ON THE ROAD WITH ANN – Reflections on Reading Chicago

We read. We saw. We heard. We tasted. Reading Chicago.


While our some of Chicago’s most imaginative literary witnesses revealed its cultural contrasts, I was even more struck by a distinctive composite portrait of an astonishing city, characterized by muscular momentum, unpretentious pride and, sometimes, seamy realness.

“City of the Big Shoulders …
…proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.”
–Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”

“Our young people feel nervously the need of putting theory into action …”
–Jane Addams, “The Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements”

“Big-shot town, small-shot town, jet-propelled old-fashioned town, by old-world hands with new-world tools built into a place whose heartbeat carries farther than its shout, whose whispering in the night sounds less hollow than its roistering noontime laugh: they have builded a heavy-shouldered laughter here who went to work too young.”
―Nelson Algren, “Chicago: City on the Make”

“Chicago has always been and still is the City of Hands. Horny, calloused, hands. Yet, here they came: the French voyageurs; the Anglo traders; the German burghers many of whom were the children of those dreamers who dared dream of better worlds.”
–Studs Terkel, “Chicago was a City Called Heaven”

Herman Menzel, Mexican Pool Room, 1927 (Art Institute)

Herman Menzel, Mexican Pool Room, 1927 (Art Institute)

“We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jaza June. We
Die soon.”
–Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Pool Players”

“But it wasn’t desolation that this made you feel, but rather a faltering of organization that set free a huge energy, an escaped, unattached, unregulated power from the giant raw place. Not only must people feel it but, it seemed to Grebe, they were compelled to match it. In their very bodies. He not less than others, he realized.”
-Saul Bellow, “Looking for Mister Green”

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline


Chicago Slide Show


Swing Band at Green Mill, a speakeasy from 1907. (Start the audio at the bottom of the screen.) See Classical Trivia! for the literary origin of “trip the light fantastic.”

Al & Trudy Kallis, of LA, trip the light fantastic

Al & Trudy Kallis, of LA, trip the light fantastic



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