The stories Chopin in Winter and Blight are magnificent and they reminded me of Jack Kerouac There seemed to be some unspoken relationship between being nameless and being a loser Watching the guys from Korea after their ball games as they hung around under the buzzing neon signs of their taverns, guzzling beers and flipping the softball, I got the strange feeling that they had actually chosen anonymity and the loserhood that went with it It was something they looked for in one another, that held them together Hot Ice written or less in Charles Bukowski s mode is excellent as well.The rest is pretty good. The Stolid Landscape Of Chicago Suddenly Turns Dreamlike And Otherworldly In Stuart Dybek S Classic Story Collection A Child S Collection Of Bottle Caps Becomes The Tombstones Of A Graveyard A Lowly Rightfielder S Inexplicable Death Turns Him Into A Martyr To Baseball Strains Of Chopin Floating Down The Tenement Airshaft Are Transformed Into A Mysterious Anthem Of Loss Combining Homely Detail And Heartbreakingly Familiar Voices With Grand Leaps Of Imagination, The Coast Of Chicago Is A Masterpiece From One Of America S Most Highly Regarded Writers I ve experienced that rare pleasure of hearing Stuart Dybek read his work in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he is a sometime adjunct professor at Western Michigan University, and so sometimes, not at all often, has read to a large and hungry Kalamazoo audience, myself among them That was poetry Good stuff Really good stuff And so picking up this collection of stories about my favorite city, Chicago, and Dybek s hometown, too, I knew I would be in for a street wise treat Oh yeah Fourteen stories, and if you know anything about Dybek at all, you will know he is surrounded by awards and an otherwise impressive publishing history, so no need to go there He s proven goods I ll offer simply my personal perspective and experience on reading this collection And so, indeed, it resonated with me Dybek, like me, comes from a richly ethnic background In his case, he is a second generation Polish American, growing up in Chicago neighborhoods, southern side of that great city Whereas I have a father who is a visual artist, so influencing me to be visual in my own writing, Dybek s second art love is music jazz, specifically and so for him, that second art comes through in obvious and less obvious ways Here, too Quite a few of these stories intertwine music Music becomes something of a character itself Chopin in Winter , or else it serves as background, or it is fabric of the words, adding a jazzy rhythm to his sentence structure, a bop and a bounce to his choice of expression Nice The collection is an interesting mix of traditional sandwiched with flash fiction The flash pieces reminded me of Dybek s poetry Poetry in prose, nearly Because Dybek s style see note above on musical influence is very lyrical There s something improvisational about his writing, yet carefully so A great jazz artist doesn t really improvise at all he or she dips into that vastness of musical experience and freely lifts from it and into light What is surprise to others is old blood to the maestro A kiss crosses the city It rides a glass streetcar that showers blue, electric sparks along the ghost of a track a track paved over in childhood the line that she and her mother used to take downtown A kiss crosses the city, revolves through a lobby door into a rainy night, catches a cab along a boulevard of black glass, and, running red lights, dissolves behind the open fans of wiper blades Rain spirals colorlessly out of the dark, darkens all it touches and makes it gleam Her kiss crosses the city, enters a subway tunnel that descends at this deserted hour like a channel through an underground world It s timeless there, always night, as if the planet doesn t turn below the street At the mouth of the station stands a kid who s gone AWOL and now has nowhere to go, a young conga drummer, a congacero, wearing a fatigue jacket and beating his drum He has the pigeons up past their bedtime doing the mambo page 105 These are stories that put you into the unprettified ethnic neighborhoods that were, are, Chicago The smells are here, the tastes, the mix of languages, the music, the blend of humanity Here the city kids and the first generation immigrants, the junkies and winos and ex cons and their corrupt cops Here, too, are stories about nothing, just the sense of being there, and so, stories about everything you need to know to share the experience Dybek is a master of language, whatever medium he chooses poetry or prose He blends his arts, as all art should be a blend, all from the same fountainhead He is visual artist, too, with one paint stroke The blue, absorbing shadow would deepen to azure, and a fiery orange sun would dip behind the glittering buildings The crowded beach would gradually empty, and a pitted moon would hover over sand scalloped with a million footprints It would be time to go page 45 Just don t go before acquainting yourself fully with the work of Stuart Dybek, and this collection is an excellent starting point. I read this short story collection when it was chosen for the one book one Chicago in 2004 I think the reason the story s resonated so much for me was that I know the neighborhoods,the streets and the people,which it so much easer reading than Dubliners by James Joyce.The book really had me at the section titled Nighthawks a young man killing time at the art institute would always end his day viewing Edward Hoppers painting named Nighthawks.Dybek than brings the paint to life The couple at the end of the counter who could just as easily pass for strangers killing time,they have a back story Ray the man behind the counter who is much older then he looks and nobody cares what he dose during the day The guy whith his back to the window nursing his cup of coffee , maybe an out of work hit man And finally,what about the empty water glass It to has a story.I know that if the Nighthawks section was all that I had read,it would have been time well spent However I would not have liked to missed all of the others. The Coast of Chicago is a lyrical short story collection about growing up in Chicago in the 50 s and 60 s the poverty, the wild aimlessness of boyhood, those who escape the neighborhood and those who don t Each longer piece is followed by a short short, which was a fun pattern Dybek adeptly captures the mood of the city, especially at night and in the winters My favorite story in