Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Talking on WGN tonight with Rick Kogan and Kate Wisel

Followers of Liquid Ink, no matter where they find themselves on the planet, can tune in to WGN today, November 10th, at 22:00 CST (GMT -6) to hear me on After Hours with (Chicago radio legend) Rick Kogan. WGN Radio is 720 AM local to Chicago, or you can live stream the station at this link.

I’ll be joined by Kate Wisel, author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, described on the book jacket as a love letter to women moving through violence. 

Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is available anywhere books are sold. If you happen to be in Chicago, City Lit Books in Logan Square currently has it on the shelf.

Given the topics of Relief by Execution (domestic violence, fascism, genocide and identity collapse) and Kate’s theme of violence against women, this should make for a provocative hour of radio.

Live stream here.

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Photo of Rick Kogan from the Chicago Help Initiative.

 

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Have I ever been this nervous?

(Ok…maybe I was more nervous when I learned my wife was pregnant.)

But yesterday I received the invitation to read from Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make at The Wicker Park and West Town Lit Fest. The reading and celebration will take place at Volumes Bookcafe in anticipation of the release of the new Nelson Algren biography. A list of other readers is being compiled, and I’ll publicize when I have more info.

To say I’m humbled is…

Um…yeah…

Obviously, my novel, The Fuguehas been compared to Nelson Algren’s work. Rick Kogan did it on WGN radio, expanding what a few reviewers have noticed. While I wasn’t channeling Algren while writing The Fugue—I’ve actually not read all of Algren’s books—what I’ve read has had a serious impact on my development as a writer.

City on the Make, a prose poem of less than 110 pages, was a punch-in-the-mouth catalyst in my life and career. I was 19 when I first came across it in a writing class at UIC taught by Mike Barrett. Algren’s bloody-knuckle, gilded paean first showed me Chicago as something besides the city where I happened to be living. I think it’s natural for creative people to wish to “get away” for something like “true inspiration”. Algren taught me to start looking around and understanding where I am, to wake up to it.

What struck me was how the language was tough and gentle all at once. Algren knew the hustler and the square equally well, identified with both, could inhabit both minds, and yet his final impact somehow transcends that polarity, sees the world from an elevated position. The poem begins not with any urban brawn but an ode to the prairie and Lake Michigan:

To the east were the moving waters as far as eye could follow. To the west a sea of grass as far as wind might reach.

Waters restlessly, with every motion, slipping out of used colors for new. So that each fresh wind off the lake washed the prairie grasses with used sea-colors: the prairie moved in the light like a secondhand sea. 

Those words, for me, placed Chicago in the natural world. They oriented me, helped me see there wasn’t any difference between a city and the country except for what our minds concocted. From that moment, I was seeing my city—and by extension, all cities—with a different set of eyes.

Unlike New York and Los Angeles, Chicago doesn’t have talent for glamour or glitz. The best we can do is provide ourselves with alleys where we throw our garbage, leave it (mostly) out of sight. But our segregation and corruption and frozen sidewalks and humid Augusts are right there in the open.

My grandfather lamented when the guy who used to renew his drivers license for a bottle of scotch ended up shitcanned. That brand of corruption worked perfectly well. Why ruin it?

It took me years to learn that, outside Chicago, you just needed to kiss your manager’s ass to get ahead. In Chicago it takes finesse to learn who the real player is; the boss is normally a stooge set up to take the fall when shit got real, as it inevitably would. So the stooge is sacked, apologies are made, a new stooge is hired and the hustle’s back on. In Chicago, everything is a front that’s out in the open. You are laundering money just by virtue of working in this city, and it happens whether your know it or not.

Algren knew this well…so so well. He also knew it was unusual, particular, worth a hundred pages. It’s true that the prose is mannered, sometimes awkward. But so is the city.

To get the chance to read from this little huge book, and only a few blocks from Algren’s home in Wicker Park, is going to be…yeah…I’m just elated.

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A visit to Tribune Tower

So…I got to talk to Rick Kogan on WGN Radio last night. It was an extraordinary experience, and I have more to say about it than I’ll be able to include in a short blog post.

Rick Kogan is a journalist and radio personality with almost six decades of experience covering Chicago. He has spoken to and written books about idols of mine, and when it comes to the subject of Chicago, is clearly among the most knowledgeable people alive. To have sat in a studio chair next to him equals one of the most fucking amazing experiences of my life. To hear him call my book Algren-esque, Dostoevsky-esque and Dybek-esque on the air left a strange, giddy tremble in my hands that has yet to go away.

It was also humbling and head-spinning to find myself in the Tribune Tower. While I had walked past the building countless times, I had never been inside. Yesterday, I rode my bike down Madison from Oak Park, past the former site of Fort Dearborn, over the Chicago River, then I walked up to the tower with a sense of awe and connectedness to the history of my city. So many great people (and, to be fair, some extraordinary and colorful assholes) had walked through those doors and worked in that building.

I’ll say it was equally exhilarating and intimidating to step up to the receptionist and let her know I was scheduled to talk on the radio. I thought only babble or drool might exit my mouth once someone gave me a microphone. But it all worked out. You can listen here, and please do share with the book lovers in your live.

Some photos:

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I’ll be on WGN!

Tomorrow, June 26th, I’ll be on “After Hours with Rick Kogan” on Chicago’s WGN radio.

I’m slated to speak beginning at 10:00 PM local (CDT) time. Chicago’s -5 GMT right now. If you’re in Amsterdam, I’ll be on at 5:00 AM. If you’re in Vilnius or Odessa, I’m on at 6:00 AM. Yes…I believe there will be a podcast.

If you’re in the Chicago area, just tune in to 720 AM. Internet users, you can listen live here.

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Photo courtesy of WGN.