I have no true understanding of any of the issues faced in the black community, either past or present. However, using an author like Larsen as a point of reference, there are many avenues of further study, both sociologically and historically, especially in the realm of literature. Another full essay could be devoted to the famous ending of Passing, with its shocking actions and ambiguities, but I feel that what I've touched on here gives the best insights into what the text was trying to highlight. There are times when ambiguity in literature can be fatal, but in this text, it leads to a lot of satisfying thoughts and issues.

Work Cited:
Larsen, Nella. Passing, from The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen. Anchor Books Edition, 2001.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grave Understandings

Part of any review or look at the latest Johnny Cash album will likely include a plea, so it's probably best to get it out of the way early. At first glance, a lot of potential listeners (with the exception of the biggest fans) may assume that it's just a quickly released disc, culled together to squeeze some dollars based on the name of a deceased artist. However, this isn't the case with American IV: Ain't No Grave. Even if it were, the music would be enough to warrant a listen. But this is a carefully selected, brief collection of tracks that form a stunning chapter in the Rick Rubin-produced American series. When American V: A Hundred Highways was released, it felt like a fitting conclusion, but with this latest version, there's even more to appreciate. I'm not one for bombastic praise right off the bat, but it's important to establish that this album isn't another in a long line of releases done with the idea of "legacy" trumpeted, but with no heart put into it.

Given that Johnny Cash has been dead since 2003, there also may be the possible tendency of reviewers to resort to tired metaphors. I'm sure that somewhere this week, if it hasn't happened already, someone has written that "Johnny is speaking to us beyond the grave." However, the album shouldn't be viewed as some ghostly communication. The opening title track, "Ain't No Grave," begins with Cash's weakened but strong voice claiming that "there ain't no grave can hold my body down." However, with some minimalist musical accompaniment from the Avett Brothers, it quickly morphs into a gleeful defiance of death, a theme that, even if unintentional in the original sessions, has loomed over the last six Johnny Cash releases. He uses this traditional song to explore other common themes--being reunited with family, being called by God--but there's no vocal evocation of being passive about moving on.

The following two tracks are excellent covers, from an unexpected source (Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day") and a veteran country songwriter (Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times"). One early review of Ain't No Grave that I've read explains that Crow wrote her track as a criticism of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cash doesn't add much to it except a stern voice, and naturally that adds wonders. He lets the emotions of the lyrics tell the story, and combined with his somber touch, the effect works amazingly well. One might wonder or assume that, because of Cash's age at the time, that his voice has its limitations. This is evident on some of the American songs, but there's an unmistaken realization that he knew when to increase the dramatics or take them down a few pegs.

This idea is evident towards the end of the album on the track "Cool Water." One of the most famous versions of this was recorded by country singer Marty Robbins. In Robbins' version, the song is sung at a slighter faster tempo, giving an air of urgency to a story about two men hallucinating about water in a barren desert. The Johnny Cash version here is slower, opening it up to a less literal interpretation, highlighting the metaphorical qualities. The song could be about the search for anything elusive.

"I Corithians 15:55" is the only song that was written by Cash, and it goes against what I mentioned above. It's another song that highlights Cash's religious beliefs, but also seems to the lone exception to the idea of the man resisting death. On this track, he is almost passive, but welcoming of what's in store. But one part of the lyric adds another idea: "Oh death, where is thy sting?" For a song about the inevitable, for an artist with full religious convictions, it's almost shocking that he refers to death as a sting. To me, it shows a more realistic side, that no matter what one believes in, the idea of death has to be scary in some capacity. I'm not religious at all, and I have personal critiques of organized religion and Christianity. I don't mention this to make it more personal, but to highlight that, even despite my beliefs, I've always appreciated Cash's take on spiritual hymns. At the very least, there's no way one can doubt his personal convictions.

