Synopses & Reviews
In 1952 the New Yorker published a three-part essay by A. J. Liebling in which he dubbed Chicago the "Second City." From garbage collection to the skyline, nothing escaped Liebling's withering gaze. Among the outraged responses from Chicago residents was one that Liebling described as the apotheosis of such criticism: a postcard that read, simply, "You were never in Chicago."
Neil Steinberg has lived in and around Chicago for more than three decadesever since he left his hometown of Berea, Ohio, to attend Northwesternyet he remains fascinated by the dynamics captured in Liebling's anecdote. In You Were Never in Chicago Steinberg weaves the story of his own coming-of-age as a young outsider who made his way into the inner circles and upper levels of Chicago journalism with a nuanced portrait of the city that would surprise even lifelong residents.
Steinberg takes readers through Chicago's vanishing industrial past and explores the city from the quaint skybridge between the towers of the Wrigley Building, to the depths of the vast Deep Tunnel system below the streets. He deftly explains the city's complex web of political favoritism and carefully profiles the characters he meets along the way, from greats of jazz and journalism to small-business owners just getting by. Throughout, Steinberg never loses the curiosity and close observation of an outsider, while thoughtfully considering how this perspective has shaped the city, and what it really means to belong. Intimate and layered, You Were Never in Chicago will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of all Chicagoans, be they born in the city or forever transplanted.
"Sixty years ago in a now-famous New Yorker article, A.J. Liebling cast a withering gaze on Chicago calling it the 'Second City.' One Chicagoan responded to his jabs with a postcard that read, 'You were in never in Chicago.' Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steinberg, who came to Chicago from Ohio to attend Northwestern University, offers his own response in this sometimes entertaining but often tedious memoir that celebrates the city. Along the way, we meet a network of Chicago denizens, such as Maria Pappas, the Cook County treasurer, who form a web of relationships and interactions, loyalties and grudges, that make the city such a close-knit village but which also contribute to Chicago's reputation for corruption and cronyism. Weaving episodes from his own life and career, Steinberg creates a tapestry of Chicago life. He points out that 'Chicago is a big place ; the finer details emerge one by one.' These details shift across race and class lines, gaining 'emotional nuances.' In the end, Steinberg observes that everyone in his or her own particular way thinks of 'my as the true Chicago.' (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he has been on staff since 1987. He is the author of seven books, including Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life and Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora, and the History of American Style.
Table of Contents
One Manus manum lavat
Two “God, I am in Chicago”
Three “A tolerance for rubes”
Four “Give her my regards”
Five “Your show of shows”
Six “Ill get you a judge”
Seven In the sleeping room
Eight “How long is it supposed to last?”
Nine Annals of the paper tube trade
Ten “A byutafl day in the palka”
Eleven “You gave the money away?”
Twelve A visit from the Angel Nacht
Thirteen “A lot of broken hearts”
Fourteen Driving with Ed McElroy
Fifteen “Gee, ya think?”
Sixteen The city in fog