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The Coast of Chicago: Stories Paperback – April 3, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Dybek ( Childhood and Other Neighborhoods ) here evokes the bizarre mysteries of everyday life in Chicago's gritty ethnic enclaves, the territory of the 14 stories in his second collection. The author's memorable characters lead odd, fairy-tale existences. Marcy in "Chopin in Winter" returns home from college pregnant and disgraced, and plays her way through Chopin's piano oeuvre before moving without warning (her note reads simply "Ma, don't worry") to a black neighborhood on the city's South Side. In "Nighthawks," a suite of meditations on love and loss, Choco, a conga drummer, is led through the subways on a hauntingly surreal trip inspired by a vision of his dead girlfriend. Dybek's fiction is not without a comic edge: Ziggy Zilinski in "Blight" suffers from a recurring nightmare in which atomic bombs drop on Chicago when the White Sox win the pennant. A quote from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado provides the phantasmagoric book with an apt epigraph: "Out of the whole of memory, there's one thing worthwhile: the great gift of calling back dreams." Dybek has this exemplary gift.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Has claim to comparison with Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Joyce's Dubliners. . .Dybek's energetic prose produces dazzling effects.” ―Chicago Sun-Times
“Moving and real and often brilliantly ambitious.” ―Los Angeles Times
“A fictional world that is both ordinary and amazing.” ―The New York Times
“Irresistible...Mr. Dreiser, Mr. Farrell, Mr. Bellow, Mr. Algren, please say hello to Stuart Dybek. He's one of yours.” ―The Village Voice
“Establishes [Dybek] not merely as a talent but as a magician comparable to Eudora Welty and Joy Williams.” ―Chicago Tribune
“Tender and unforgiving...No matter where you grew up, after reading these stories you'll have found the coast of Chicago” ―San Francisco Chronicle
Top customer reviews
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.