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April 2002

Where: Chicago Athletic Assn., 12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
When: 6 p.m. social hour, 7 p. m. program
Tuesday, April 9
Reservations NOT needed
. Public invited. Hors d'oeuvres, wine and soft drinks, reception and presentation: $10 for members, $15 for non-members.
For information, call Matt Smolek at C.A.A. 312/236-7500, Ext. 2113..

Moving Between Fiction and Nonfiction: Notes from the Borderland

        Jane S. Smith's novel, Fool's Gold, won the 2000 Adult Fiction Award from the Society of Midland Authors. Patenting the Sun, her 1990 history of the development of the Salk polio vaccine, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology. She will discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of writing in two very different genres.


Other Coming Events

Tuesday, May 14 –Awards Banquet.
June 1-2– Printer's Row Book Fair.

Board Meetings

Third Wednesdays of each month:
Apr.17, May 29.


LITTLE STORIES FROM A GREAT CITY

By Richard Frisbie

        Jon Anderson admires the example of Marcel Proust, who used to say that every news story in the daily newspaper was the beginning of a novel.
        "Every life is interesting if you leave enough out," Anderson said at the March 12 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association.
        He told how he has applied that idea to writing his City Watch column in the Chicago Tribune, looking for the "little short stories" that illuminate life in a city that's not overrun with celebrities like New York.
        A polished raconteur, Anderson delighted his audience with some of the stories he has collected in his recent book, City Watch: Discovering the Uncommon Chicago (University of Iowa Press).
        A printing business owner in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago, thinking about retiring, had time to look out the window and become offended by the rusty light pole out front. Not expecting a painting crew from the city to come by any time soon, he went to his alderman and offered to paint the pole himself if the alderman would supply the official city green paint.
        The alderman followed through, and the printer painted the pole. That made the other poles on his block look even worse. So he painted them too. As he did so, he enjoyed talking to passers by who stopped to chat.
        In the end, he turned the business over to his sons, got more paint from the alderman and wound up painting all the streetlight poles in his part of the city--5,000 poles, which required 400 gallons of paint.
        Anderson spoke also of the owner of a baronial estate in the suburb of Barrington, where the owner maintains a collection of 600 mechanical bands featuring musical instruments that play by themselves, thanks to gears, pneumatic tubes, mechanical arms and other pre-computer devices.
        A Ringling Brothers alumna teaches a circus school in staid Evanston. Her former act under the big top was to do back flips off a seesaw and land seated in a chair. She explains that one has to trust one's associates. In her case they were her brothers.
        Anderson said that compiling a book like City Watch requires not only selecting the stories but also arranging them in an order that makes a coherent whole.
        A section titled "All the New Thinking About the Arts" contains the tale of Cynthia Plaster Caster.
        In a lecture at the School of the Art Institute, she explained that she had developed a new art form because in the 1960s it struck her as a way to meet rock stars.
        According to Art Institute posters, she cast in plaster "the male genitalia of her musical idols."
        She found that wearing a white lab coat helped her penetrate the security that surrounds such celebrities. She also learned that letting the plaster get too cold diminished the subject.
        Anderson, the artful collector of unusual stories, asked the obvious question: had Plaster Caster's truly personal portraits ever led to a relationship with the subject?
        Well, no.

MEMBER NEWS

Visiting Ground Zero
        The World Trade Center disaster of Sept. 11 drew Jim Schwab to join other experts to see the damage for themselves.
        Three years ago he was the principal author of Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction, co-published by the American Planning Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
        Jim was invited by APA's New York Metro Chapter to speak as part of a panel on "Recovery and Remembrances: Experiences of Other Devastated Cities" at its annual conference, most of which unsurprisingly was devoted to the issue of rebuilding Lower Manhattan.
        Jim joined a panel with other planners from California, Wisconsin and Japan who have dealt with disaster recovery issues. The following day, the panelists visited with city officials in New York who described the challenges ahead of them, and also were taken to the 36th floor of the Equitable Building, which affords a southward view of Ground Zero from nearby and is used by a consortium of television networks for continuous videotaping of the process of excavation and clearance of the WTC site.         "It was a moving experience," Jim says, "to realize that, mixed into all that rubble were the atomized remains of some 3,000 human beings unfortunate enough to have been in the buildings at the wrong time."

Wins Poetry Prize
        Alice Freeman of Indianapolis has won the 2001 James Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah.

Travis Exposes FBI
        "Nothing else gives quite so sharp an insight into a moment of history as the writings of participants as they were going through it," wrote Patrick T. Reardon in his Chicago Tribune book column.
        He cited two books published by Dempsey Travis, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI Wired the Nation and The FBI Files: On the Tainted and the Damned, which are filled with facsimile documents obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.
        They deal with files on "famous entertainers and other public figures, ranging from Marian Anderson to Adlai E. Stevenson II, from Groucho Marx to Billie Holiday.
        "For (Travis) they are evidence of the way the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover routinely violated the privacy of Americans with little or no investigative rationale.
        "The books, which together have sold more than 20,000 copies, reveal the FBI as an agency that was often small-minded, paranoid and racially insensitive."

In Time for St. Pat's Day
        Andrew M. Greeley's latest, Irish Stew, just out from Forge, involves his Nuala Anne McGrail character in a fresh look at the history of Chicago's Haymarket riot.
        She and her husband plunge into "a delicious stew of trouble in his latest crowd pleaser," says Publishers Weekly.
        It's a plot "rich with detail, while the couple's earnestness and good intentions are never in doubt.

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS

        Members are sometimes confused about their dues status because SMA operates on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30.
        Beginning with this issue, your Literary License mailing label will show your dues year next to your name. If it reads "(2002)," that means you are paid up through June 30, 2002. If this does not agree with your records, the person to contact is the SMA treasurer, Robert Remer, 5840 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, IL 60660. Phone: 773/561-6280.
        New members who accept an invitation from the board of directors and submit their first year's dues near the end of the current season will be credited as paid up through the following fiscal year.
        So now's a good time to nominate your literary friends and associates who have written one or more books and qualify for membership.


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