Tuesday, September 20, 2005

First Day of Classes

Dybek's BookToday was the first day of classes, which went well, though I never get enough sleep the night before and so am always exhausted by day's end. The new classes make me think of former students, to whom I extend fond greetings and for those who graduated earlier this summer, my heartiest congratulations. I really do miss you! There are probably fifty writers I enjoy reading more than Stuart Dybek--well, maybe forty--but I never tire of his reading or using for my intro fiction class his story "Pet Milk," which is quintessential Dybek, especially in its retrospective trajectory and lyrical ending, and which, in its first few paragraphs, provides any number of examples of how a very good contemporary American short story works. The polysemous verb "snow" in the first sentence, like the language embodying the gurgling of the condensed milk a little later in the opening paragraph, are such perfect examples of masterful writing I they should be included in most standard fiction-writing guides. In the ones I've looked through, they aren't....

Cloud GateAn old friend was in town from Boston, so we had dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant called Topo Gigio, in Old Town. If you're in Chicago near the Loop and are looking for a delicious and reasonable place to eat, this is definitely a place to hit. It's on Wells, just south of North Avenue, and parking is available around the block. As I drove her back to her hotel, we passed Millennium Park, the mayor's baby. I glanced over and didn't see the supposedly amazing Lurie Garden, the iconic Anish Kapoor "Cloud Gate," also known as the "Bean" (pictured above), or Frank Gehry's Pritzker Bandshell, though I did see one of the giant "face screens," which was pulsing red in the dusk; perhaps when C. is here we can drop by there. My friend said that not only does the park utilize space superbly, but the Bandshell is as beautiful as I imagined. Also, she noted that there were more than a few people in caps busily collecting leaves, sweeping, or jetting around on Segways, to maintain order: Chicago tax dollars at work!


  1. Congrats on the beginning of your semester. I always get too little sleep, too! I never imagine that other teachers have that problem. Happy blogging. I'll get back to mine when things slow down. They will slow down, won't they?

  2. your former students miss you too, john! especially when they spend a good 8.75 hours a day in an intellectual vortex.
    on maintaining chicago order: (did i already tell you?) several months ago as i was walking along michigan ave across from millennium park, i passed a policeman on a segway who was furiously batting at a flattened cardboard box a man was curled up on, trying to push it under a construction barrier and out of sight. he was shouting at the man, "you can't just sleep on the ground! we're not animals!"
    --apparently the perfect statement from a man riding around on a segway like some kind of postmodern centaur (& there are too many other things that could be said about that situation, i won't even start). i cannot shake that scene.
    have a great quarter....

  3. Mendi, things never do seem to slow down, at least not for this vantage. I hope your classes are going well too...and I await your return to SWEAT.

    Tai, it's great to hear from you! I went to the Park today and am going to post a few pictures; the Kapoor Cloud Bridge/Bean reduced me to a giddy child. I did see a few Segwayists, who seemed to be doing their best to keep the most corporately-benamed park--a beautiful one, I must say--in meticulous order. I think the man you mention FORGOT that we *are* animals, but then the security people I saw were robotic in not only in their appearance, but in their responses...well programmed indeed (in deed)!