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The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream MP3 CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Dyja contends that “Understanding America requires understanding Chicago,” and he shows why in this robust, outspoken, zestfully knowledgeable, and seductively told synthesis of biography, culture, politics, and history. Writing with velocity, wry wit, and tough lyricism in sync with Chicago’s “ballsy” spirit, Dyja focuses on the years between the Great Depression and 1960, dissecting the city’s “three most powerful ­institutions––the Cook County Democratic Party, the Catholic Church, and the Mob.” As vibrant and clarifying as his overarching vision is, what makes this such a thrilling read are Dyja’s fresh and dynamic portraits not only of the first Mayor Daley and his machine but also of key artists and innovators who embodied or amplified Chicago’s earthiness, grit, audacity, and beauty, including writers Nelson Algren and Gwendolyn Brooks, the multitalented Studs Terkel, singer Mahalia Jackson, architect Mies van der Rohe, jazz visionary Sun Ra, and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Dyja pieces it all together, from the city’s epic political corruption, vicious racism, and ethnic enclaves to the ferment that gave rise to world-changing architecture, urban blues and gospel, McDonald’s, improv comedy, and the “birth of television.” Here is the frenetic simultaneity of an evolving city torn between its tragic crimes and failings and tensile strength and creativity. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


''Thomas Dyja's The Third Coast unravels the wondrous history of Chicago with cunning and aplomb. Every aspect of the Windy City is revealed anew from Mies van der Rohe's skyscrapers to Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll. A truly gripping narrative. Highly recommended!'' --Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of Cronkite

''I am an American, not Chicago-born, but at age nine Chicago was the first big city I visited, and it was love at first sight. I've come to know it deeply, however, only through its writers: Saul Bellow, Richard Wright, Studs Terkel, Mike Royko - and now Thomas Dyja. The Third Coast is a vivid, fascinating, surprising, altogether masterful chronicle of this quintessentially American city's mid-century cultural heyday.'' --Kurt Andersen, New York Times bestselling author

''Thomas Dyja has written a wonderful book about the cultural cauldron that seethed in twentieth-century Chicago. The Third Coast reminds us that New York and Los Angeles hold no monopoly on American artistic genius. From Louis Sullivan to Richard Wright, from Mahalia Jackson to Nelson Algren, Chicago attracted and inspired talent. Dyja's well-crafted exploration of Chicago creativity helps us understand why cities are the wellsprings of culture. American society was molded by its cities, and Chicago has played an outsized role in molding music and literature and architecture. Dyja's engaging writing not only provides an insightful investigation of Chicago's cultural heroes but also delivers a broader view of how cities shape the sea of civilization.'' --Edward Glaeser, New York Times bestselling author of Triumph of the City

''Thomas Dyja's The Third Coast is a wonderful, beautifully written eye-opener and genuine page-turner about Chicago, as sweeping and astonishing as the city itself. It does nothing less than help rewrite postwar American history and culture and cure our bicoastal myopia. It links half a century's worth of economic and social changes with cultural revolution, racial strife with sexual upheaval, architecture with politics, literature with gospel music, Hugh Hefner with Tina Fey, Mies van der Rohe with Mayor Daley, Ray Kroc with Katherine Kuh -it's the whole, grand, messy American story, lived through bigger-than-life in a bigger-than-life city.'' --Michael Kimmelman, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Masterpiece

''This is a book as startling as the place it celebrates: Chicago, the town where a gay puppeteer transformed children's television and, thereby, their imagination; the burg where postwar comedy, cuisine, urban politics, and premarital sex were all changed, changed utterly. Dyja gives unforgettable voice to dozens of out-sized personalities, from Sun Ra to Studs Terkel, from Gwendolyn Brooks to Nelson Algren, from Mahalia Jackson to Muddy Waters, from Richard Daley to Adlai Stevenson, a cast worthy of a Tolstoy or Dickens. In his wonderful book, Chicago stands revealed as both America's most corrupt city and its one, true homeland of the soul.'' --Anthony Heilbut, author of Exiled in Paradise and The Fan Who Knew Too Much

''In The Third Coast, Thomas Dyja chronicles Chicago's estimable contributions to American culture with the colorful prose of Nelson Algren and the humanistic wisdom of Studs Terkel. He puts you at street level with the men and women whose talent and entrepreneurial chutzpah combined to give Chicago, and the nation, its postwar swagger.'' --Bob Marovich, Host of Gospel Memories, WLUW Chicago

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Product Details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged MP3CD edition (April 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1470843447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1470843441
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,629,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By webwiz99 on December 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What attracted me to buy the book was its scope, a review of the important place
Chicago has had in the nation’s music, visual arts, architecture, politics, theater,
social/racial problems, finances and literature, from the 1890s to the 1970s. In a
real way, it is such a survey.

