Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicago Author Month: John McNally Appearing October 14th

Ghosts of Chicago by native Chicagoan John McNally has been released in paperback just in time for Halloween.

I know what you're thinking: creepy noises in the middle of the night, a cold white mist? Actually, not that kind of ghost. The ghosts in this book are different, and so much better. They're lost souls, dead or alive, searching for someone to listen to their lovely, haunting stories.

This short story collection includes a series of stories written in the imagined voices of lost Chicago legends, including John Belushi, Gene Siskel, Walter Payton, Richard J. Daley, George Pullman and Nelson Algren. This is really creative stuff: imagine Walter Payton and Refrigerator Perry on a road trip after the '85 Superbowl, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in a snowball fight, or John Belushi remembering the acres of pot fields near Champaign, Illinois. For native Chicagoans, there is even a story about WGN's Creature Features and the silent goose. (The same goose my husband's side of the family always brings up when they're "in their cups" and reminiscing about their Chicago area childhood.)

One of the things I love about short story collections, especially for book clubs, is the way you can pick out your favorite stories and compare your list with others. My favorites in this book included The Immortals and the strange and funny so-called Contributor's Notes at the end. At first you wonder why anyone's Notes would be so long (26 pages), but you give McNally the benefit of the doubt. An introductory paragraph is the funniest and most honest author biography I've ever read, but you'll be left puzzling for days, how much is fiction? Check it out:

"After attending a famous writers' workshop in the Midwest, he worked as a short-order cook, bouncer, grave digger, lumberjack, carnival barker, florist, disc jockey, and busboy. Most recently, he was employed as a groundskeeper. He has no permanent place of residence. He owns a 1976 Ford LTD, inside of which he could, if necessary, store all his worldly possessions, This is his first published story."

For fans of McNally's novel After the Workshop, Contributor's Notes offers more sharp wit and McNally's smart, satirical take on the pretensions and idiocy of the publishing world and the creative writing programs that feed it.


Perfect, then, that McNally has also written The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist, a "subjective and idiosyncratic take on the writing life." It's an honest guidebook for aspiring writers who want the truth, and not just the "you can do it!" reassurance of family, friends and many magazines and writing conferences.

Whether you're an aspiring writer or merely a reader who appreciates good, smart fiction, please join us for an evening of cocktails, cheese and crackers with John McNally on Thursday, October 14th from 7:00-8:30pm. We will mingle and chat from 7-7:30, and then we'll hear John talk about his books. (I for one am dying to know about John's supposed jobs as a lumberjack and carnival barker.) Book signing to follow. Please call The Bookstore at (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us to let us know you're coming. We'd hate to run out of cheese.

Ghosts of Chicago was another great discovery for Chicago Area Author Month. You can find this and McNally's other books on our new Chicago Area Author Shelf at The Bookstore. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. See you there! I can't wait to pick up "Ghosts of Chicago!"

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