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From The Vault Of Art Shay: Chicago — The Third Coast

By Art Shay in News on Apr 17, 2013 6:00PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. This week, Art introduces us to the author of a new book on the Windy City's heyday that's getting rave reviews.)

Disclosure: Thomas Dyja, whose compendious (508 pages!) wry, dirty ,humorous and fantastic love song to Chicago's culture, The Third Coast, comes out this week, left Chicago 30 years ago. His mother and sister still live here and he visits whenever he can, and his instincts about Chicago were born here.

Moreover he is the editor and friend cheerleading my next book — a picture collection of my late, beautiful wife and our 67-year-marriage. It's called My Florence. Dyja sought me out as a Chicago lover nearly two years ago, just before Florence got sick, and we plumbed Chicago's culture relentlessly. He recalls, "You gave me a loving, no-bullshit view of your friend Nelson Algren and the city the three of us loved. It helped me set the tone of the book."

The book is spiced with a neat anecdote Nelson quietly recounted in our living room about Jean-Paul Sartre's skirt-chasing, bitchily told to him by De Beauvoir, probably in bed. " Sartre fell in love with any woman who put her tongue up his ass." One of the few authorial quotes ever that drove my unflappable Florence out of the room blushing.

Studs Terkel, esteeming one of Dyja's three novels (all flirting with movie buyers) called him "a Chicago boy." The much-hailed The Third Coast, Studs would be happy to know, will be on the cover of the >New York Times Book Review this coming Sunday! Coming on the heels of a lubricious, but accurate, excerpt (Nelson and Simone — sex and all) in Chicago’s Printers Row, a rave Tribune review by tough, perceptive Christopher Borrelli, and TV appearances waiting in the wings. Plus star turns tomorrow, Thursday, 6 p.m. at the Harold Washington library and other area signings.

The Sunday Times cover will be the shy 50-year-old's surprise ("I still can't believe it!") ticket to the ante-room of the Pantheon awaiting successors to Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren and as, critic Anthony Heilbut avers on The Third Coast's back cover, "Tolstoy and Dickens."

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.