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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

New York Values

May 26, 2016 | by

O’Hare International Airport. Photo: Cory W. Watts

The same day I ate the hot dog—indeed, the same layover—I found myself in conversation with a group of other travelers. One commented on the crowds, and another said, “Tampa’s not a small place but it’s nothing like this,” and they all talked about the energy of the city versus the pleasures of having moved to Florida. It was very friendly. Then one woman said, “Not New York, though. I hate New York.” Then they all piled on with gusto, discussing the general crumminess that is New York, the rudeness, the filth, the overwhelming pace, and all manner of other clichés. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to jump in and defend my hometown.

I didn’t even have a defense, as such. People from other places seem to feel New York is a thing they need to have strong opinions about, like the election, or cilantro. And the truth is, most of us really, really don’t care. At least, those of us who are from here. Never having made the choice to move here, it’s akin to the affection and irritation one feels for a family member. Especially since our families are, you know, here. Read More »

Hot Dog

May 25, 2016 | by

From an ad for “Swift’s Premium”

I had a brief layover in Chicago. I was starving, slightly shaky with hunger, and getting to the point where any option seemed wrong. In that state, it seemed I didn’t deserve food, and probably I would never eat again. People talk a lot about the rage of hunger. I’m more acquainted with the despair. 

I was in a small corner of the terminal without many shops. It seemed hopeless. I was staring blindly at a kiosk of prepackaged, chilled sandwiches, fat-free yogurts, and Red Delicious apples—I had tears in my eyes—when a man popped his face out from somewhere and said: “We have hot dogs.” An angel’s chorus could not have been sweeter to my ears. “What do you want on it?” he asked.

“Everything,” I whispered. “Everything.” Read More »

Birthday Girl

August 19, 2015 | by

silent star

From the cover of Silent Star.

Why lie? I first picked up Colleen Moore’s 1968 autobiography, Silent Star, because I wanted to read about the dollhouse. Yes, Moore is a pivotal figure in early Hollywood. Yes, Flaming Youth is considered one of the defining pieces of flapper culture. But it was the dollhouse that grabbed me.

The Colleen Moore dollhouse is indeed something to see, and plenty of people do: since 1949 the Fairy Castle has been on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, where once can marvel at the perfection of the elaborate interiors, the world’s tiniest Bible, and the miniature paintings contributed by Walt Disney. And the memoir does not stint on details about the house’s furnishing, its financing, the dozens of Hollywood designers and artist friends Moore tapped to decorate the fairy castle, which as a touring attraction would raise a great deal of money for children’s charities. (Necessary to mention for those who want to suggest a grown woman is “arrested” for squandering time and money on such an enterprise—or, indeed, reading about it obsessively.) Read More »

Good Literary Citizens: An Interview with Ladan Osman

July 13, 2015 | by

Photo: Tariq Tarey

Photo: Tariq Tarey

The past two years have been eventful for Ladan Osman. Last year, her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, was selected for inclusion in the box set Seven New Generation African Poets, a project of the African Poetry Book Fund, and she received the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her manuscript The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony, which was published in April by the University of Nebraska Press.

“I have rarely encountered a young poet whose work was so completely its own thing,” writes Ted Kooser in his preface to Ordinary Heaven. The speakers in Osman’s poems are often women, and the book tackles themes of love and loss, displacement and authority. At its heart is the notion of bearing witness and what that means both in a larger political sense and in very intimate ways. The language is rich and playful and can be both brutal and transformative—sometimes in the same poem.

Osman spoke with me recently by phone from her home in Chicago about metaphor, translation, and family influence.

How has your background informed your work?

My parents are from Mogadishu, Somalia. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, in neighborhoods that were largely populated, if not by Somalis, then by East Africans. So many different elements go into my work, but there’s a very direct link to the way my parents would tell stories—their comfort using parables, making leaps in language, speaking in metaphors. My father would often point to a complex image or something strange and say, Look, it’s a metaphor. But he wouldn’t explain further. My parents speak English and other languages, but they’re most comfortable speaking Somali and they would speak Somali to us. So I always felt like I was doing some kind of translating. And things that are untranslatable—that’s poetry, too. Read More »

Back to Chicago

June 15, 2015 | by

Chicago_(3530711155)

From a travel-poster advertising Chicago ca. 1910.

Last night, I discovered a portal to another time and place—specifically, Hyde Park, Chicago, in June 2000. I hadn’t meant to, but when I opened a new tube of peppermint foot cream, there I was. The smell had transported me.

Like all sense memory, smell is evocative for many people—for some of us more so than music or even taste. The Stanislavski method often involves conjuring smell to infect the audience with theater’s noble ecstasy. But until last night, I had not known its true power. Read More »

Chicagoans: See You at Printers Row

June 2, 2015 | by

slider1-WelcomeMessageThe Paris Review has a booth at Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest this Saturday and Sunday. Come find us in the Book Fort (not, to my knowledge, an actual fortress built of books) in Tent D, on South Dearborn between West Congress and West Harrison. The bookfair is free and open to the public from ten A.M. till six P.M.

Stop by and say hello—we’ll have copies of our new Summer issue, recent back issues, and vintage issues from our archive; a special subscription deal; a few new, limited-edition totes; and ever-handy Paris Review pencils. (No. 2, suitable for the standardized test of your choice.)