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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Do I need to watch The Handmaid's Tale?

Posted By on 05.09.18 at 06:00 AM

A scene from The Handmaid's Tale - HULU
  • Hulu
  • A scene from The Handmaid's Tale

The other night I watched about 15 minutes of episode one of Hulu's The Handmaid’s Tale and turned off the TV and went to bed, wondering if I should feel more guilty than I did. For isn't it the responsibility of every American to know all there is to know about dystopias? But I'd already read the novel, so I knew its drift, as well as most of the standard dystopian literature—1984, Fahrenheit 451, It Can’t Happen Here. In January of last year I wrote a short piece observing that all these books had just returned to the best-seller lists.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Is this the final chapter for the great Evanston Public Library used book sale?

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 06:00 AM

Volunteers at the Evanston Public Library book sale in 2011 - RYAN PAGELOW
  • Ryan Pagelow
  • Volunteers at the Evanston Public Library book sale in 2011

It was a dark and stormy night last Wednesday when the Evanston Library board met to discuss the fate of its long-standing used-book sale. You wouldn't have guessed from the meager turnout that the cancellation of the quarterly event, and of the book-donation program that fueled it, has evoked some real passion in the community, especially among the volunteers who ran and staffed the sale, and worked year-round sorting a mountain of donations.

According to the library's website, 1,000 books and related items (DVDs, CDs, etc) came in every week for the sale, which occupied its own sizable room on the third floor of the main library building at Church and Orrington. Every three months or so, the public would be invited in to peruse the collection and purchase items at bargain-basement prices.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Weapon H smashes together two of Marvel's most beloved heroes into a brilliant new series

Posted By on 04.20.18 at 06:00 AM

Weapon H #1 with cover art by Leinil Yu and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
  • Weapon H #1 with cover art by Leinil Yu and Romulo Fajardo Jr.

If a 12-year-old version of myself were given free reign over the Marvel creative team, the outcome would absolutely be something along the lines of the brand-new series Weapon H. Not that I'm saying a pre-teen boy has the talent of the brilliant writer Greg Pak or anything, but Weapon H is the type of over-the-top, absurd-as-hell wild ride that makes the comic format so engaging and fun. It completely takes advantage of its limitless disconnect from reality.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sean Penn and Stuart Dybek talk about Penn's new novel, which neither of them quite understands

Posted By on 04.10.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Elizabeth Rice

The word "osmosis" was thrown around liberally last Thursday night, as if no one was quite sure how Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff happened. Not even the novel's author, Sean Penn—a Hollywood A-lister for four decades—could offer a satisfactory explanation.

So celebrated Chicago author Stuart Dybek could be forgiven for being unclear about the book and its provenance. They couldn't have been a less likely duo, walking into a dark, spare room at Everybody's Coffee in Uptown with their coats still on, as if the Book Cellar, which paired the two for a conversation about Penn's new—and first—novel had plucked them at random from the street.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Life after Sylvia: Cartoonist Nicole Hollander publishes a memoir

Posted By on 04.06.18 at 06:00 AM


It was my good luck twice to benefit from Nicole Hollander’s bad luck—in 1990 when the Sun-Times dropped her comic strip, Sylvia, and in 2010 when the Tribune, having immediately picked it up 20 years earlier, dropped it as well. Sylvia’s audience was small, if passionate, and numbers prevailed over feelings.

But I happily talked with Hollander each time by phone and got to know her some, the creation of any comic strip being a strange and exceptional process in my view and the creator of Sylvia, therefore, absolutely special. (Sylvia, I wrote in 1990, is a strip "we will not attempt to describe to anyone who's not familiar with it.") Hollander was wry, hurt, and angry.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

John Coletta's radicchio risotto is bloody good

Posted By on 03.30.18 at 06:00 AM


It's spring cookbook season, and there's a lot of noteworthy pulp by local authors out and about. You've already heard about the wonders of The Kefir Cookbook by Julie Smolyansky. In a week or two I'll take a look at Korean BBQ by Bill Kim and Plate magazine editor Chandra Ram. There's also Craft Coffee by Jessica Easto, which actually came out last year (I've been sleeping on it). But last weekend I spent some time with Risotto & Beyond by gentleman chef and fennel pollen maestro John Coletta of Quartino fame, along with Monica Kass Rogers and the late Nancy Ross Ryan.

