While the temptation to walk around campus hunched over a book, a smartphone, or an existential crisis is strong, raise your eyes to the walls and parapets! History is chiseled into the walls at UChicago. Many chunks of stone have been transformed into gargoyles, thinkers and scholars of ages past, and a variety of adorable/creepy animals.
For the new mentors, transitioning from hundreds of pages a week of heavy academic writing to reading for pleasure was a strange sensation. It was a little like visiting a house you hadn’t lived in since you were a wee child: disorienting, but with the unmistakable feel of home. At MAPH Central, we’re into books in a big way, and since we know that you are too, we thought we’d share what we’re reading this summer.
(If your interest is piqued by our recommendations, act now! Your days of reading for pleasure are approaching a nine-month hiatus. And if you’re in town early, do not miss the Newberry Book Fair from July 26-29, billed as “Chicago’s most popular used book binge.”)
WHAT I’M READING NOW: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
After several false-starts, the falseness of which having to do with much ambition attended by many distractions, I have finally determined to read this book I was supposed to have read a long time ago. The endeavor feels more important than it is, probably because the ostensibly intellectual motivations for reading huge books are in fact intimately bound up in my own vanity. But the book, so far, really is good.
NEXT ON THE LIST: Henry Green, Loving
According to the back of the book, Loving “brilliantly contrasts the lives of servants and masters in an Irish castle during World War II.” The front of the book has a peacock on it. Apparently, the only extant photo of Henry Green (not his real name) is a portrait of the back of his head.
Chicago’s incarnation of Portland’s finest. Not only is the 57th St. location close to campus, but the only crowds I ever encounter there are crowds of books. Perfect for for a relaxing browse.
WHAT I’M READING NOW: Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
I’ve had it on the shelf for a while, but after I saw Ian reading it and full of delight, I started it, too. A woman named Green Peas (Aomame) with odd ears. A lonely writer. An ugly old man. And, of course, cats. For those who enjoy a little reality-destabilization.
NEXT ON THE LIST: Doris Lessing, RE: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta: Personal, psychological, historical documents relating to visit by Johor (George Sherban), Emissary (Grade 9) 87th of the Period of the Last Days
I’m so excited to start this one, the first in her Canopus in Argos: Archives series. It marks Lessing’s sudden switch to science fiction, but her science fiction is unlike anything else. It’s a wild, Sufism-and-Old-Testament-influenced diagnosis of humanity. Sadhappy reading. I blazed through the first 20 pages nearly holding my breath before I had to stop and go back to 1Q84.
MY FAVORITE BOOKSTORE: Selected Works, 410 S. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor.
I have a pal who works in the Fine Arts building downtown. I went to meet him for lunch the other day. He works on the fourth floor. I climbed the stairs to the second floor, ready to keep heading up, when I noticed the old bookshelves by the stairwell. The shelves almost hid a doorway into a wee bookstore filled with highly curated volumes, including the weird sorts of tomes only found in shops like this. Plus there’s a bookstore cat, Hodge, who is as beautiful as he is mercurial. (Special treat: the elevators are run by real live elevator operators.)
WHAT I’M READING NOW: Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin
After a year of required reading, I’m trying to ease myself back into the habit of reading for pleasure by picking up a book I have already read and know I love. The book pivots around the motif of Phillipe Petit’s shocking stunt: tightrope walking between the Twin Towers on an otherwise mundane morning in 1974. McCann weaves together a seamless and heartbreaking narrative about the lives of some not-so-ordinary witnesses of the event. As a New Yorker, it’s a book that made me fall in love with my city all over again, offering a fresh perspective on a period of urban transition that I had always known about, but never really internalized. I’m about half-way through it right now and I’m just as entranced as I was the first time around.
NEXT ON THE LIST: John Williams, Stoner
Luckily, one of my best friends used to work at a publishing house in New York, so I am never bereft of book suggestions. Stoner follows the life of a late 19th Century man who heads to university to study agronomy, unwittingly falls in love with English literature and decides, instead, to pursue the scholarly life. If it were one hundred years later, I suspect this man might be in MAPH – I’m sure that we have plenty of agronomic defectors matriculating this year. According to my contemporary fiction guru, “Williams’ luminous descriptions of a scholar’s life and its rewards make this novel ideal for a return to academia.” This suggestion brought to you with one caveat: “It’s grim, but it’s beautiful.”
Chicago is full of watering holes. In case some of you don’t have any idea where to go for New Years, here are some ideas to kick off the Dive Bar Challenge.
The rules of this challenge are as follows: go to at least 3 of the bars and bring back some evidence of having physically been there (hazy memories don’t count, but the napkin-scrawled phone numbers of people you don’t remember meeting do). You get extra points if the bars are in a different neighborhood. The first to bring evidence to the MAPH office and present it to either me, AJ, or Whitney will receive some kind of awesome prize that will be decided if anyone actually goes through the trouble to do all of this.