As darkly somber as the album is as a whole, it's strikingly beautiful. The tracks have a feel of minimalism, as opposed to the previous five albums, with light accompaniment almost taking a backseat to Cash's voice. With the mix of songs, from the traditional to the contemporary, to the little fanfare that's been given to this release, there's really nothing to critique at all. It's unlikely that any of these songs will immediately become listed as part of his greatest hits, but these are essential "new" recordings. Perhaps I'm biased as a Johnny Cash fan, but it's hard to find fault in an old master doing what he did best.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Age of Reasons

(WARNING: One of the cited passages is Not Safe For Work)

In most cases, I have a tendency to avoid books or films that are described as "coming-of-age" stories. If they cannot be avoided outright, then I go into them with a hefty grain of salt. In recent years, this description has been more pronounced in the films I've seen as opposed to the books I've read, and my opposition to the genre stems from a pretty simple reason--the lack of originality. The coming-of-age story usually follows this formula: a young protagonist (usually male) breaks out of the shell of innocence, thanks to a combination of dismantled family relationships, alcohol, cigarettes, weed, foreplay, or sex. In the end, even if he's still at a young age, said protagonist is wiser or more hardened by life in general. Despite these occasional faults and tedious forms, there are excellent examples of this subgenre. The 2002 film Y Tu Mama Tambien created an original story despite being culled together from often used plot devices, and one could point towards the late J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In the Rye, even though Holden begins the novel wise and bitter beyond his years. After being absolutely stunned by David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas, I recently read his latest book Black Swan Green (2006) with great enthusiasm, completely disregarding my aforementioned critiques. I went into the novel with confidence in Mitchell's intelligence and writing style, along with remembering the old quote: "It's not what you say, but how you say it."

Black Swan Green sketches the life of thirteen-year old Jason Taylor, living in a section of Worcestershire, England of that name. The novel takes place over the course of a year, and matter-of-factly details the problems and issues that Jason faces, ones that aren't outlandish, but can be overwhelming to someone that age. He has a stuttering problem, which makes his social life in school a living hell. His relationship with his older sister is strained, and his father has a tendency to be cold and distant, which is partly to blame for his parent's crumbling marriage. Combine these issues with the onset of puberty, and a reader cannot blame Jason for being caught up in even the most minute details. He's a bright, keen young man with the occasional tendency to overanalyze, even if his age forsakes him from fully understanding his observational skills. The town of Black Swan Green is, to Jason and his friends, completely boring, but his descriptions highlight more than a few dashes of beauty that can be found even in the smallest areas.

"In the copse, the bridle path joined up with a moon-cratered track. Trees knitted overhead, so only knots and loops of sky showed. Dark and cool, it was, and I wondered if I should've brought my coat. Down a hollow, round the bend, I came across a thatched cottage made of sooty bricks and crooked timber. Martins were busy under its eaves. PRIVATE said a sign hung on the slatted gate, where the name should go. Newborn flowers in the garden were licorice allsorts blue, pink, and yellow. Maybe I heard scissors. Maybe I heard a poem, seeping from its cracks. So I stood and listened, just for a minute, like a hungry robin listening for worms (Mitchell 70)."

The problems in Jason's world stretch from three distinct areas. The smallest one is his own world, both with the troublesome family issues and the school bullies like Ross Wilcox, who, even with his British colloquialisms, is carefully painted to resemble every jerk one has known in childhood. The second area involves the community, and the fear of the gypsies who roam the fields, worrying the adults more in terms of property values and theft. The third area is the British war in the Falkland Islands, which scares Jason immensely, as would any war details being presented to someone who's still a child. This could be seen as a mere plot device to put the time frame of the novel into context (along with repeated mentions of the likes of Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello), but Mitchell shapes the Falkland War as a way for Jason to see the faults and bombastic ways of adulthood instead of just through his parents.

"In Argentina riots're being reported in the major cities, with lootings and shootings, and some people're saying it's just a matter of time before the junta's toppled. The Daily Mail's full of how Great British guts and Great British leadership won the war. No prime minister's ever been more popular than Premier Margaret Thatcher in the entire history of opinion polls.
I should be really happy (Mitchell 115)."

