December 25, 2007

Never a City So Real:
A Walk in Chicago
Alex Kotlowitz

My Kind of Town – From Carl Sandburg’s city of the big shoulders to Nelson Algren’s city on the make, writers are always trying to distill Chicago’s essence. Alex Kotlowitz is a thoughtful scribe who wields a patient ear and a civil pen – two rare tools in the toolbox of today’s writing. In Never a City So Real, Kotlowitz spotlights ordinary people and ordinary places, present and past, and ultimately sings the song of Chicago’s neighborhoods with defense attorney Andrea Lyon striding the halls of 26th and California, with Milton Reed painting murals in Stateway Gardens and the Robert Taylor Homes, with neighborhood godmothers Brenda Stephenson and Millie Wortham plotting over lunch at Manny’s and Edna’s restaurants, with South Chicago’s Ed Sadlowski recalling working men, working women and the value of hard work, and others. Recounting the injustice of the 1886 Haymarket incident and the 1969 and 1970 dynamiting of a bronze statue erected as a monument for the police officers killed nearly a hundred years earlier, Kotlowitz chooses a perfect quote from William Faulkner to summarize the story of Chicago and perhaps all towns: “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”


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