Peculiar are his omissions: how can the story of AIDS literature be reconstructed without acknowledging and honoring the work of Sarah Schulman: her novels, her essays, her historiography, yet except for listing her in the canon of AIDS intellectual thought in the beginning of the book, he omits any discussion of her contribution.
I kept waiting to see how he writes about her work and I was disappointed. He notes that Robert Ferro re-wrote the opening lines of Second Son , and I wondered to what extent he had done the same to create this new extended essay built from previous work. The breadth of this piece demonstrates his skill as a journalist, social analyst, essayist, diarist, poet and novelist. These final pages elevate the entire text from sociology to poetry, theology, and mysticism rooted in the physical experience of the body. I found myself annoyed at times to the extent to which Dale shares copious amounts of information about his own sexual exploits.
I was less interested in his predilection for ejaculating in the mouths of his sex partners, until reading the conclusion in the first section, where he says of his words transmitted to us on the page:. Now you have choices.
You can spit it out, first of all, or you can swallow it. You can swallow some or and pass the rest back to me. You can bring a third person in to our chain. You can do nothing at all. There are other choices, some of which are not known to me, but at any rate what happens next is up to you.
This renders the sexual details infused throughout the narrative less gratuitous and more almost elegiac. I was a body and a voice, and for the first and last time in my life, an unconflicted believer. If I go to my grave thinking that I never did anything more important than what I did in ACT-UP when I was twenty two and twenty three and twenty four years old—and so far nothing has come close—I will go to my grave happy and proud. This describes how hard it is to be a survivor of those times, grateful as I am to have done so.
It would kill me to have to go through it again. I would never trade the experience for anything in the world. There is something beyond crying, which I did for several minutes the first, second and third times I read this passage. There is art that reveals mysteries, there are words that liberate, and his testimony here and again later in one of the final prose poem elegies enlivened my faith. Describing the death of his friend, or his friends, or perhaps his own someday he prophesies,. One day you will reach out too far to the left and too far to the right. On that note, this book also evoked a great deal of nostalgia.
Steinberg begins with some quotes, from all different time periods, that express a longing for the past. People arriving today like myself! Those in the '70s longed for the '50s I was so excited to read about the Russian Baths, thinking my husband would love it; then was disappointed to learn they had been closed for years. Altogether a great book and another for my "Chicago Shelf". Dec 26, Barbara rated it really liked it.
I haven't lived in DuPage County since the mid 70s, when I graduated from high school and headed to college in the Northeast where I stayed to make a life. I've rarely been back to see family, who also scattered but returned, at least some of them. But within the last five or so years, most recently this summer, business has brought me back several times to conferences downtown. I began to see Chicago with different eyes. And I've become a big fan. So this book reinforced feelings and memories, I haven't lived in DuPage County since the mid 70s, when I graduated from high school and headed to college in the Northeast where I stayed to make a life.
So this book reinforced feelings and memories, and gave me me insights into a city I grew up around, while introducing me to a new writer I want to know more about. This is a love letter to a city that will always be a part of who I am, even that I never lived within its borders. But the history and the politics Neil Steinberg evoked is a part of the dinner conversations and other touchstones of my childhood. For that I am glad to have encountered his Chicago.
Feb 26, Ben rated it liked it. I guess I was expecting more from this book. I also can't say that I'm a huge fan of Steinberg's style of writing either--his descriptive style often just seemed drawn out to me and left me wishing he'd just get to the point already. The stories included in the book were interesting, but I was hoping for a greater emphasis on the city itself particularly learning little known tidbits about the city's history and less on the author's personal life. Having lived in both Evanston and Chicago, I was familiar with most of the locations he was describing, which made the book more enjoyable for me.
Without already having that background though, I don't know that I would have enjoyed the book all that much. Nov 30, Vanessa Wolf rated it liked it. To enjoy it however, you need to actually want to be in Chicago, to some it has an alluring call, which Steinberg gives voice. I guess I didn't enjoy it because its an ode to a city that I enjoy for the history, but not much beyond the '20s. It is however, a great book about Chicago, I'm just in love with another city.
Feb 10, Maggie Crane rated it liked it. I didn't love it, but it was entertaining. As a life-long Chicagoan, I did love the history-of-Chicago factoids. May 17, Tim Lapetino rated it it was amazing. My introduction to Steinberg and his great work as a Sun-Times columnist came in the form of a phone call, when he interviewed me for a story on how the Trump brand was faring after his election.
Our talk about the intersection of branding and design was brief, but it turned me on to his work. He struck me then as his book does now—clever but not pretentious, thoughtful but not overblown, meandering but always with a destination in mind. It gets my highest recommendation.
Feb 18, Diogenes rated it it was amazing. A wonderful book by a newspaperman in Chicago, my old hometown, and despite the telltale narcissism of any memoir, he manages to sprinkle poignant humor and dour insight into his work and witnessings as a white guy: "Not that swinging by a place is the same as living there.
