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Hi, Chicago! This is Caleb Crain, author of "Overthrow," which comes out on Tuesday. It's day 4 of my Instagram residency at the Chicago Review of Books, and today, in honor of your city, I have exhumed my undergraduate thesis about . . . Chicago! Or rather, about the myth of Chicago in the fiction of Nelson Algren. Alas, three decades later, the prose seems a little portentous, even to me. I was trying to make a link between Algren's fiction and the geographic analyses of the city made in the 1930s by several University of Chicago sociologists, so in my appendix, I had maps, one of which, for some reason, I reproduced by hand, not very legibly.
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This is Caleb Crain, author of the novel "Overthrow," which comes out tomorrow from @VikingBooks. My husband says that people on the internet like mood boards, so here are some art postcards that hang over my writing desk. Above the bulletin board is a reproduction of Wilhelm Bendz's painting "Interior from Amaliegade with the Artist's Brothers," which I scissored out of the New York Times when it was reproduced there a few years ago. On the bulletin board proper, clockwise, from top left, and then snaking into the middle are postcards of the following: Frédéric Bazille's "Le Pêcheur à l'épervier," Jean-Étienne Liotard's "Trompe-l'oeil," Nicolas Poussin's "A Dance to the Music of Time," Félix Vallotton's "La Manifestation," Thomas Jones's "A Wall in Naples," Giovanni Bellini's "St. Francis in the Desert," Richard Diebenkorn's "Cityscape #1," William Scott's "Mackerel & Bottle," Claude Monet's "Les Roses," Luigi Ghirri's "Capri," a photo that I took of the Tower of London, and a medieval manuscript page with an illustration of a barge, taken from a Book of Hours made in Ghent in about 1480. I bought the Vallotton postcard at an exhibit of his work at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2013, about a year after I started writing "Overthrow," and we ended up using the image on the novel's dust jacket!
The New Yorker, as you may have heard, has redesigned its website, and is making all articles published since 2007 free, for the summer, in hopes of addicting you as a reader. Once you’re hooked, they’ll winch up the drawbridge, and you’ll have to pay, pay, pay. But for the moment let’s not think about either the metaphor I just mixed or its consequences, shall we?
A self-publicist’s work is never done, and it seemed to behoove me to take advantage of the occasion. So I googled myself. It turns out that I’ve been writing for the New Yorker since 2005 and that ten articles of mine have appeared in the print magazine over the years. All seem to be on the free side of the paywall as of this writing (though a glitch appears to have put several of the early articles almost entirely into italics). Enjoy!
|“Rail-Splitting,” 7 November 2005: Was Lincoln depressed? Was he a team player?|
|“The Terror Last Time,” 13 March 2006: How much evidence did you need to hang a terrorist in 1887?|
|“Surveillance Society,” 11 September 2006: In the 1930s, a group of British intellectuals tried to record the texture of everyday life|
|“Bad Precedent,” 29 January 2007: Andrew Jackson declares martial law|
|“There She Blew,” 23 July 2007: The history of whaling|
|“Twilight of the Books,” 24 December 2007: This is your brain on reading|
|“There Was Blood,” 19 January 2009: A fossil-fueled massacre|
|“Bootylicious,” 7 September 2009: The economics of piracy|
|“It Happened One Decade,” 21 September 2009: The books and movies that buoyed America during the Great Depression|
|“Tea and Antipathy,” 20 December 2010: Was the Tea Party such a good idea the first time around?|
|Unfortunate Events, 22 October 2012: What was the War of 1812 even about?|
|“Four Legs Good,” 28 October 2013: Jack London goes to the dogs|
|“The Red and the Scarlet,” 30 June 2014: Where the pursuit of experience took Stephen Crane|
“The Terror Last Time,” my article about the 1886 trial of Chicago’s Haymarket anarchists, which is in part a review of James Green’s new book Death in the Haymarket, is published in the 13 March 2006 New Yorker. As it happens, there are many Haymarket resources on the web, so I thought I’d link to a few of them. What follows will seem a little scattered unless you read my article first (ahem), but if you’ve done that, then . . .
If you want to read the witnesses’ testimony yourself, the Chicago Historical Society has published the trial transcript in the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection. The collection has all sorts of neat tidbits. If you thought my description of Louis Lingg’s beauty was a bit too breathless, for example, you can judge for yourself here. If you want to see exactly how nut and bolt screwed together to make a bomb, look here, for a bomb allegedly Lingg’s. The historical society also collaborated with Northwestern University to create Dramas of the Haymarket, a sort of online guided tour of the archival holdings.
The 2003 re-analysis of the Haymarket bomb fragments and evidence was described in this article by Timothy Messer-Kruse, James O. Eckert Jr., Pannee Burckel, and Jeffrey Dunn in a 2005 issue of the journal Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas.
The night before Parsons, Spies, Engel, and Fischer were hanged, Parsons sang the Scotch ballad “Annie Laurie.” There’s no recording of Parsons himself singing it, but there’s a period recording of the song by the Edison Male Quartette in the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. As I mention in the article, the next morning, just a few hours before they were hanged, the men sang the “Workers’ Marseillaise” together. The three German speakers may well have sung in German, and I strongly suspect that that’s what’s being sung in this period recording. I’m not sure, though, because my German comprehension is extremely poor; it’s the right tune, certainly, and someone has catalogued it under the title Arbeiter, i.e., “workers.”