Kirby Gann & Jonathan Stockton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kirby Gann & Jonathan Stockton 

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Kirby Gann's novel Our Napoleon in Rags (Ig Publishing) is set around the Don Quixote, a bohemian bar in a run-down district of fictional Montreux, Tennessee. Haycraft Keebler, the central figure of a mismatched bunch of regulars at the tavern, is a bipolar 42-year-old who devotes his highly regimented life to inspired but ultimately unsuccessful efforts at community improvement. When Keebler finds himself attracted to an androgynous 15-year-old hustler and becomes a sort of Wildean mentor to the boy, his focus narrows from the social to the personal, despite the objections of his bar pals. There's not a lot of action--a riot, a few fights, a shooting--but as in the best dives, the dialogue carries things. Gann reads here as part of a "Dive Friday" double bill with Jonathan Stockton, author of the public service Chicago's Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the Windy City (also from Ig). Stockton hits all parts of town (I'd never have thought to check out the American Legion Hall in Lawndale), and his descriptions of 90-plus bars are informative and often amusing ("a Saturday night here is a lesson in things I've always suspected but never wanted to know," he writes of Touche, a gay bar on North Clark). I've frequented many of these haunts, and I can vouch for the book's accuracy. But Stockton's far braver: I'd be afraid to set foot in some of these places. Fri 6/17, 7 PM, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910.


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