A REAL PLAYBOY: Before the children’s books, Shel Silverstein, a member of Hugh Hefner‘s inner circle, pen-and-inked his way around the world on Playboy‘s dime. “At first, the cartoons were of him as an Everyman. Ten years later, he’s having lunch with Twiggy,” says Mitch Myers, Silverstein’s nephew, who assembled a compilation of drawings, Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World (Simon & Schuster; $24), out in June. This isn’t the only book Myers is pushing: the 50-year-old essayist (and NPR contributor), who lives in Rogers Park, has just released his first collection of music writing, The Boy Who Cried Freebird (HarperEnter-tainment; $25.95).



A BIG IDEA: “Why shouldn’t a city take its cultural institutions, join them together, and [create] a launch pad for the civic imagination?” In a quiet moment, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma recently reflected on his Silk Road Chicago project, which goes out with a bang June 5th when master storyteller Ben Haggarty and 600 musicians set an ancient fable to music in Millennium Park (for info, millenniumpark.org). For his part, Ma, who’s based in New York, hopes that the collaborations the yearlong project has sparked won’t fade. “In this Olympic moment, this is a time to think infrastructure,” he says. “There are fabulous educators in this city, for example. How can we better bring to them [cultural] resources?”




NEVER SAY NO: An agent once turned down Bettye Griffin‘s work, saying it was too reminiscent of Waiting to Exhale. “I asked, if I’d written a legal thriller, would she have turned me down because it was too similar to [John Grisham’s The Firm]? Or is it only black writers who are not allowed to use similar premises?” says the Gurnee novelist, 49, a budding name in main-stream African American fiction. “Naturally, [the agent] didn’t respond. I signed with someone else.” Her latest, If These Walls Could Talk (Dafina, $14), comes out in June.




RED VS. BLUE: In his new book Recut Madness (Thunder’s Mouth Press, $14.95), former Chicago contributing editor James Finn Garner, author of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, re-imagines classic films from the satirical perspective of “red states” and “blue states.” What starts out as conservative bashing in stories like “The Wizard of Dubya” ends up much more balanced with titles like “Raising Arizona Takes a Village” and “Willy Policy Wonka.” Says Garner: “I was attacking the right wing so much I decided to even it out so I could sell copies down South.”




HOT TIP: On June 12th, Morlen Sinoway will host his Guerrilla Furniture and Art Truck Show to coincide with (and serve as the antithesis of) the design trade show NeoCon. “People feel they have to leave to be successful,” he says. “This is my way of saying ‘stay around.'” From 5 to 10 p.m. at 1052 W. Fulton Market




BACK ON TOP: After falling a few notches two years ago, Medinah Country Club, Butler National, and Chicago Golf Club have rebounded to 11th, 21st, and 28th, respectively, on Golf Digest’s new “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” list. Ron Whitten, a senior editor, explained that some local greens suffered after the magazine stopped taking “tradition points”-the number of past tournaments hosted-into account. More from the golf bag: If a sore spine has you yelling, “Four aspirin!” instead of “Fore!” check out renowned PGA instructor Jim Suttie‘s free clinic, “Hitting the Green Without Hurting Your Back,” in Vernon Hills on June 6th. One tip: “Let your head rotate with your turn,” says Suttie. Call 773-250-1009 for info.


Illustration: (image 1) Courtesy of Simon & Schuster,  Photograph: (image 2) Michael O’Neill