this collection is the simply gorgeous Chopin in Winter, which is about a boy and his grandpa who fervently listen to their upstairs neighbor playing the piano Nighthawks is another gem in this collection in it Dybek imagines the lives of the characters in Edward Hopper s similarly titled painting The final story Pet Milk was also quite lovely, but I still prefer We Didn t, which seems almost like a companion piece to it, in his most recent story collection, I Sailed with Magellan. Most of these stories have a narrator looking back to the time of the story from an undisclosed or unimportant future vantage point The way the character looks back indicates the story is vital memory to the character s existence even Dybek s vivid flashes of past come in layer upon layer, rendering the story into not just memory, but perhaps the most important time of these characters lives The sense of nostalgia is thick and alive it s hypnotic at times, but slows the read a bit, too The short shorts are a pleasure.So why 4 stars Cleary in the entire book, Dybek is concerned with the world of dreams, or perhaps particulary the limbo between waking reality and dreamscape It kind of goes along with the characters looking back, thus they re caught between whatever their present and their vivid past The long story Nighthawks in the middle of the book is fascinated with this limbo The language Dybek uses when in dream or that limbo is incredible and poetic, and I loved that part of it But the musing exploration of that place just wasn t for me I realize it s just a personal preference on my part not my kind of writing , but frankly I was bored at times with it Other stories besides Nighthawks were much compelling reads because they had the musing in it but weren t overwhelmed by it I don t think I d ever read Bijou again either Human exploration through an audience s reaction s to a graphic documentary for me a so what read. Blight is one of the best stories I ve read in a long time, and in some ways its quality dampens the rest of the book for me As a teacher of mine once said, Stu really packs it in A lot of the stories in this collection feel like novels By the end so much has been seen and experienced that there s an ache for, but a satisfaction in knowing that it Dybek did it right. This is a great book I lived in Chicago for a number of years and I am a catholic born in Eastern Europe so I can definitely relate to parts of what Dybek describes in this book Stuart Dybek grew up in the South Side of Chicago At the time, his neighborhood was an ethnic neighborhood full of poles, ukranians, czechs, etc Most of the characters in the book still have customs coming from the old country, inherited prejudices, church going rituals, love for music, etc.Most of the stories have a life of their own yet some of the smaller ones are introduced just to create themes or suggest feelings that will trigger in other stories For example baseball is a recurring theme in this book, from the neighborhood teams, to watching games, to the White Sox winning the 59 AL pennant It is a great experience to live in a town that wins a pennant and one of the short stories describes how the Go Go Sox of 59 won the AL pennant on Gerry Staley s sinker and Aparicio and Big Klu s 6 3 double play The whole town was affected by the air raid sirens that were sounded to celebrate but so were the characters in one of the short stories.The same neighborhoods have later changed One of the characters returns after a while and finds the same bars with the same names only that his neighborhood is Mexican now with many of the store names in Spanish and even the church bells don t seem to agree on the right time.There is no experience that compares to making the journey from the numbered streets of the South Side to the North Side of Chicago This journey is described multiple times in the book driving on Lake Shore Drive, riding the El train, switching buses In the last short story in the book, the author describes such a journey made by two lovers riding the El train The experience is surreal but one understands that living in Chicago and riding the El, you only need to glance outside the window to get a sense of where you are The experience transcends time, it was as if I were standing on that platform, with my schoolbooks and a smoke, on one of those endlessly accumulated afternoons after school when I stood almost outside of time simply waiting for a train, and I thought how much I d have loved seeing someone like us streaming by Stuart Dybek also eventually made this journey in his career, he was born in the South Side of Chicago and is now the distinguished writer in residence at Northwestern University. I really enjoyed this collection of short stories even though I m not sure that I understand a few of the endings since Dybek writes poetically My favorite is Lights because I had totally forgotten about this childhood activity Lights Your lights Hey, lights Makes me smile every time I think about it I also like the lines from Strays I never give any of them names We don t know an animal s name A name s what we use instead of smelling Have no fearI ll continue to name my pets lest I mortify my family.I think Dybek really captures the essence of the near South side of Chicago The Coast of Chicago reminded me of Sandra Cisneros The House of Mango Streetanother author poet who writes about her hometown of Chicago. If you ever wanted to take a time capsule and go back in time to the Chicago South Side during the 60 s and 70 s, than this book will take you there Dybek beautifully describes the lonliness and sadness of the back alleys of a working class neighborhood I lived in the South Side, definitely during a different time, but he captured a feeling that I had while living there You see fragments from that era on the street corners, and mixed in with the new culture that s taken over the South Side I love this book When I read it, I could not believe anyone could capture Chicago like he had This is one of my favorites.
Stuart Dybek has published three short story collections Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed With Magellan and two volumes of poetry Brass Knuckles and Streets in Their Own Ink He has been anthologized frequently and regularly appears in magazines such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harper s Magazine and the Paris Review.He has received numerous awards,
- 173 pages
- The Coast of Chicago
- Stuart Dybek
- 02 July 2018 Stuart Dybek