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The New School

Chicago lit lives! Doom and gloom persist, but humor and nostalgia lighten the load in these five recent novels with a chance to become classics.

47th Street Black (2003), by Bayo Ojikutu
Publishers Weekly called this multiple award-winning South Side gangster story "gritty" and "robust." Not bad for a first book.

I Sailed with Magellan (2004), by Stuart Dybek
"[Any writer] wants to be able to write in such a way that the reader can say to himself: 'That is exactly it. That mood, that season, that night—that is it,'" Reginald Gibbons, former editor of the Northwestern literary journal TriQuarterly (a frequent publisher of Dybek's stories), says of Dybek's fifties- and sixties-era South Side.

Hairstyles of the Damned (2004), by Joe Meno
"I think I was about six pages into it, and I knew I wanted to publish it," says Daniel Sinker, head of Punk Planet Books. "It's a Chicago-specific novel, but it's the experience of teens everywhere."

My Sister's Continent (2006), by Gina Frangello
This dark family drama from the editor of the local literary journal Other Voices received a thumbs-up from reviewers and writers including Joe Meno, who called it a "beautiful kick in the teeth."

Then We Came to the End (2007), by Joshua Ferris
Ferris's first book, set amid the advertising boom of 1990s Chicago, drew praise from the likes of author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), who gave it a nod in his column in The Believer: It's "The Office meets Kafka. It's Seinfeld written by Donald Barthelme." 
–M. B.


Photography: BlackBox Studios, Inc.

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