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February 2000

POLITICAL EXPERT PERSEVERES WITH SIGNIFICANT SUBJECTS
By Richard Frisbie
Politics, as it affects government decisions, is one subject that impacts everyone's daily life as well as the future of our children.

Nevertheless, writing about it makes one a "midlist" author, Steve Neal ruefully told the January meeting of the Society at the Cliff Dwellers Club. Big publishers don't give midlist authors much attention.

Neal, political editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, has published six books with a variety of publishers. His current title is Rolling on the River: The Best of Steve Neal from Southern Illinois University Press. University presses, he said, at least keep a book in print. Of the 97 pieces in the book, about two-thirds deal with politics. The rest explore sports, film, pop culture and other subjects. There's even an interview with Saul Bellow.

As a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune as well as the Sun-Times, Neal has interviewed all the recent presidents except Clinton. He recalled an occasion when Ronald Reagan, eyeing the mob of press photographers and camera crews, remarked, "I don't know how anyone not an actor could do this job."

Neal's already at work on a book about the relationship between Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They exchanged many letters, although Truman was disappointed that Ike decided to run for President in 1952 as a Republican instead of a Democrat.

REBUILDING ARCHIVES
As a result of the appeal in the latest issue to send in old dinner programs to help rebuild the SMA archives, Rich Lindberg has been able to extend the list of past award winners by one more year. A member sent in a dinner program from 1979. Lindberg requests that anyone else who has old dinner programs, invitations and other items bearing on SMA history send them (or copies) to him at 5915 N. Navarre Ave., Chicago, IL 60631.

NOW'S THE TIME TO NOMINATE NEW MEMBERS
If you're a writer, you probably know other authors who have not previously been nominated for membership in the Society of Midland Authors. Qualifications: Residence in one of the 12 Midwestern states Author of a book published by a recognized publisher and demonstrating "literary style." Or author of a play that has been given a professional production.

Send nominations to Lindberg at the address above. Include address and phone number of nominee and titles of books and/or plays.

By Barbara Schaaf
85 Candles on Cake? Have the Fire Extinguisher Ready

Richard Frisbie's elegant tribute to the Midland Authors on the occasion of the Society's 85th anniversary appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times Book Week on Jan. 23, 2000. Headlined 'A Writerly Sense of Self,' Richard's piece neatly juxtaposed a recent meeting featuring Scott Turow and Jacquelyn Mitchard with the founding writers, such luminaries as George Ade, Edna Ferber, Hamlin Garland, Vachel Lindsay and Harriet Monroe. He dealt deftly with the still prevailing attitude that there is little literary life 'west of Niagara Falls' and with the love-hate relationship between midland authors and New York City.

Comeback Kid
Speaking of New York, the Times sat up and took notice of Bruce Gans in a Jan. 18, 2000 article entitled, 'After Bitter Campus Battles, the 'Great Books' Rise Again.' The reporter seemed surprised that the resurgence came at Wright College 'not Oxford or Harvard or the University of Chicago.' Gans played a major role in setting up the popular new (in its second year) program, in which 900 have enrolled.

Students ' described as the type 'not ready for four-year institutions' ' may earn a minor or certificate after completing a concentration of courses. Ironically, the rise of special ethnic, women's and gender studies (some of whose proponents clearly see efforts by Gans and his colleagues to resuscitate such scholarship as a revolting redevelopment) paved the way for the revival of what just ten years ago was deemed too 'Eurocentric and sexist.'

As Gans put it, 'I wanted these kids to have a certificate where they could go to a four-year institu- tion and say: 'When I was at Wright College, I read the best that was thought and said. I learned about Thucydides, Schopenhauer, Plato, Mill, Aristophanes, Kant.'

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
Congrats to Wendell Mayo, the only Ohioan to receive a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1999. Wendell has three short-story collections in print. The first collection, Centaur of the North, is in its second edition from Arte Publico Press, and won the Adtlan Prize in 1996. B. Horror and Other Stories (Livingston Press) and In Lithuanian Wood (White Pine Press) are also available.