You’ll be riding six white horses when you come to Zakopane
Now that you are all nearing the end of final paper deadlines, it’s time to take advantage of your much freer schedule by enjoying some of Chicago’s best. Seeing all of the neighborhoods and prioritizing the sites you want to visit and the food you want to eat can be slightly daunting so, for those that need a bit of guidance, here of some of MAPHCentral’s favorite places and things to do in Chicago.
If you have a car and it’s not too cold, going out to the Morton Arboretum is fantastic. It is a great place to walk and feel like you are not in a city and take photographs. If you want to stay in town and do something going to the Julius Meinl on Southport then up to see an old movie at the Music Box Theatre is splendid. Julius Meinl has great coffee, tea and pastries.
For holiday cheer, I love going to the Christkindlmarket and walking around the various stalls while drinking gluwein and getting little paper packets of spiced almonds and pretending I live in a German Christmas village.
For a burger and fries, I like The Grafton in Lincoln Square where you can get curry gravy for your chips and on Sundays there is an Irish bothy band that plays traditional music. However, the best pub in Chicago is the Duke of Perth. It feels the most authentic and there are fish and chip nights and cottage pie.
Speaking of authentic if you want real buckwheat crepes filled with savory stews in an authentic French atmosphere then you want to go to La Creperie on Clark. The Boeuf Bourguinon crepe is excellent and they are close to the Landmark Century Theatre which shows lots of foreign and independent films so you can make an evening of it.
For the best (pricey but really good) cocktail in a speakeasy, meets David Lynch film, meets Wedgewood vase atmosphere you want The Violet Hour and it is nice enough to take your Mom, Aunt, sister etc. and give her a Chicago experience.
(More of MAPHCentral’s favorite things after the jump…)
You may still be in the midst of finishing papers for various courses but it is not too soon to start thinking about how to manage the holidays and think about what you might do to prepare for winter quarter.
Skating through the end of the quarter?
It is important to take time to get rest, see friends or family, and generally recuperate. If you want to start thinking about the thesis or reading ahead this is a great time to get some reading done. Just set yourself a schedule and devote an hour or two each day or set a study date with friends either in Hyde Park or wherever you land to go to a coffee shop and get some work done.
Be sure to stay connected. If you are spending part of the holiday in Hyde Park you may find campus a little quiet. Stop by the MAPH office and check in with us. We’ll post the days the office is closed or hours are shortened. Be sure to check the library schedule as the hours may be different. Find other MAPHers who are in town to venture out and see some sights or just sit in a coffee shop and quietly read together.
Now for the fun part. . .
In search of some healthy recreation after spending hours inside writing?
For those of you spending the holiday in the city it is wise to make sure that you spend at least one or two days not doing coursework. Sure meet up with other MAPHers and make a feast, but if you are looking for some diversions here are a few options.
If you don’t want to drive to the suburbs and participate in early morning black Friday pillaging there are other options for being in a mass of people.
Love the cupcake costumes!
Thanksgiving Parade on State Street. On November 24th you can head downtown. This is not quite Macy’s Parade in New York but there are floats and balloons and bands and your usual parade festivities. From 8:00-11:00 am on State street between Randolph and Congress.
The Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza lets you feel like you are visiting Germany over the holiday. A traditional style German market offers candied nuts in paper packets, gluwein, potato pancakes and bratwurst. There are also traditional blown glass ornaments, cuckoo clocks and other crafts. The market opens November 23rd. They light the tree at 4:30 on the 24th.
An Art Institute Lion gets its wreath on.
If you are already downtown you might as well check out the Macy’s windows (not as good as when in was still Marshall Field’s). You can then drop in on ice skating at Millennium Park or stop into the Art Institute to check out some art. Also they will be putting wreaths on the lions at 10:00 am on November 26th.
Yes, the Zoolights are lovely. . .
A little further north, The Lincoln Park Zoo starts Zoolights on November 25th. More mulled wine and hot pretzels are available as you take in the light display and see some zoo animals. Don’t forget to pick up some plastic mold-a-rama animals. They make great stocking-stuffers or Hanukkah presents . . .
Look, you could put a tiny wreath on your own Mold-A-Rama lion.
Crowds are not your thing?
You can still get out of Hyde Park and enjoy time outside. The weather is supposed to be warm. Visit the lakefront. In fact, there are groups that meet up just to go for walks. The Museum of Science and Industry has their Christmas trees from around the world up and the Muppets (okay those will be croweded) but avoid the crowds and look a the U-boat exhibit instead. (MSI has mold-A-Rama machines too, who knew holiday shopping would be so cheap and easy.) See a movie or go see live theater. There are often cheap theater tickets the weekend after Thanksgiving or use your Artspass.
This handy guide features a variety of charities in Chicago who are taking volunteers over the holiday weekend. University of Chicago has group service days on the 24th and 26th. Check out the calendar for details.