Not close. I've been inside every Chicago Housing Authority project in Chicago--the high-rise Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green apartments, the low-rise Altgeld Gardens and Lathrop Homes, plus senior CHA projects nobody ha A wonderful book by a newspaperman in Chicago, my old hometown, and despite the telltale narcissism of any memoir, he manages to sprinkle poignant humor and dour insight into his work and witnessings as a white guy: "Not that swinging by a place is the same as living there. Most of the high-rises are gone now --to my vast surprise.
I would have bet anything that they'd be around for the rest of my life; I think most Chicagoans would have, and it was a shock when they were pulled down, one after another. Elderly residents who no longer noticed their kitchen was crawling with cockroaches, or noticed but no longer had the strength to care.
Newman wrote of the residents of the Robert Taylor Homes in , before the place got really bad. The paper has bulletproof vests, just in case society crumbles and we have to cover it. I stood there and imagined showing up at the Robert Taylor Homes in my bulky blue bulletproof vest, maybe with a helmet and clear Plexiglas face shield too, getting as close as I dared to an exhausted black lady wearing a small hat with a flower sticking out if it and a dark coat, dragging herself home from the bus stop after a long day, lugging two heavy shopping bags of groceries.
If people can live there their whole lives, I can visit for an hour. We are dice in Fate's cup. The past isn't here; it's not a place. The past doesn't really exist. Only in our heads, in our hearts, and in books and movies. The past is a thought, a blurred photograph, a scratchy song, a memory no more substantial than the charge on a battery. The past is a big empty room where something once happened.
A gutted building where something you loved used to be. You can't go back--you can remember it, read about it, cherish it. But the past isn't actually there, not anymore, and any attempt to find it, to hold it in your hands, to return to it in the living world must inevitably be thwarted. I wonder if when we truly love someone, completely give our whole spiritual hearts over to a special someone, and they crush it, rip it open and fillet it with a fish knife, that there's no getting the whole thing back to start again.
That inevitably a part of you is lost to that other, a deep and profound part. Sure, we can love again, if ever someone finds connection to us, but can we ever love THAT deeply again? It's a rhetorical question because I doubt anyone ever sees this, but I wonder if spiritual death's first step is that lost piece of soul.
Feb 03, Dave Donahoe rated it really liked it Shelves: chicago. Part history, part memoir, part social examination of the city and its people. A great look into what makes Chicago Chicago. Even if you have grown up and lived here you entire life you will find yourself learning new things, nodding your head "yes, that's how it is," mourning places you will never get to see, and jotting down notes of places within the city that you want to visit before they are gone. This is a love letter to one of the great cities of the world. Thank you, Mr Steinberg.
In my Part history, part memoir, part social examination of the city and its people. In my opinion, you are a true Chicagoan. Aug 25, Jim rated it it was amazing. Writing at its finest; beautiful and poetic, filled with personal stories that seem small, but are so much bigger. This is what a memoir should be. Steingberg does relay his own story, his personal relationship with Chicago, but he does so with terrific overarching themes. He seamlessly weaves his personal anecdotes and feelings with historical facts and tales of Chicago.
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He somehow makes his personal story every Chicagoan's story. Simply wonderful. Mar 03, David rated it really liked it. For a Chicago expatriate like myself I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit Chicago even though I left in But like many I will alwayssee myself as a chicago native. Lots of the short pieces were quite enjoyable.
Mar 22, Emily rated it did not like it Shelves: did-not-finish. This book is a memoir that is sold as being primarily about Chicago. The Chicago parts are pretty good but the story of the author's life is just incredibly boring to me. I just did not want to read it anymore. Sep 07, Sarah rated it it was amazing. I can't speak to what a non-Chicago dweller of several years would make of this book. However, I certainly enjoyed the stories and history offered in Steinberg's usual fine writing style.
Nov 01, Dave rated it really liked it. Chicago has a way of dazzling me every time I return, calling me home when I stray to other parts or other cities around this great country. Gosh, I'm just a suburban white boy who adopted Chicago as my cultural urban epicenter because it was the closest thing geographically for me to get kicked in the head at a Pearl Jam concert, be stared at while sipping alcoholic beverages in a reggae bar, eat goose liver pate on wild game sausage, and watch in stunned silence as your favorite pro sports tea Chicago has a way of dazzling me every time I return, calling me home when I stray to other parts or other cities around this great country.
Gosh, I'm just a suburban white boy who adopted Chicago as my cultural urban epicenter because it was the closest thing geographically for me to get kicked in the head at a Pearl Jam concert, be stared at while sipping alcoholic beverages in a reggae bar, eat goose liver pate on wild game sausage, and watch in stunned silence as your favorite pro sports team lets its lone chance at a World Series title slip away through the fingers of a bespectacled fan down the left field line. I'm sure Neil Steinberg, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and author of this autobiographically driven book, would concur at some point, Chicago is for him, vastly different than it is for everyone else.
