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This week’s Culture Vultures recommend:

How Should a Person Be?, Blood Oath Improv, and Monsters and Dust

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[Cover: How a Person Should Be by Sheila Heti]

Will Nedved, cofounder of the Gift Theatre Company can't put down:

How Should a Person Be? One of my favorite novels of the last year is Sheila Heti's How Should a Person Be?, a hilarious and at times unsettling investigation of the title question through the follies of Heti, a recently divorced writer who transcribes the conversations of her friend Margaux Williamson in a misguided effort to complete a long-procrastinated playwriting commission. That Williamson is an actual Toronto-based artist calls into question the veracity of the entire novel. It ties into another genre-defying book I recommend, Carl Wilson's Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, a collection of essays about the equally reviled and adored Canadian songstress that reflects on aesthetics, popular culture, and Wilson's own emotional availability in the wake of a divorce. Only later did I learn that Heti and Wilson were writing about their marriage to each other.

[photo: Blood Oath Improv Group]
  • Jeffrey A Bloom
  • Blood Oath Improv Group (from L to R) Torian Miller, Trevor Kravits, Ryan Hake, Ricky Staffieri, Adam Ston, Jared Popkin

Becca James, editor in chief of Pop 'stache gets a kick out of:

Blood Oath Improv It's impossible to check Facebook and Twitter without reading "That awkward moment when … ," and though I usually find the end of those sentences asinine, I've finally created my own. Behold: that awkward moment when you're at an improv show that isn't funny. Asinine? More like accurate, and as Chicagoans we've all been there, feigning smiles or straining giggles while wishing people still got the hook. Thanks to Blood Oath you can avoid that awkward moment. The six gentlemen of this improv troupe share the camaraderie their namesake implies, which makes for a solid show that is hands-down hilarious. With subject matter across-the-board tackled by personalities just as broad in scope, there's barely enough time to stop laughing and catch your breath between jokes. Better yet, they know other hilarious people, ensuring any accompanying acts will provide the same fun.

[Cover: M&D issue number three]

Zach Dodson, creative director for Featherproof Books, is inspired by:

Monsters and Dust I'm a fan of design and literature both, so when the quirky underground lit site Monsters and Dust released their debut print issue recently, my ears perked. The website was launched a few years back (at a release party that was infamously smoke-bombed) by local artists and tastemakers Aay Preston-Myint, Joe Proulx, and Chris Pappas. They bring an eclectic group of writers and artists around a fanciful theme for each issue. This one is "Flowers." The design is everything you'd expect from people immersed in the Chicago art scene. The thoughtful execution is up to Jordan Williams from design studio Nitewerk, Alex Valentine, Brian Case, and Joshua Hauth, who has also been working on the longstanding Chicago literary magazine MAKE. Stunning photos (like Woman Exiting, 2010, by Scott Cowen) are juxtaposed with fiction and ruminating essays like Laura Pearson's meditation on Californians, flowers, and doodling.

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