Post Apocalyptic Survival and “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller

Since first being exposed to the the genre, post apocalyptic fiction has been an affinity of mine.  My mom’s copy of On the Beach by Nevil Shute, snuggled, worn and thin, between books collected over years of casual reading, was my initial glimpse into a world that had previously only existed in cheesy religious movies about the rapture. I hated those movies, A Thief in the Night was at least retro amusing. When they later came out with the book series in the early 2000s, my head and eyes ached. Give me Brave New World, 1984 and A Canticle for Lebowitz any, and every day. I even kinda enjoy the worlds created for games like Bioshock and Fallout 3. I never played, but when my ex did, I would sit behind him immersed in the guidebooks, directing missions through the wasteland.

So when waiting for a flight out of Orlando, with a choice between The Dog Stars or someromanticfluff, the choice was obvious. I don’t do fluff… or Victorian literature, but that’s neither here nor there.

From that moment on, The Dog Stars became my traveling book. After tagging along from Orlando, it began accompanying me back and forth to work daily, and then it broke my heart.

It’s the classic story of a man and his dog, only transported into a world in which the masses have been wiped from the earth by a flu adjacent virus, and of those who survived, many developed what is only described as a contagious “blood sickness.” It’s a sweet and harsh story centered in seeking personal contact in an inhumane world.

I don’t want to say much, but I can say it’s not for kids, or weak stomachs, or sensitive souls with no backbone to support them. There’s a good deal of swearing, a bit more blood, and a very realistic fear of imminent violence which are all encase in a ‘kill or be killed and fed to my dog,’ kind of world.

If you can handle it, read it. The characterization is great, as is the unique voice in the first person narrative, of a partially numb survivor that somehow maintains the ability to remind us of the beauty and hope in the smallest of moments. The comfort of your sleeping dog’s weight against your knee. We listen to Hig, our hero of sorts, push on daily with only a survival driven, gun modification enthusiast, and a dog named Jasper as protection and company. His prose is sparse and pointed, and although I usually lack those writing qualities, I admire them wholeheartedly.
Canis Major & Minor & Lepus
This is he first passage I noted,

“Grief is an element. It has its own cycle like the carbon cycle, the nitrogen. It never diminished not ever. It passes in and out of everything.”

and this is one of two that stays with me,

“I once had a book on the stars but now I don’t. My memory serves but not stellar, ha. So I made up constellations. I made a Bear and a Goat but maybe not where they are supposed to be, I made some for the animals that once were, the ones I know about.”

I’ll let you find the other for yourself.

Love and happy reading,

City of Scoundrels, done and done.

City of ScoundrelsAfter reading, standing up holding on with one elbow as the train to and from the internship rattled and swayed, for a good while I finally finished my latest literary acquirement. City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster that Gave Birth to Modern Chicago. Done and done.

It was fantastic in that I learned a lot about Chicago history. Things I knew became clearer. Gary Krist did some serious research when he crafted this completely non-fiction book by sifting through and unbelievable amount of information and seamlessly weaving a single narrative that is clear and interesting.

Lantern Slide of Burnham's concept for MIchigan Ave.

Lantern Slide of Burnham’s concept for MIchigan Ave.

I’m pretty much impressed. Was it Joyce? No. It was an easy read to be sure, but partially easy because of how to story is told. Chronologically, and with the unique perspective of looking back at something and accepting it as part of why we are who we are today. It’s dirty and corrupt, but who didn’t know that about this town anyway. Mayor Thompson, a man many consider to be one of, if not the worst mayor in Chicago history, is responsible for the lawlessness and corruption just as he is for much of the city’s beautiful Burnham vision coming to life.

I would recommend it if you are into real history told in a fiction format. The book includes the author’s notes, bibliography, and index, which I think is incredible in and of itself.

If all of our history was so easy to access, would we be a different people?

