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November 2000

Fresh from her recent appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, Elizabeth Berg will be the feature of the Jan. 9 program at the Cliff Dwellers Club. Her current novel, Open House, was a selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. The New York Times Book Review called it "agile and freshly observed." Author of a number of other novels, she had previously won the New England Booksellers Award for fiction. As usual there will be no program in December.

By Barbara Schaaf

Fit to Print
On Sept. 25, Sara Paretsky contributed her thoughts to the New York Times Writers on Writing series. Slugged "A Storyteller Stands Where Justice Confronts Basic Human Needs," Paretsky argues that "mysteries, like life, have to be political."The story line of her latest novel, Hard Times, involves the hardships of women in prison.

Robert Hellenga, winner of the 1995 SMA fiction award for The Sixteen Pleasures, recently returned from Bologna where he celebrated the publication of the Italian translation of his second novel, The Fall of a Sparrow. He also participated in the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Bologna train station, the subject of the novel, whose Italian title translates as Bologna Blues. Hellenga's international shelf is getting crowded; the Dutch and Spanish translations were brought out last year, and he is awaiting a copy of the German version, which is available in bookstores in Europe. It's also available as an audio book from Dove.

Kids Corner
Just out is Taking Cerebral Palsy to School, Mary Elizabeth Anderson's contribution to JayJo Books' Special Kids in School series. Anderson, of Grand Island, Neb., dedicated her book to a young friend with CP. The idea is to help classmates of such kids to better understand the condition, and even includes an experiment enabling children to experience what it might feel like.

More for Kids
Under the auspices of the Barrington Area Arts Council, Diane Johnson conducted a three-day, six-hour seminar for children aged 8 to 15 last summer. Johnson worked with the kids to write a screenplay or children's book, or both. Also participating were puppet dolls inspired by Johnson's book, Princesa and Friskie (available from Barnes & Noble of Crystal Lake, and The puppet performance utilized a set painted by Randy Johnson, Diane's son, a professional muralist from Palatine.

A Mitzvah
For those who loved Irving Cutler's Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb (and there were lots of you), good news: Arcadia Publishing has just brought out Jewish Chicago: A Pictorial History. Cutler, professor emeritus of geography at Chicago State University, uses 230 photographs and maps to take the reader on a visual journey of the evolution of Chicago Jews from immigrant beginnings to the present day

Raintree Award
Larry Lockridge writes from New York University that he won the Mid-America Award (1998) for his biography, Shade of the Raintree: The Life and Death of Ross Lockridge, Jr. It was published by Viking Penguin in 1994 and by Penguin in 1995 to critical praise.

Fifties Power
In her new book, Turning 50, Olivia Wu reflects on what it means to hit that milestone, aided by results of interviews with 50 men and women who made it and survived to tell the tale. Wu has had a distinguished career in Chicago journalism (Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald) and now freelances. Wu's volume is not a how-to book, but a study of how turning 50 empowered her subjects. It was published in March by Andrews McMeel.

FDR, Winnie, Uncle Joe...and East Texas, Too
Augie Aleksy, proprietor of Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore (check new location at 7419 W. Madison, Forest Park) has planned an intriguing November schedule. On Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. the C&SB History Discussion Group presents a meeting of the minds program featuring Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston S. Churchill and Josef Stalin. Seating is limited; call 708-771-7243 for more information.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. the Mystery Discussion group will meet to go over Joe R. Landsdale's East Texas mystery, Mucho Mojo. (And if some of you get this issue before Nov. 4, remember that to celebrate the store's 10th anniversary and the new digs, there's a party from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with refreshments, prizes and appearances by Chicago writers.)


