Evan Mandery | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Evan Mandery 

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The copyright page of Evan Mandery's first novel, Dreaming of Gwen Stefani (Ig Publishing), lists the following Library of Congress categories: 1. College dropouts. 2. Cookery (Frankfurters). 3. Stefani, Gwen, 1969. To which could reasonably be added: 4. Life, the meaning of. The college dropout and dreamer of Gwen Stefani is Mortimer Taylor Coleridge, an exceptionally skilled veteran hot dog slinger at a fictional famed NYC wiener joint called Papaya Queen. A former evolutionary biology student at Columbia University, Mortimer has honed his craft--his art--to mathematical precision, wasting no motion or thought, effectively imposing order on the chaos of life. Relatively content, he's roused from complacency when, channel surfing, he stumbles upon a Behind the Music on No Doubt. He's mesmerized by the singer's openness, her honesty. Her lyrics contain universal truths. And her favorite food? Papaya Queen hot dogs. For Mortimer the connection is immediate. He rudely dumps his girlfriend and embarks on a campaign to purge himself of impurities prior to his eventual, inevitable meeting with his soul mate. Mandery delivers disparate treatises--on the history of hot dogs, pop-culture obsessions, and yeah, evolutionary biology (humans are just worms, basically)--by turns equally comic, philosophical, and scientific. What makes us different from animals? Nothing, Mortimer thinks initially--but it turns out that maybe, just maybe, love does. a Wed 2/21, 7 PM, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910.

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