The Megapolitan Flaneur: Part 1: Making the Literary Scene @ Quimby’s (9/5/13)

The Megapolitan Flâneur is a series of short travel essays. These essays will focus on my trip to Chicago – September 4 – 6, 2013 – and what I experienced. Neither chronology or inventory, the essays will be reflective, free associative, and impressionistic.

Full Disclosure: I am a staff member and assistant editor for the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). The intent of this essay will be to highlight three books published by CCLaP author Mark Brand, Mason Johnson, and Maureen Foley. As part of my Editing Apprenticeship through CCLaP, I proofread all three of these books and strongly believe they are worth reading. This post is promotional in nature and I make no claims of objectivity.

quimbysSeptember 5, 2013
Quimby’s Bookstore
1854 W North Ave, Chicago, IL

It took me a while to find Quimby’s Bookstore. Jason Pettus, founder of the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, provided me with a helpful map. I made my connecting trains with no problems. But having found the spot he marked X, I realized I had read the map too literally. I found myself next to a gym and a yogurt store. After wandering around a bit, hoping I didn’t miss the deadline for the show to start, I eventually received useful directions from the people at Myopic Books.

Once I arrived, I met Mark Brand, Mason Johnson, and Maureen Foley. All were writers I knew from either email correspondence or reading their books. Following the introductions, I walked around Quimby’s, enjoying the literary eye candy. It reminded me of Pic-a-book in Madison, Wisconsin, before it went defunct and vanished from State Street. Mark and I agreed that Quimby’s had the feel of a “highbrow porn store.” Along its shelves and walls, all manner of printed material abounded: edgy fiction, ‘zines, erotic comics, lowbrow art books, and CCLaP’s printed books. In an earlier conversation with Jason, he told me how he cultivated a relationship with Quimby’s. He had been going to the bookstore for over twenty years, originally helping them out by writing reviews in their catalog-magazine-type publication. (That has vanished due to the Internet. The immediate accessibility of book reviews negated the cost and effort that went into the catalog.)


jasonJason Pettus: The hardest working man in Chicago indie publishing.

After an introduction from Jason, Mark read from his new book called Long Live Us, an anthology of science fiction and non-genre stories. He read the story, “The Tree Over Garret’s Hole,” a comedic tale of hillbillies, chainsaws, gasoline, and amateur timbering.

markbrandMark Brand, author of Long Live Us

Up next, Mason read a short story about the perils of mass transit and untreated mental illness. He followed that with a short excerpt from his novel Sad Robot Stories. It’s a novel about a robot (named Robot) who survives the apocalypse, learns to appreciate literature, and has issues with repetitive tasks.

masonMason Johnson, author of Sad Robot Stories

The night ended with Maureen Foley reading an excerpt from her novel, Women Float, a novel set in Southern California about a woman dealing with aging, loss, and relationships. I’d categorize it as “chick lit,” but putting the novel into that genre box does it a disservice. It is a novel that is funny, sad, poetic, and beautiful. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been to California. It was on our itinerary when my family did a trip to see the sights “out West.” Visiting California – San Francisco and environs – was one of my favorite parts.

maureenMaureen Foley, author of Women Float

For those looking for quality literature, I would highly recommend buying and/or downloading these books from CCLaP. Short on loot, you can always download them for free! (Granted, I’m a CCLaP staff member, so I’m obviously biased. But I stand by opinion. Each of these books was a joy to proofread. It didn’t feel like a job at all.)

groupL to R: Robert O’Connor (CCLaP Senior Editor), Mason Johnson, Jason Pettus, Mark Brand, Maureen Foley, and me.

Up next: I learn the art of bookbinding from Jason and we talk about slush pile blues.

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