The adult dialogue in the book isn't given much unnecessary explanations, but left to stand on its own as filtered through Jason's mind. By reading what he's hearing, we can easily pick out the inherent lies, bullshitting, and forced niceness of various conversations. The best examples come from the conversations between Jason's parents and his aunt and uncle. Jason sees the shallowness of the interactions, and the reader feels just as awkward.

"Before starting the starters, Uncle Brian opened the wine he'd brought. Julia and Alex got a whole glass, Hugo and me just half, 'and a whistle wetter for you, Nigel.'
Aunt Alice did her usual toast: 'To the Taylor and Lamb dynasties!'
Uncle Brian did his usual: 'Here's looking at you, kid!'
Dad pretended to find that rather amusing.
We all clinked glasses (except Alex) and took a sip.
Dad is guaranteed to hold his wine glass up to the light and say 'Very easy to drink!' He didn't let us down today. Mum shot him a look, but Dad never notices. 'I'll say this for you, Brian. You can't half-choose a decent plonk.'
'Fabulous to earn your stamp of approval, Michael. Treated myself to a crate of the stuff. Comes from a vineyard near that charming cottage we rented in the lakes last year' (Mitchell 47)."

As was the case with Cloud Atlas, one of Mitchell's best skills is the ability to balance both the dramatic moments in life along with the comedic. Neither emotion is dominant, therefore giving Black Swan Green the possibility to be classified as either. At times, these two sides are combined. Given the fact that nothing is written to come across as more than a detail of someone's life, the feelings depicted are wholly realistic. A fight scene between two of Jason's schoolmates is one of many examples of this mix of reality, comedy, and drama.

"At the foot of the embankment, Ross Wilcox'd already got to his feet. Grant Burch was half-sitting up, cradling his right hand in his left and squinting with agony. Shit, I thought. Blood and soil clotted Grant Burch's face.
'Aw,' mocked Ross Wilcox. 'Had enough, now, have we?'
'My wrist's bust,' Grant Burch grimaced. 'Yer fuckin' wanker!'
Ross Wilcox flobbed, dead casual. 'Looks to me like you lost then, ain't yer?'
'I've not fuckin' lost, yer fuckin' wanker, it's a fuckin' draw!' (Mitchell 75)."

A friend of mine recommended the works of David Mitchell to me, and in doing so mentioned Mitchell's penchant for various characters making appearances in his otherwise unconnected novels. In Cloud Atlas, my favorite chapters were devoted to the writings and life of composer Robert Frobisher, and I was delighted when his life made a brief appearance in Black Swan Green. The daughter of Frobisher's mentor who was his forbidden love is now an elderly grifter, giving Jason secret lessons in poetry and French. Her relationship with Frobisher is hinted, but would not be immediately understood to someone who hasn't read the 2004 work. Even so, Mitchell writes the passages as a compelling mystery that appeals to the senses, even without the context of Cloud Atlas.

"'Yes, [Frobisher] is the one who wrote that incredible music. Robert revered my father. Like a disciple, a son. They shared a musical empathy, who is an empathy more intimate than the sexual.' (She said 'sexual' like it was any other word.) 'It is thanks to Robert, my father could compose his final masterpiece, Die Todtenvogel. In Warsaw, in Paris, in Vienna, for a brief summer, the name of Vyvyan Ayrs was restored to glory. Oh, I was a jealous demoiselle!' (Mitchell 159)."

The dialogue carries the novel, and Mitchell creates a (as much as I dislike this term) slice of life that's both believable and laced with moments of everyday suspense. The details are crafted especially well, but as a whole, Mitchell didn't seem to have the intention to create a story that focuses on the unique or unpredictable. The plot points (Jason's parent's divorce, the comeuppances of his tormentors, the depictions of the gypsies versus Black Swan Green's assumptions of them), do contain elements of surprise, but in reality (or more in hindsight) seem typical. But describing them as typical is not meant to be an insult. With Cloud Atlas, Mitchell proved his immense skills in both storytelling, literary history, and originality, creating a work that I would currently include in a list of my top ten favorite novels. With Black Swan Green, he opts for excellent writing on a smaller scale. Perhaps it's semi-autobiographical, and perhaps he wanted to go for writing a more standard, tidier work. While I wouldn't classify it anywhere near the awesomeness of his 2004 masterpiece, I definitely found it to be extremely worthy, and a great pick for anyone wanting to read a novel that's a fast read, but with some thought-provoking relevance. In June, Mitchell will publish his latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and from what I've heard, it could be his most complex work to date. With that in mind, it seems natural that a smaller, more intimate work would be sandwiched between one established masterpiece and one potentially looming one.