And to further confuse the point, in many ways it is so eloquently similar for so many. What is similar is the appreciation of the skyline, the universal knowledge that Chicago has the largest Polish population this side of Warsaw, the ubiquitous and loyal love for its sports teams, the disdain for the traffic, the major food groups hot dogs, pizza, Italian beef, etc. But dig deeper, and as Steinberg would argue, you were never in Chicago. The spirit of his column writing bled through in this book, and I found it pleasantly surprising to uncover little delights about a city I grew up next to and spent 42 years travelling in and out of.
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Ever heard of the Russian Baths? Strombecker Toys? Judge Marovitz? Leanna Dorsett? Custom Medical Stock?
And Michael Mages hardware store. Some stories end tragically, some just cease to continue.
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Critics of the book might bemoan the fact that Steinberg invariably includes too much narrative about his own family, particularly his brother's ups and downs in the working world, but I find it subtly appropriate. In the end Sam Steinberg is portrayed as successful in most of his endeavors.
After all, we are talking about Chicago here where nepotism is king.
Lastly, every once in awhile, I find a line in a book that resonates wholly and in some cases, reflects personal values. The following was written in this book and closely mirrors those sentiments: "Many Chicagoans can seamlessly shift from dabbing away a tear at the irrational bigotry their beloved grandparents faced when they arrived from the old country to sneering at these completely unacceptable illegal immigrants using up our scarce resources when they should be packed into boxcars and sent back where they belong, without ever feeling the slightest shiver of irony.
Different situations entirely. Jan 31, Craig Barner rated it it was amazing Shelves: chicago , writing-and-writers , memoir , journalism. Rejoice, Chicagoans! You live in a great city. And you have great writers, like Neil Steinberg, who pen great books about it. I have read more than 30 books, fiction and non-fiction, about Chicago, the city I love for reasons somewhat ineffable even to me.
If you read only one book on Chicago, this would be a wise choice. Only two or three others meet that very high standard. I can think of hundreds of books involving compelling stories, good writing and interesting topics, but only a couple possess a strong dose of passion. Not all books should be fervent, because of their topic or some other reason, but this, a prose-poem to Chicago, is the type of work that demands feeling. Steinberg delivers the goods. His book is an ode to Chicago. I love stories about Chicago journalism. Yes, there is something essential, emotional and even historic about a potato chip factory.
Wisely, Steinberg mostly steers clear of politics. A lot is written about politics in Chicago, how corrupt they are, who the players are, the endless dithering. Much should be devoted to politics, but there is no lack of books, columns and good journalists covering politics in Chicago. We meet some interesting personalities. We learn about a secret that Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz kept from the city—and his mother—for close to a century. We meet a mobster who runs an authentic bathhouse.
We see how Leon Despres, a liberal Chicago City Council member, was treated like dirt by conservatives, but got the last laugh on his adversaries. I have read plenty of those on the city. I nevertheless learned some interesting things. Neil Steinberg just made it a little bit sweeter. Pity A. Liebling, the august, dignified, idiotic New York writer who came up with the Second City name. It seems he visited Chicago, but was never in Chicago. May 02, Anne rated it liked it. I'd give it 3. As with all autobiographical works, my enjoyment of the book is dependent on the likability of the author and I have to say, I just didn't care much for Neil Steinberg as a character.
But Neil Steinberg the writer is excellent, and when he turns his observations away from his own insecurities and false bravados and turns them toward the city that he lives in, this book is truly wonderful. He writes eloquently, poignantly and economically about the city I'd give it 3. He writes eloquently, poignantly and economically about the city of Chicago, delving into its history I learned quite a bit, in fact , its recent past and its present through anecdotes and language that was cathartic and quotable.
The parts of the book where he talks instead about his career trajectory almost all of which follow the formula "here's this challenge I encountered, here's how I cleverly overcame it, gee aren't I clever, cleverer than anyone else" are tedious at best and often downright frustrating. But in so doing, he follows in a long line of macho Chicago authors who occasionally infuriate me and occasionally illuminate beautifully the city I live in.
A former boss of mine here in Chicago used to describe it as the "city with low self-esteem;" perhaps there's a reason that these obviously insecure men end up being the ones who so beautifully capture Chicago in words. Jun 24, Andrew Martin rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. Chicago was built by enemies working together, at least in part. The professionals do it so smoothly that you can know exactly what's going on and s don't know what to make of some of the goodreads reviews here. The professionals do it so smoothly that you can know exactly what's going on and still not mind.
There are some sentences that betray a Oct 01, Steve rated it really liked it. A mixed bag that falls a little short. The first couple of chapters are great, mixing the history of Chicago with his own personal history. But it is half way through the book, in what could have been the best chapter of them all, that the book begins to fall short - the Russian Baths.