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.” ― Daniel Burnham

“Chicago ain’t no Sunday School.” –“Bathhouse John” Coughlin

John-Choi_SK_Chicago-Skyline

 

Fortune Cookie Dreams and Felt Creations

We had Chinese tonight from a place in Uptown with food good enough that it makes the terrible service almost tolerable. Of course there had to be fortune cookies. Aren’t there always? And every time that happens I start thinking about one of my favorite unrealistic dream jobs. I have quite a few of these if you must know. My first response to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was, “I want to be a flower giver.” A flower giver. I wanted to go around and give strangers pretty flowers to make them happy. (I’ve actually done this before,  and I have to say it was pretty awesome). But that’s not the job I currently have in mind.

I would love to get away with being a Fortune Cookie Writer. Best job ever, right?

I would revolutionize fortune cookies for the world. It would be brave and new if you know what I mean. Skip all that daily affirmation junk, there is a big part of me that would love for someone to open up their cookie as they wait for their check and see this:

fortune cookie carsteal

I would be so utterly pleased to sit and type:

“Don’t look behind you.”

“Pretty sure you left the iron on.”

“Meet me at 1060 W. Addison at midnight, no cops.”

“Hope you weren’t expecting a ring.”

OK, sometimes my dream jobs are a little silly, but they wouldn’t be unrealistically far-fetched if they weren’t ideals.

After day dreaming and eating a cookie to two, I decided I would figure out how to make my own. Kinda.

I’m not much of a baker, so I started with the excess of felt lying around in this place and made some fuzzy ones. Easiest craft every by the way. Here’s how.

half done cookie

What You’ll Need

  • Felt
  • Embroidery Thread
  • A Glass (or something else round to make a circle with)
  • Stuffing Of Some Sort
  • Needle and Scissors

First cut out your circle and fold it in half.

Sew a little bit from the bottom up the center (see picture)

Fold Half the other way and you’ll start to see the cookie form.

I stitched around the edge with a blanket stitch leaving enough room for me to stuff a fist full of stuffing in through one corner and close it up.

So easy you don’t even need a template. Here’s what I ended up with:

guess which one's are felt...

guess which one’s are felt…

I think next time I’ll add little fortune tails on them. What fortunes would you write?

Love and stale cookies

“An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Chicago’s Defining Moments: Taking on Gary Krist’s City of Scoundrels

Bookstores are going to break me. No matter what I do, if you put me in one I’ll get attached to something, bond with it,and be sad to leave it behind (que sad puppy eyes). So I am beginning to believe that the only reason I was called in to interview for a part time position at one was so that my weakness could be taken advantage of. It’s a good sales strategy. Lure in the book addicts with the promise of employment and then empty their pockets as they try to leave unscathed. And now, with even the number of mega bookstores dwindling, the opportunity to flip through a volume before committing is getting so rare that one feels the need to take advantage of the trip.

Did I mention that I got a new book today? I think there was an interview too, but BOOK! I got a new book!City of Scoundrels

City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist builds itself within what is often considered the worst two weeks of Chicago history. Beginning with an aviation accident in which a blimp crashed directly into a downtown bank building, a twelve day block in July of 1919 grew more chaotic with every hour. A sensationalized child abduction and murder of six-year-old Janet Wilkinson hit headlines along a race riot that begun with the death of a young boy. These events, especially the latter, pushed the limits of what America had yet seen of violence and shook the foundations of Chicago society. The anger cultivated in the riot spilled over into the mass transit strike that brought the city to a standstill.

I’ve read about all of these events before, Chicago has a very rich and often times bloody history staining its streets and echoing between its grand buildings, but I’ve never seen them cumulatively through one persons eyes.

So I’m excited. Nerd excited in a big way. I’ll let you know how I feel after I’ve read it. It might be awful, who knows. Yet, any time I can understand and connect more deeply with the history of a city as great as this one, it’s worth a shot.

“Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.”
Nelson Algren