Saturday, June 04, 2005

Field Report: Alex Kotlowitz reading, Chicago

Greetings from the suddenly rainswept Chicago, where I just finished attending a reading by Alex Kotlowitz at the Uptown Borders in my neighborhood. Kotlowitz, for those who don't know, is the author of There Are No Children Here (1992, Anchor), which was both made into a movie by Oprah and was chosen as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century by the New York Public Library. Kotlowitz's newest book is called Never A City So Real and is part of that Crown Journeys series (where Crown basically asks all these hipster writers to pen travel guides for the city where they live); this reading was a promotion for that book, as well as for a play Kotlowitz recently wrote called An Unobstructed View, based on his experiences writing for National Public Radio's "Chicago Matters" show. (The play's being performed as we speak by the Pegasus Players theatre company; a couple of the cast members were at the event as well, and performed a couple of scenes from it.)

The book is actually a pretty slim one (145 pages), and I ended up reading about half of it at the bookstore today as I was sitting around waiting out the rainstorm. It suffers a little too much from "White Man's Burden Syndrome" (that is, the idea that a person's story is not worth telling unless they are poor and of color, an attitude I get awfully f**king sick and tired of sometimes from middle-class liberal white guys); plus, for being published by a travel company, the book actually has nothing to do with travel whatsoever, which is not only a real shame but a blown opportunity on the part of Crown to publish a decent travel guide to Chicago. That said, it's definitely a brisk and sometimes entertaining read; you might want to check it out the next time you're at the bookstore.