Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A.J. Leibling's Chicago:The Second City

I've lived in Chicago now for about six years. However, the winter winds and wind chills are about to make me migrate back south (Atlanta most likely) before the words "below freezing" are muttered by our local meterologists.

Before leaving though, I wanted to embrace all there is to enjoy about this city during my last summer here, and to emmerse myself as much as possible into all things that are the positive side of Chicago. This included reading as much about Chicago history and culture as I could during these last few months of my residence here.

Some of the books I've picked up were Studs Terkel, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, etc. One book I picked up and then put back down again was A.J. Leibling's Chicago: The Second City. Has anyone else this book? I got about half way through (It is a very short book) and then had to put it away. It was very clever, but it was also too pithy and then began to border on prissy. A very intelligent author who was able to fine only the worst of this city while here.

Preparing for my own departure, It seemed ill advised to read such an erudite author talk about all the reasons one should flee the City of Chicago.

Now, I knew going into this book, that A.J. was going to trash the town a little bit. But, i guess i expected a more earthy more sweaty view of the city and the vice and the corruption and the dirt. Instead, I got sassy remarks about the aristocracy mingled with critics of Chicago's Shopping culture, all of which by the way is not historical so much as dated...dated...dated. Having read some of his writings on boxing, I wasnt prepared for such a foppish work from A.J. but I guess I didnt know him as well as I thought. So, I decided to put the book down after about 70 pages.

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