Rare Research
Martin Litvin has donated the material he amassed for his biography of Meyer Levin (see Literary License for January, 2000) to the Rare Book Room at the University of Illinois Library. It seems only fitting that this body of information should be in a collection that also features documents concerning such midland writers as Carl Sandburg and James Jones.

Poetic Program
In February, Hyde Parker Martha Modena Vertreace was the latest author to appear at Barnes & Noble's Webster Place establishment in a continuing series of programs co-sponsored by the SMA and B&N. SMA board member Vertreace's latest poetry collection, Dragon Lady, was released in late December, 1999 by Riverstone Poetry Press of West Chester, Pa. Among the ten books on her publication list are Smokeless Flame (Frith Press), Light Cot Bending and Second Mourning (both from Scotland's Die Hard Publishers).

OTHER MEMBER NEWS
Clip, Clip Hurray
Mel Holli is reveling in public attention for his latest books. Regarding The American Mayor: the Best and Worst Big-City Leaders, his publisher, Penn State Press, reports "notice in major publica- tions nationwide," plus numerous radio and TV station interviews. Another book, A View From Chicago's City Hall: Midcentury to Millennium, co-authored with Paul M. Green, was summarized this way by the Chicago Tribune: "Charming book of 200 black-and-white photographs with detailed, colorful captions."

"Compelling and Serpentine"
A Beer at a Bawdy House is the title of David J. Walker's new mystery from St. Martin's. "Compelling and enjoyable," says Publishers Weekly, with "well-drawn characters, serpentine plots and atmospheric settings."

High Old Times
Helen Reichert Lambin had an article on senior travel in the Sunday travel section of the Chicago Tribune on Jan. 16.

Melody Lingers On
Forthcoming from Heraclitus Press is Bernard Brindel: Who Wore at His Heart the Fire's Center, a biography of the composer, music teacher and choral conductor who died in 1997. It's an appraisal of his music and his teaching expertise, and testimony to his capacity for goodness and ability to inspire it in others. The book is a collection of comments, anecdotes and critiques from 120 colleagues, students, friends and relatives, varying from well-known figures like Studs Terkel, a life-long friend, to an obscure Italian woman who knew him for a few hours on a train.

SMA member June Rachuy Brindel, author of Ariadne, Phaedra and Nobody Is Ever Missing, wrote the biographical material and also co-edited the book with Wilbur Zelinsky, a geographer and former violin student of and another lifelong friend of Bernard Brindel. All proceeds from sale of this book will be used to support the publication, performance and recording of Bernard Brindel's music.

Making a Scene
Mary Edsey, SMA board member, has been one of the leaders in an effort to preserve the Davis Theater on Chicago's Northwest Side. The theater (formerly the Pershing) has showing movies at 4614 N. Lincoln Ave. since 1918. Re- cently, it has been offering second-run films on four screens. "Our goal is to keep (in the neighborhood) family entertainment that's affordable," Edsey told the Lerner News-Star. In a gentrifying area, the theater building is in danger of being turned into condominiums. (Mary Edsey: 773/404-9402, tabagio@suba.com).

Marine Historian on Web
Bruce Felknor is now host of the history page of the U.S. Merchant Marine website: www.usmm.org.

NEW MEMBERS
Barbara Croft of Oak Park, Ill., author of Necessary Fictions (University of Pittsburgh Press) and Primary Colors and Other Stories (New Rivers Press). Eli Liebow of Highland Park, Ill., is a professor at Northeastern Illinois University. His books include Dr. Joseph Bell: Model for Sherlock Holmes (Popular Press), Write It Right (Johnson Publishers) and Age: A Work of Art (Alan & Bacon). See April program announcement.

FINAL CHAPTERS
Gudrun Alcock, an active SMA board member until recently, died Jan. 9 at age 91. She was the author of four children's books, Dooley's Lion; Run, Westy, Run; Turn the Next Corner, and Duffy. Her career also included stints as a women's section editor for the Chicago Examiner, a long-gone daily; a commercial layout artist for Marshall Field's and an advertising layout instructor at North- western University.


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