Novels Reprinted
Jerome Brooks, a member of the Society of Midland Authors since the mid-'70s, reports that three of his six novels have been issued as reprints by the Authors The three novels will have newly designed covers. Make Me a Hero was a serious contender for the Newbery in 1980. Naked in Winter was published by the prestigious French house, L'ecole de Loisirs, in both hardback and paperback, the latter for a national French book club. The third title is The Testing of Charlie Hammelman. The new covers are in keeping with Brooks's decision to re-issue the books as adult fiction. Brooks says they received superlative reviews at the time of their original publication, but never sold very well, for precisely the same reason YA critics gave them such fine reviews: they were fine reading, but not for the masses. As Brooks used to tell students enrolled in the fiction-writing workshops he was invited by the University of Chicago to develop and lead, as well as the throngs of people from around the country who participated in his America Online Bulletin Board, Art, Integrity, and Fiction, "a writer must not write down to his reader, as a parent must not speak down to a child. In both instances, that sort of evolutionary debasement leads to the increase in the rise of the mediocrity we can now feel all around us." Brooks had to leave his teaching and, to some extent, his writing because of a rare form of peripheral neuropathy. Only three percent of the patients in the world experience his illness so profoundly. It has attacked all the nerves in his lower body and has now progressed to the destruction of the myelin sheathing surrounding some of his cranial nerves. He is virtually unable to walk or wash dishes, to say nothing, of course, of touch-typing. Currently, he's trying to perfect his Naturally Mobile recording skills. He says he would be thrilled to hear from former friends and colleagues. "I haven't yet forgotten how to love and care and talk and speak."

Spiritual Traveler
Marilyn Chiat has signed a contract with Hidden Springs, a division of Paulist Press, to write The Spiritual Traveler: Chicago and the Great Lakes Region. The states to be included are: Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Spiritual Traveler series is an expansion of her book, America's Religious Architecture: Sacred Places for Every Community (Preservation Press/John Wiley & Sons, 1997) that surveyed places of worship in nine regions of the country. The first book in the new series, on New York City, was written by Edward Bergmann and will be available next spring. Sites to be included in the books are places of worship, cemeteries, grottos, natural and manmade landscapes, Native American sites and other "spiritual spaces and peaceful places." She says, "I welcome suggestions from readers for sites that should be considered for inclusion in my book."

More Honors for Poet Laureate
"Heart, Mind, Justice A Voice of Dignity" will be the theme for this year's distinguished service award as the Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area honors Gwendolyn Brooks for her many achievements. A reception with cash bar will start at 6:00 p.m. with dinner at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, at the Casino Club, 195 E. Delaware Pl., Chicago. The program is open to the public, cost $60 per person. A lifelong Chicagoan and Poet Laureate of Illinois for over three decades, Brooks was the first Black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize, awarded for Annie Allen. She has also served as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. She has won two Guggenheim fellowships, the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award and honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She will sign copies of her work, which will be available for purchase at the event.

For further information, contact the Phi Beta Kappa Association president, Greg Gocek, at 630-968-7845 or E-mail

Expert Witnesses
Thomas Lynch, winner of the SMA nonfiction award for his 1998 book, The Undertaking, has become the man to quote on the subject of death and dying. He was quoted at length on camera during Bill Moyers' recent four-part special on PBS, as well as in a Time magazine article about an offbeat mortuary operation. Chicago Tonight on Chicago's Channel 11 rounded up Tim Unsworth among other commentators on Catholic affairs to discuss Cardinal Francis George's action in appointing an official exorcist.

"Humorous and Heartwarming"
Stella Pevsner's new book, Is Everyone Moonburned But Me? (Clarion), continues to get good reviews. "Starved for attention, middle child Hannah goes back and forth between living with her mother and her father and becomes determined to be an individual in a family that seems to barely notice her...a humorous, heartwarming story," says Books and More for Growing Minds.

Good Word for Dissent
Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church is Robert McClory's new book from Orbis. A journalism professor at Northwestern University, "he writes mostly as a journalist, choosing not to debate the merits of nonconformity, but to report each story and allow the facts to speak for themselves," says Publishers Weekly. His "well-researched" examples range from Galileo and St. Thomas Aquinas to lesser-known figures, whose stories illustrate that even in the Roman Catholic church "history often takes a kinder view of those known in their day as dissidents."

Another Spare Time Job
The indefatigable Martin E. Marty has agreed to serve as interim president of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Caught between a president leaving and a new one coming aboard early next year, St. Olaf' turned to Marty, who was already chairman of the board of regents.

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