But I am mystified by his extended focus on the sordid and dysfunctional aspects
of the life of Nelson Algren. Granted, he was an important writer. But it is hard to
square the survey of the city’s qualities with the personal detail expounded of his

Further, while a survey of a period and a place requires that names be named,
there are many lists of people in various occupations whom only the specialist,
not the survey reader, would recognize --- or be interested in. Their extended
presence in the text made me wish they had been put in fulsome footnotes and
that the author would get on with the story.

All in all, it is interesting, broad based and enthusiastically written. But it would
have benefited from a good editor.

Buy the book if this sweep of history in Chicago is of interest to you --- and plan
to be patient in reading it.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Robert Rife on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the book overall, but I would have liked a little braoder approach to the period. ALthough it completely covers the arts, the buildings, the authors, and the ugly sides of Chicago life in those decades, it seems if you weren't poor, black, weird, a muscian, or a socialist, you didn't get a mention in this book. Sigficantly missing are the things that made Chicago prosper in this time, the hard working individuals that worked in and created some of the greatest industries of their time. If you knew nothing about Chicago going into this book, you'd come out thinking that the city was filled with nothing but racists and reprobates. And a book on this era without even a mention of the 1933 World's Fair is really lacking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hill on July 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja is my summer read ! If you are from Chicago or lived in Chicago or just really like this city,you will love this book by .Author Thomas Dyja. Right off, I could feel his love for this great American city. I'm taking my time reading this book, for it is crammed packed with so much information about Chicago mid-century, that I want to savor every morsel. He is a master story teller, & waves people, places, & history with artistry, & panache. I know Chicago very well during this time frame, but he has history about Chicago that I, even, did not know !

One of the stand out qualities about" The Third Coast" & Mr. Dyja, is his equalitarianism in so far, as treating both African American, & Euro- American, Chicago history on par with one another ! He has the ability of waving people places & history in a seamless way, that i find very rare in today's history; for their is no apartheid( or less than) in his writings altho; it was i very much so, in Chicago during mid- century !

I knew Chicago was the template in which the American city was based on in many ways , but Mr. Dyja makes Chicago hegemony as important as New York City, & Los Angles, in the arts, industry, design, & culture, during the second half of the 20thCentury.

My hat is off to Mr.Dyja in giving a marvelous account & history of Chicago, that may surprise many, but not those of us that know & love this all American city, Chicago.! PS I bet president Obama, has" The Third Coast " on his summer read list !
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Dyja has written a marvelous book, "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream". He specifically looks at Chicago from the 1920s, through the Depression and WW2, ending in 1960. Ending when much of the city's white population had fled to the perceived safety of the suburbs and the flight of industry to the southern cities was beginning. Why didn't Chicago go the way of other Rust Belt communities? Maybe that's something Thomas Dyja will address in his next book.

But in this book, Dyja examines everything from politics to the arts to architecture to finance. Chicago was at its height in those heady days. Music - by both black and white recording artists - was capturing the nation's attention. The city and IIT were magnets for world-class architects and the German Bauhaus school was refoundeded in Chicago in the 1930's. The important "city fathers" seemed to have a motto, "Upwards and Upwards". Authors like Nelson Algren were living and writing about the city's grittier side and Chicago was gaining a new,"open" reputation in the early 1950's when Hugh Hefner began exploring a new freedom of sexuality in his magazine, "Playboy".

But hovering over it all was the stench of racism. Chicago was thought to be the most racist city outside the South. The building - and segregating of blacks - in those horrible housing projects like Cabrini-Green and Ida Wells Homes is a stain on the city that even now lingers. "Bronzeville" - home of the ITT campus - was known as the "Black Metropolis" in the 1920's and 30's. It was a mecca for blacks emigrating from the South in search of employment opportunities and less oppressive social conditions. The area had been originally settled by wealthy Jews who used the famed architect Louis Sullivan for their mansions.
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