Just about a year ago I had a fantastic trip to visit Chicago. It still seems amazing to me that we were able to pick up the flavour of the city in just a few days. Of course, I was somewhat primed, having read The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Eric Larsen. This fantastic non-fiction book is an account of the building and lead-up to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.
Last April by good luck, I picked up Chicago, by Brian Doyle from the "New Books" shelf at the library. Having visited that great city, how could I not check this book out! It's a fictional account of a young man's stay in Chicago over the course of 5 seasons (note: seasons, not years) about 30 years ago.
What it really is, is a love letter to a city by an author who is extremely observant of said city's vibes: its streets, inhabitants, lake, weather, gyro stands, baseball mania, etc. You could read this book and say that nothing much happens. On the other hand, so much is happening all the time, that I couldn't get my nose out of it. I've not read any of Brian Doyle's previous books, but it's obvious that besides living in Portland, Oregon and being a basketball aficionado, Brian Doyle is an awesome story-teller who has lived at some point in his life in Chicago, hence his affection for this great city.
Doyle's basketball-dribbling hero, who works for a Catholic magazine, lives in an apartment building near the lake with fellow Chicagoans, including a dog who can not only talk but can bring back from the nearby pub, a pitcher of beer on his back. Ok, that's a bit strange, but I loved it all the same. We read about some of these folks and their transient lives, told with such compassion and with such skill that we ourselves feel totally immersed in the Chicago culture.
I highly recommend this book. But maybe you should visit Chicago first to get a feel for the place. (Take me with you)
Note: We must not confuse this American Brian Doyle with the esteemed Canadian writer Brian Doyle, a much older man, by the looks of it. It seems that I will have to read other works by each these persons to sort out Brian Doyles. Sounds ok to me.