An Editor Abroad: Chicago



J. C. Gabel, Lorin Stein, Danielle Chapman, and Mairead Case.

I always forget how giant Chicago is. How giant, how elegant, and how proud.

Under Culture Commissioner Lois Weissberg, the city has come into possession of an exact replica of Maxim’s, the Paris restaurant, in the basement of a Gold Coast condominium designed by Bertrand Goldberg. Beatles fans: This is the site where John Lennon recanted his “bigger than Jesus” claim.

On that hallowed ground Stop Smiling’s co-founder, J. C. Gabel, Mairead Case, and I talked shop last Friday night before a crowd of fellow editors (Poetry, Playboy, The Baffler, the Trib), Ms. Weissberg, and assorted civilians passionate—to the point of forcible ejection—about The Paris Review. It was all part of the city’s “Cocktails and Conversations” series.

New Yorkers, can you imagine such a thing? Verily, they are Sweden to our United States.

Many thanks to Danielle Chapman, of the Department of Cultural Affairs, for having us. Even more thanks to J. C., who out-Virgiled Virgil, giving me the grand tour of the city, from Saul Bellow’s old apartment building and the Third Coast bar, to the thirty-third birthday of Poetry’s Fred Sasaki. May Fred enjoy many happy returns.

Another thing I forget—and then always remember—about Chicago, or rather Chicagoans, is what snappy dressers they are. Chicago men are not afraid of a necktie or a hat. The peaked cap also is worn. On Michigan Avenue I saw plenty of all three (plus a woman sporting the first fur coat of the season), as I provisioned for the forty-nine-hour California Zephyr to San Francisco. Last-minute purchases included: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, A Tale of Two Cities, Cousin Bette, Ragtime (I will read Doctorow, I will!), a pair of warm pajamas, a sturdy pigskin toilet kit, and a smallish bottle of Johnny Walker Red.

As it happened, I read the last page of The Anthologist at five-thirty Sunday morning, simply too happy to sleep, as my bunk lurched and tossed like a cozy Cyclone (I even found myself hanging on to the straps). Thus did I cross the Rockies.

In this connection, I must finally thank Patricia Daliege, Amtrak’s chief ticket agent at Chicago’s Union Station, for saving my bacon in the face of an intractable Paris Review–Amtrak imbroglio. If not for Ms. Daliege, and the sleeper compartments she finagled out of seemingly thin air, your humble correspondent would have detrained in the thunderstorming moonscape of Green River, Utah, and taken his chances against the sands. To Patti Daliege, merci.

To read more about Lorin’s trip, click here.