Coletta already has one book under his belt, the dependable 250 True Italian Pasta Dishes, and he's one of the pioneers of the new charcuterie movement in Chicago, so I might've expected (hoped for?) something along those lines for a second book.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Kefir Cookbook is a love letter to Chicago written in cultured milk

Posted By on 03.13.18 at 02:42 PM

Julie Smolyansky - LENA YEREMENKO
  • Lena Yeremenko
  • Julie Smolyansky

In 1986, Julie Smolyansky’s parents brought commercial kefir to the U.S. when they launched Lifeway Foods. More than 30 years later, Smolyansky—now CEO of the company—has published The Kefir Cookbook, a collection of recipes that incorporate the tart cultured milk—along with one for making kefir itself. It’s a memoir as much as a cookbook: she’s written her family’s history in the personal stories that accompany each of the 100 recipes.

While her dad is the one who officially created Lifeway, Smolyansky says, her mom played a major role as well. In 1978, a couple years after the family fled the Soviet Union, ending up in what Smolyansky describes as a roach-filled apartment at Morse and Greenview in Rogers Park, her mother opened a Russian deli that quickly expanded into a national operation shipping eastern-European food to delis all over the country. "My mom didn’t know who Gloria Steinem was or that there was women's lib happening, but she was a total badass entrepreneur," Smolyansky remembers. "She traveled around the world, cut deals with international billion-dollar companies."

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Black Panther gets a fun fresh start in a new series about the world's biggest superhero

Posted By on 03.08.18 at 02:30 PM

Rise of the Black Panther #3, with cover art by Brian Stelfreeze
  • Rise of the Black Panther #3, with cover art by Brian Stelfreeze

You guys hear about this Black Panther movie?

Of course you have. The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, has become synonymous with "phenomenon," shattering box office expectations and breaking down boundaries in film—all film, not just superhero movies—with the insanely powerful social message that it doesn't only have to be white men dominating the comic book movie world.

For the uninitiated, Black Panther tells the story of the isolated African nation of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced civilization on Earth, and how its prince, T’Challa, becomes king and takes up the mantle of the country's leader and guardian. This means he gains superpowers by eating a glowing plant, and then he gets to run around the world superheroing in a bulletproof cat costume.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My Dad Wrote a Porno onstage, LIVE, and uncut

Posted By on 03.06.18 at 12:11 PM

Jamie Morton, flanked by his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine, brings his podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno to the stage. - COURTESY ROYAL ALBERT HALL
  • courtesy Royal Albert Hall
  • Jamie Morton, flanked by his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine, brings his podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno to the stage.

The podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno features weekly readings by Jamie Morton and his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine from Belinda Blinked, the erotic three-volume saga of Belinda Blumenthal, a twentysomething businesswoman who will go to any length to snag as many international cookware clients as she can. The twist is that, as the podcast's title suggests, the series was written by Morton’s father, who goes by the pen name Rocky Flintstone. Morton, a longtime producer of British TV, was the sole recipient of preview pages of his father’s work before it was self-published on Amazon in spring 2015. Later that same year he started the podcast as a form of therapy.

"It’s almost like it’s not healthy to repress this," Morton says. "I just kind of have to confront it, and put it out into the world."

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Remembering a time when we didn't totally hate Eat, Pray, Love

Posted By on 02.27.18 at 10:32 AM

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Once a cultural phenomenon crosses over from novelty to cliche to the subject of reflexive eye rolling, it's hard to remember what was so appealing about it in the first place. So let's go back in time to 2006, when Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of her year of exploring countries whose names begin with the letter "I" in the name of self-actualization and healing from a bad divorce, actually seemed like a good idea instead of shorthand for "white privilege: thirtysomething American woman division." Martha Bayne reviewed the book for the Reader and had this to say: "It's to Gilbert's great credit that by the end of it I didn't totally hate her tall, thin, blond guts."

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Galleries & Museums
The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery Water Tower Place
June 16
Galleries & Museums
Works by Ed Paschke, 1969-2004 Ed Paschke Art Center
July 03

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