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What initially drew me to the book was, of course, its intriguing title and colorful cover. I know, I know. You’re never supposed to judge a book by its cover. But honestly, whose curiosity wouldn’t be peaked by a book entitled Blue Jesus?

 Luckily, the inside of the book proved just as interesting as its outside. Blue Jesus tells the story of Buddy, a ten-year-old boy white boy often bullied for being less masculine than what is expected of him, and his best friend Early, a boy looked down upon because of his skin color—blue. (Why yes, you did read that right. Early is blue with white hair. And interestingly, author Tom Edwards informs us in an afterword that blue skin is a recessive gene, and that in the 1800s, there were actual blue people living in the southern Appalachians. How cool is that?)

Within the first ten pages, Buddy and Early find a dead baby in their small Georgia town’s dump, and if that isn’t surprising enough, Early manages to do the impossible—bring the baby back to life. And, as expected, complete chaos follows.

 The book gracefully deals with sensitive issues—child abuse, adolescence and its abrupt end, death and its toll on those left behind, and the existence of God are all weaved throughout the novel. Its messages are profound, but sometimes too much so. Although told through Buddy’s eyes, at times I felt I was reading the observations of someone much older. Still, the novel left me with a different perspective of the world, and that’s something all good books should strive to do.

And can I just say plot twist? Totally didn’t see that ending coming, and I’m usually pretty astute about these things.

I highly recommend Blue Jesus. Check it out here!

~Ashley

 Could literary events survive without Chicago? Could Chicago survive without literary events?

Whatever the answer, here is a list of this month’s upcoming events.

Tuesday, August 13

Word Is Out reading series is the brainchild of OutLoud Chicago and In Our Words blog. The season opener, It Takes Two, features stories told in pairs because some stories need more than one voice to be heard. For $5 check them out at:

The Hideout (7 pm)

1354 W Wabansia, Chicago IL

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The Seven Deadly Sins Reading Series tells stories involving; you guessed it, the seven deadly sins. Performers pick a sin and a medium (mixed media, poetry, comedy, storytelling, etc.) to tell their tale.  Always fun, occasionally intense, this is a show worth checking out. Catch them a:

Café Mustache (8 pm)

2313 N Milwaukee, Chicago IL

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Thursday, August 15

On the Wall: Zine Art Meets Gallery Art is the first event co-sponsored by Quimby’s bookstore and Strange Beauty Show! This show features zine and comic art on display as well as for purchase.

If that isn’t enough to get you there, entry is free and there are cocktails, treats and karaoke! Now who doesn’t want some tunes to go with their books? Sing it out at:

Strange Beauty Show (7 pm)

1118 N Ashland, Chicago IL

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Thursday, August 22

Patricia Ann McNair, author of The Temple of Air, will be discussing her short story collection at the Beverly Arts Center. Afterwards stick around for a book exchange! Bring up to five books that you have loved (or hated) and exchange them with others for a new library. It’s free admissions with a cash bar. Get new books at:

Beverly Arts Center (7 pm)

2407 West 111th, Chicago IL

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Monday, August 26

Held on the last Monday of every month, Do Not Submit gives readers 7 minute per story to try out material that is experimental and raw. Told in an intimate space, so intimate that they don’t even need a microphone, gives readers a chance to hone their performance skills. The event is BYOB and free to the public. Get your story (and drank) on at:

Powell’s Bookstore (7pm)

2850 N Lincoln, Chicago IL

 

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Thursday, August 29

Seven Stories-The Line Between has actors accompany the storyteller on stage. This vibrant reading series is having its

third ever performance this August. Along with actors, there are props, music and a drag queen host. Founded by students at Columbia College Chicago, this gutsy reading series is always entertaining. Come be interactive at:

Martin’s Corner (8 pm)

2058 W 22 Place in Pilsen, Chicago IL

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Sorry for being super lame and not posting for however long it’s been.

We are never (ever) going to let that happen again. Keep checking out our blog to see spotlights on our  books, intern picks, book reviews, author interviews and everything else a literary nerd could ever want.