Work Cited:
Mitchell, David. Black Swan Green. Copyright 2006 by David Mitchell.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Heart Of the Matters

The current economic and ecological crises are, to put it mildly (not that one should), problematic in more ways than one. These issues are visible in a few ways, one of which is the understanding that everyone, qualified or otherwise, has his or her own solutions, opinions, and occasional agendas. The rise of political divisions in the United States, coupled with the Information Age, has made analyses, critiques, and news almost literally dizzying. I've never been a fan of soundbites,especially ones that are intended to be substitutes for actual learning. However, more in regard to the economic/banking collapses, I've found myself relying on the most basic definitions and summaries. Despite having read numerous articles (thank you, James Surowiecki--I follow you as best as I can), I'd probably fail a simple economic vocabulary test. These admissions aside, I was excited to read Curtis White's The Barbaric Heart, an almost too-brief, stern look at our current mindsets on these issues, written by a self-admitted non-scientist/economist.

The staggering number of books on these problems would probably make even the most dedicated reader wary of a new publication, even one penned by an expert. However, as indicated by his 2003 masterpiece The Middle Mind, White is an intellectual force who, sometimes by sheer will alone, makes hypotheses that are stunning and accurate. He leans to the left, yet is one of those rare voices unafraid (or, more accurately, insistent upon) of lambasting people on either side of the political spectrum. In The Middle Mind, he states that a lack of true thought and ingenuity is dangerously killing the American imagination; in The Barbaric Heart, extensions of these mind faults could end up literally killing us.

To highlight this, he uses a metaphor that may seem obvious at first glance, yet reveals a lot more with a little definition:
"The rhetoric task that confronts the Barbaric Heart is to persuade us that there are times when crime becomes a necessity. This is usually the job of politicians, the perennial flaks for barbaric purpose. The 'virtue of necessity' is also the argument of Cold Warriors, who discover that in order to confront evil (fascism, communism, Baathism, the villany du jour) they must become a little like it (White xviii)."

This notion of a barbarian goes beyond the violent acts of plundering and pillaging; it highlights the scary realization that despite the grave error of those ways in modern understandings, the participants feel that they are doing good when in fact they are doing the most evil and damage, whether this be to civilians or to the actual environment. Applying the metaphor to today's climate, this mentality doesn't mean the destruction of villages, but the utter decimation of our economy and surroundings. White asserts that it's easy to criticize corporations and the almost mythical idea of greed, but he stresses that they are not fully to blame. Everyone, from corporations to individuals, needs to completely overhaul their lifestyles and understand that much more is needed than good intentions and a coat of green paint.

"Corporations are mostly powerless to be anything other than what they are. I suspect that far from being perverse merchants of greed hell-bent on destruction, these corporate entities are as bewildered as the rest of us...[they] simply have other priorities that are to them not only duties but virtues. They are the ancient tragic virtues of the Barbaric Heart (White 42-43)."

Another stunning theory by White is the revelation that even the most dutiful environmentalists and recyclers are fighting a losing cause, since to truly see any changes in the destruction of the planet, the corporations would have to completely and systematically change how they go about their business. But, as he implies, even the most ardent supporters of a green economy have a lot of soul-searching left to do.
"Environmentalism in the United States has the habit of looking outward to the corporate and political culprits it wishes to defeat, as well as to places it wishes to preserve, and the institutions and organizations it hopes will help it. But it too rarely looks inward to the fact that what precedes environmental degradation is the debasement of the human world (White 55)."

