Confirming what we already knew
On the list of the just-announced MacArthur Fellows (a.k.a. "geniuses"), tucked between "a spider silk biologist" and "an inventor engineering innovations spanning optics, high-performance textiles, and nanotechnology," is Chicago short story writer Stuart Dybek.
Dybek, of course, is author of Childhood and Other Neighboorhoods, The Coast of Chicago and I Sailed With Magellan. His stories have always captured old-school Chicago without stooping to nostalgia. His story "Pet Milk," with the CTA as its setting, remains a standard for fiction classes across the country. And personally, I haven't read a story better than "We Didn't."
Despite teaching in Western Michigan for some 30 years, Dybek will always be Chicago's. Both Coast and Magellan have been adapted for the stage in Chicago, and the former was chosen as the Spring 2004 "One Book, One Chicago" pick. So even if he's suddenly up there with the finest spider silk biologists of the world, Chicago's always knew he was a genius.