There’s a new batch of interns hanging out around Academy Chicago Publishers and we’re dedicated to updating this shindig.

What if the hierarchical gaps between publishers, writers and readers were smaller? What if an entire community was engaged in the process of producing a book, just as much as the publisher or the author?

These are the questions Richard Nash, publishing entrepreneur and founder of Cursor and Red Lemonade, is asking. It’s no secret that the book market is becoming increasingly one-dimensional, and to become a best-seller it seems that you need the solid prerequisites of fame, fortune or connections. How many small-town genius writers are out there querying publishers with their manuscript, only to be rejected in lieu of the next Twlight or Fifty Shades of Grey series?

Richard Nash’s goal is to bring the publishing industry back into the hands of the people – democracy at last. Simply put, it’s a website where individuals post their manuscript up on a forum to receive critique and feedback from fellow writers and readers. The format is incredibly similar to Scribophile, but there’s a catch – Red Lemonade seeks to publish the best works written and voted for by the people.

A quick glance at Red Lemonade’s site will tell you that it still needs some work – the layout and color scheme is less than engaging, and the origins of the name dubious – but the idea behind this platform is wonderfully innovative, and I sincerely hope it takes off.

Interested in submitting your stuff? Check out Red Lemonade’s About page to learn more.

-Genevieve

Remember reading those “create your own adventure” books when you were a kid? Well, now you can enjoy your favorite novels as an adult and get to pick a cool new ending! The creators of Second Life have come out with an awesome storytelling platform called Versu, in which you can become a character in a famous book, like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and as you read the story you can pick and choose the actions your character does to create a unique ending to the book.

Pretty fun way to start your day, eh? You can read more about the new app here!

I consider myself a pretty standard grammar Nazi. I double-check emails to make sure everything is spelled correctly. I’m insistent upon the correct use of “your” vs “you’re” and “there” vs “their” vs “they’re.” And I’ll admit that I take secret pleasure in correcting someone’s word use in a sentence.

But I’m human, and I make mistakes. I abbreviate heavily on G-chat, and I’m not above substituting a “U” for “you” when I’m rushing through a text message. But does this make me less literate? And what about the hundreds upon thousands of electronic device users running rampant through the country? We tweet, Facebook and IM, inhale information and spit it back out at an alarming rate. Do the language decisions we make on the internet say something about our literacy, our culture, or both?

Enter in this just-posted Rumpus interview with Constance Hale, journalist and language goddess, and a much more severe grammar Nazi than I’ll ever be. If you relish in words – their form, their sound, their vast array of meanings – then you’ll love this article. I’ve included an excerpt below, or you can read the full interview.

“What makes us different from everything else on the planet? We have language. We have the capacity to communicate and to touch each other intellectually or emotionally. It’s completely central to who we are, to our core being. And it matters a lot that we be able to communicate effectively. And yet, despite this, it isn’t taught very effectively in schools, and it isn’t taught very effectively, necessarily, within families. Your parents may make you feel kind of uptight about language if they correct you a certain way, or don’t correct you, or you might be ashamed of your parents. There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t taught very well.

That’s why I think it stirs up passions in two very different and kind of paradoxical ways. On the one hand, people love great language. We all love a great Bob Dylan song, and we all respond to a politician that’s able to speak really eloquently. We respond to good advertising. And all of us have our favorite writers, and part of the reason we love them is the way they use language. So there’s that positive passion.

And then there’s this negative passion, or anxiety, which is we don’t feel that we do it right and we haven’t been taught it in a particularly good way. As a culture, Americans don’t talk about language very much. We don’t talk about language at the dinner table. In some other cultures, they do. In some other cultures, they talk about language and grammar a lot more easily. It’s an interesting paradox to me, but it’s why I think people get so riled up about it.” – Constance Hale

 

-Genevieve

Well, folks, we’ve made it to Month #2 of 2013! How are your resolutions holding up so far? Don’t let them stagger under the oppressive weight of the dreaded V-word – Valentine’s Day. Instead of basking in the illusory glow of red roses and Godiva chocolates, we’ve conjured up a list of cool literary events that honor the day without going overboard. More coming up next week!

