Friday, September 29, 2006

One Book, One Chicago

Someone in Chicago came up with a very cool concept - One Book, One Chicago. It's a great idea that unfortunately absolutely no one knows about and for which they pick terrible books. It's (poorly) promoted by the Chicago Public Library. This fall the book is Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, which came out in 1999. I read it then, and didn't love it. I think I'll give it another go, just to see if it strikes up any conversation on the train. Lahiri is a competent writer, but a little distant. I don't think she's a good choice for One Book, One Chicago, but then again, it's a sight better than One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (spring 2006).

The program began in 2001 with To Kill a Mockingbird (I suppose you can't go wrong with that) and was followed with some odd choices like The Things they Carried and Pride and Prejudice. To me, the key to a program like this, which according to their website, is meant to "cultivate a culture of reading and discussion in Chicago by bringing our diverse city together around one great book" is to choose books that appeal to a wide audience of all ages and cultural backgrounds, and also, essentially, to choose a book that has something to to do with Chicago! Not like, a friggin' Russian prison camp. That why Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun is really the only choice so far that's made any sense, although I don't think most people are very adept at reading plays.

Here are some books I would choose:
Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett and Brett Helquist
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
The Hatbox Baby, by Carrie Brown (somebody told me it was good, and anyway it's a nice alternative to the awful Devil in the White City.)
Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting, by Steven Biel

In other Chicago book news, last night I saw local fave and Check, Please host, Alpana Signh reading from her new book at Women and Children First bookstore. That was a good time. They had a wine tasting from the new wine shop in the neighborhood. Alpana was very charming.

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