To highlight his opinions, White follows the same route that he did in 2003, citing an excellent range of historical and literary texts, from Edward Gibbon to Walt Whitman. To escape this human suicide, he urges people to go back to the basics, to embrace ideals that come from sources that may not be obvious sources of environmental solutions: philosophy, the arts, and religion. Thankfully, he doesn't support or name any specific religious philosophy, but mentions it as a whole as a way to shake people out of their complacency, understanding that religion has such a hold on a lot of people. In order to get more people thinking about solutions, even a religious twist would be beneficial.

"What we need is to begin working toward an alternative to capitalism that, as many have argued, functions as a no-growth or steady-state economy. And in very limited ways the new emphasis many communities are placing on 'local' economies and on walkable cities is already doing this. But I don't believe that we can get to this non-capitalist place without also providing for a mode of thinking and being in the world that is, I don't have a better word for it, spiritual but spiritual with no illusions (White 157-158)."

As was the case with The Middle Mind, White's arguments and critiques are effective because, despite his goal of being somewhat insulting, they are done with the intention of igniting debates and thought, rather than the usual political oratories of shouting and intelligence insults. He wants people to be more intelligent, and metaphorical slaps in the head are needed sometimes. His writing style is a sly combination of humor, dutiful reporting, and academic flourishes, all in the name of optimism. His obvious understanding is that not everyone will agree with him, but with any call to action with environmentalism, something needs to be done, and quickly at that. Sadly, we may not be ready to change our ways of life, or may do so when it's too late. This closing citation may be depressing, but hopefully writings like these will shake us out of our hand-wringing and lead to positive changes in the world. I also find it to be equally defining of both sides of the environmental issue, both the people who feel that they're doing what they can to combat it, and the people who claim that it's a myth and mere scare-mongering.

"The Barbaric Heart is a pure emptiness, an emptiness that doesn't know itself as empty. It is an emptiness that has turned upon itself. It is a moral black hole. It is a mouth that chews. It eats what comes before it. It is a self-destroying hunger. It is a permanent state of war against all others but also, most profoundly, against itself. One part violence, one part plunder, and eventual anguish and regret (White 15)."

Work Cited:
White, Curtis. The Barbaric Heart. Copyright 2009 by Curtis White.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gaining 'Ground

Before I begin my February essays, I'd like to call attention to a very special project that has been making waves in the Chicago literary community. Despite these waves, there is plenty of much-needed help and attention. The Chicago Underground Library has established a new home at 621 West Belmont Avenue in Chicago (just off Broadway), and I was fortunate enough to attend a community meeting last weekend. The CUL is an organization that I would write about regardless of whether or not I was involved, but I'm planning on lending a hand wherever I can.

Founded by Nell Taylor, CUL is a collection of zines, books, magazines, journals and personal submissions culled together to create a literary history of Chicago, from the unknown to the esteemed. The operation is growing, with submissions always welcome, extensive cataloguing still needing help and completion, and the goal of creating a complete web database of files and PDFs, cataloguing the collection and creating a map of Chicago's DIY literary culture, with an emphasis on collaboration and open availability for research projects.

While this is the bulk of CUL's goal, there are some wonderful projects in the works, including public readings, creative writing workshops, a blog of Chicago's book community both past and present, and an open space for writers and artists in need of work space or feedback.

Please visit the link above to get the full effect of CUL's offerings. The Library is always in need of help in cataloguing, and the current cataloguing sessions are held on Tuesday evenings from 7-10pm, and weekends from 1-5pm. To join the mailing list, e-mail: As I get myself more involved in the future, I'll post updates and events for anyone who is interested. This group has an incredible goal, and the full catalogue of Chicago writings is already both invaluable and rare. With more help and additions, this has the potential to be a literary landmark in the city of Chicago.

"You Against You" in Hobart; "I Don't Want to Pry" in Pidgeonholes

Hey y'all. I'm a little late posting these, but I was fortunate to have two new publications this week, working in new genres, a...