As part of their Committee on Creative Writing and Poetry Series, the University of Chicago will be hosting artist of the long form poem Campbell McGrath to read from his enormous collection of published poetry, most notably In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys, which celebrates its one year publication anniversary on Valentine’s Day. What better way to warm your heart than with humorous and satirical contemplations on American society? There is none. Monday, February 4, 5 pm at Lorado Taft House, 6016 S. Ingleside Ave.

Got your manuscript typed up, ready to go – but haven’t the foggiest idea what to do next? For $15 you have the opportunity to attend the Chicago’s Literati Networking Event, where you can munch on tasty appetizers whilst mingling with and learning from bestselling authors and literary agents. If you get there early enough, you can even get a take-home bag of goodies! Pretty sweet deal, eh? Tuesday, February 5, 6 pm at The Hidden Shamrock, 2723 N. Halsted St.

If you’re not big on spending, 19th United States Poet Laureate and Poet Laureate of Mississippi Natasha Trethewey is coming to town for a free reading. Her work focuses on issues of multiracial identity and explores the geography of the South to encounter the history of humanity lingering beneath the surface. See her Tuesday, February 5, 7 pm at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior

Bitter about the upcoming Hallmark holiday? Have no fear – there are plenty of other literary geeks out there who share your exact sentiments. For $3 you can attend RUI’s (Reading Under the Influence) get together and hear them wail about the unending woes of tainted love. But don’t worry, comedian Adam Guerino will be there to make sure things don’t get too depressing. Wednesday, Feb 6, 7 pm at Sheffield’s, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.

Amy Andrews will be reading from her just published novel Love & Salt, a story of remarkable friendship between two women, and their individual tales of struggle with marriage, careers, and their spirituality told through letters. Andrews will be reading on Friday, February 8, 7:30 pm at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. 

-Genevieve

Good morning, fellow bloggers! Despite single digit temperatures and blasting winds sure to make your fingers freeze into flesh popsicles, Chicago’s lit scene is more active than ever with all your favorite authors hopping around town. Take a look!

Start off your week with a talk given by Lois Leveen, author of the recently published historical fiction novel The Secrets of Mary Bowser. Mary Bowser was a real-life person who was born a slave in the town of Richmond and later worked as a spy for the Union in the Civil War. Even though there’s not much known about Mary Bowser’s life, Leveen has no problem stretching her imagination to suit the novel’s needs – and with surprisingly satisfactory results. A definite read if you’re a history buff, and a free event with a chance to meet the author to boot! Monday, January 28, 4 pm at the John T. Richardson Library, 2350 N Kenmore Ave, Room 300.

Next up is a chance to have a conversation with none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley, whose novel A Thousand Acres closely follows the plot line of Shakespeare’s King Lear – except that it’s set in 1970’s Iowa, on a farm. Read it, then watch it on the silver screen in its film adaptation. She’ll be having a book sale and signing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center, so don’t miss out! Call the Arlington Heights Memorial Library to register. Tuesday, January 29, 7:30 pm at 111 W Campbell St., Arlington Heights, IL.

Ann Leary will be promoting her new book The Good House, a humorous novel about recovering alcoholic and real estate broker Hildy Good and her friendship with the new neighbor, Rebecca. Stop by The Book Cellar to hear her read and to purchase a signed copy of the book! Thursday, January 31, 7:00 pm at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.

And last, but most certainly not least, Dave Eggers will be making an appearance at Unabridged Bookstore to sign copies of his novel A Hologram For the King, which features the all-too-familiar story of a failed businessman eager for one last chance to turn his life (not to mention his economic status) around – but, like all good plots, there’s a twist! Saturday, February 2, 2:00 pm at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway.

 

-Genevieve