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2010 Chicago Literary Review

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 29, 2010 9:20PM

Chicago’s literary scene saw a few turns, upsets and successes this year. Here are handful of them.

Chicago’s publishing scene gets web-savvy. The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs launched two new websites this year that are aimed at bringing the publishing and writing communities in Chicago closer to together. focuses on Chicago’s publishing industry and provides related news, a comprehensive literary events calendar and an exhaustive database of 311 Chicagoland publishers. Its partner site, CAR-Literary, is a platform for community-submitted jobs and calls for submissions, as well as articles and essays from writers and publishers working in the field.

2012_12Instructions.jpg Adam Levin’s debut novel The Instructions is published by McSweeney’s. The author spent nearly 10 years writing and revising this gazillion-page novel about a young messiah poised to take over the world. And now that it’s finally out, the world can’t stop talking about it. The book and its author have been featured in countless publications such as Chicago magazine and Interview Magazine, which praise his writing and brilliance. Read those articles. Then go read his book.

Green Lantern Gallery rises and falls… but will probably be back. The indie presses of Chicago cheered when Green Lantern opened their gallery, equipped for all sorts of edgy contemporary readings and events, earlier this year. When the Green Lantern Gallery had to close up shop several months later, director Caroline Picard organized The Last Annual Midwest Pop-Up Bookshop to celebrate its run and to feature the best of Midwestern independent presses, bookstores and magazines. The event gained momentum and became a nationwide weekend of events to celebrate independent presses nationwide. Although Green Lantern Gallery closed its doors a couple weeks ago, we expect them to be popping back up somewhere around them soon. That’s the nature of indie presses in Chicago.

The Chicago Park District says the Book Bike cannot operate without a permit.
The Book Bike almost dies, but doesn’t. Over the summer, Gabriel Levinson and his bike especially built for handing out free books throughout Chicago parks was told by a Chicago Park District official that he need a much-too-expensive permit to continue operating. The Book Bike was temporarily shelved until the Chicago Public Library took the project under its wing and announced the two would continue as partners. The Book Bike continues to live and Levinson is currently raising money for his 2011 summer season of giving away free books.

Google helps independent bookstores stay relevant. When Google launched its own e-books store and apps, it opened the doors for independent bookstores to sell e-books. Local independent stores Seminary Co-Op Bookstore Inc., The Book Cellar and Women & Children First Inc. are now selling Google eBooks on their websites.

2012_12Borders.jpg Borders closes its behemoth of a bookstore on Michigan Avenue. While Chicago’s independent bookstores seem to be going with the flow as the digital age changes the future of publishing, downtown’s largest bookstore cannot keep up. Borders announced it would close the store because the store was too expensive to keep open (read: people weren’t buying enough books). Three cheers for independent stores and boo to all the others!

Chicago Public Library weathers through the economy. We were quite sad when we heard that CPL had to close the Galewood-Mont Clare Branch at because the building’s landlords owed the city heaps of money. But, CPL also opened two new branches this fall. The West Town Branch circulated 10,000 in its first month. And thanks to a partnership with the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Housing Authority, the new Altgeld Branch opened in November, replacing the former branch that was forced to relocate due to building deterioration. CPL is also working on new branch libraries in the Dunning, West Humboldt Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Little Village neighborhoods, which should open in 2011.

Small Presses Get a Little Bigger. DePaul University’s Continuing and Professional Education department launched a new course this year. The Certificate in Publishing course covers the ins and outs of small-press publishing and is taught by Jonathan Messinger and Zach Dodson, the founders of local indie featherproof press. The three-part editorial and production, digital publishing and publicity and marketing course is being offered again next fall.