Eventually, the sun will come out, and with it, some (Oak Street) beach reads.
Last week we profiled Aleksandar Hemon, whose new novel, The Lazarus Project, is just the sort of book that’s sure to top Chicagoans’ must-read lists this summer.
But as that article came together, and the topic of Hemon’s MacArthur “genius grant” came up, a funny thought occurred to us: Three out of the last four years, the MacArthur Foundation has bestowed its highest honor on Chicago novelists. Hemon nabbed it in 2004, former South Sider George Saunders in 2006 and Bard of Bridgeport Stuart Dybek in 2007. If anyone feels a little Second City-ism now and again when it comes to the respect our hometown authors get, just think of that little run of dominance to put your mind at ease.
All of which made us wonder, what’s next for Chicago fiction writers? Here is what we see on the horizon.
Demons in the Spring
By Joe Meno. Akashic, $24.95. Out August 1.
The ever-prolific Meno is at a point in his career where he’s able to dig in and have some fun with his books. This new story collection (his second after 2005’s Bluebirds Used to Croon the Choir) pairs 20 of his tales with 20 artists, including Paul Hornschemeier, Anders Nilsen, Cody Hudson, Ivan Brunetti, Jay Ryan and Rachell Sumpter. All of it will be packaged in a hardbound book, but don’t let the price dissuade you; profits go to the 826Chi, a tutoring center for young writers.
The Velvet Chair and The Bearskin Rug
By Jennifer Stevenson. Ballantine, $6.99 each. Out May 20, June 24.
In three years of publishing a weekly book section, we can’t ever remember recommending a book in the “paranormal romance” genre. But Jennifer Stevenson’s debut novel last year, Trash Sex Magic, was such a fun, inventive read, that these mass-market paperbacks about a fraud investigator named Jewel comes recommended as a series to toss in your pool bag. The first in the series, April’s The Brass Bed, featured Jewel doing battle with a sex demon (literally) named Randy.
By David J. Schwartz. Three Rivers Press, $14.95. Out June 10.
Yes, you can count the number of superhero movies out this summer on your fingers and toes. But local writer David Schwartz, whose stuff we’ve read in the great literary fantasy journal Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, is the one writer we’d trust to breathe new life into the dead horse. His novel concerns five college juniors who, after imbibing some homemade brew, wake up super-hungover.
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
By Stephanie Kuehnert. MTV Books, $13. Out July 8.
We first heard about Forest Park author Kuehnert’s debut novel on, appropriately, MySpace. Her punk-rock coming-of-age story tells of Emily Black, a young girl whose mother abandons her to tour with a band. As a grown-up, Emily forms her own punk outfit and tries to reconcile with her deadbeat mom. Anyone whose author bio claims she “got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades” has a knack for telling the embarrassing truth.
The Fifth Floor
By Michael Harvey. Knopf, $23.95. Out August 28.
Harvey hit it big last year with his debut mystery, The Chicago Way, and this second book to feature his hero, Michael Kelly, investigates the biggest calamity to strike the shores of Lake Michigan, the Great Chicago Fire. While tracking a “fix-it man” for Chicago’s mayor, he happens upon a trail that leads from the sitting mayor back to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Harvey practically lives the life of a crime-novel hero, working as a journalist for the show Cold Case Files and owning the Lincoln Park tavern the Hidden Shamrock.