Arts & Culture » Lit Feature

The Reader's guide to the Printers Row Lit Fest

Judy Blume, Art Spiegelman, D.T. Max, Haki Madhubuti, and more: Our critics pick favorites for the annual book blowout.

by , , , and


The Printers Row Lit Fest is from 10 AM to 10 PM on Saturday, June 8, and from 10 AM to 6 PM on Sunday, June 9, in the Printers Row district—Dearborn between Congress and Polk—and a couple off-site spots, like the library. We've pulled a few favorites from the more than 200 author readings, discussions, and sundry other events; everything's free, though some talks require advance reservations. And of course there's the fair—what organizers bill as the largest outdoor two-day book fair in the midwest. See for details and the full schedule.


Art Spiegelman and Ivan Brunetti

10 AM, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, free, tickets required

Art Spiegelman simultaneously invented the graphic novel and revolutionized the Holocaust memoir when he published the first volume of Maus back in 1986. Maus combined words and images, historical tragedy, and cartoon conventions like word bubbles and anthropomorphic animals into something entirely new: comics for grown-ups. Now Spiegelman's 65 and has a new book of collected works, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, out in September. Today he'll talk about it with Columbia College prof and fellow comics artist Ivan Brunetti. —AL

Audrey Petty and Hallie Gordon

10:30 AM, University Center, 525 S. State, tickets required

When it comes to oral history, creative writers have an edge, wired as they are to seek out overlooked details in ordinary experience and weave them into stories. On this panel, Petty, whose nonfiction often explores her own personal history (a childhood sense of being possessed in "My Old Haunt," furtive food rituals in "Late-Night Chitlins With Momma"), discusses her latest project, High-Rise Stories: Voices From Chicago Public Housing, told by the people who lived amid the violence that riddled the projects, saw their homes demolished, were banished, dispersed, and who continue to struggle. It will be published by McSweeney's in September. She talks with Hallie Gordon, of the Steppenwolf for Young Adults program, moderated by the Trib's Steve Mills. —JC

Female Sleuths

12:30 PM, University Center

Evanston-based novelist Sharon Fiffer (the subject of a 2008 Reader profile) writes about life in her hometown of Kankakee through her protagonist, an antique collector and amateur detective named Jane Wheel, who searches garage sales for treasures and occasionally discovers bodies along the way. She'll be joined here by Gillian Royes (The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks) and Libby Fischer Hellmann (A Bitter Veil) on a panel moderated by Jamie Freveletti (the "Emma Caldridge" series). —JT

D.T. Max

2:30 PM, Jones College Prep, 606 S. State, tickets required

New Yorker staff writer D.T. Max is the author of The Family That Couldn't Sleep (2006) as well as fascinating profiles of Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen, synesthetic French pianist and lover of wolves Helene Grimaud, and Grant Achatz. But since last year's Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, his biography of David Foster Wallace, he's spent "a lot of time talking about DFW at various universities," he says—"I completely love it!" A funny, candid, and astute interlocutor, Max will here be in conversation with Jennifer Day, editor of the Trib's Printers Row Journal. —KS

Alan Sepinwall

2:45 PM, University Center, tickets required

Each Monday I begin my slog through reviews of the weekend's Game of Thrones and Mad Men episodes on websites like Slate, Grantland, Salon, and Paste. But Alan Sepinwall is always first. The longtime television writer—now at the entertainment site HitFix, where his blog is called "What's Alan Watching?"—provides commentary that's thoughtful and smart, with hints of dorky humor that only further endear him to his audience. His most recent book, The Revolution Was Televised, dissects a dozen important series, like The Wire and Breaking Bad (and Mad Men). Trib columnist Phil Rosenthal moderates. —KW

Tavi Gevinson

3 PM, Center Stage, free

Oak Parker Tavi Gevinson became a fashion blogger at age 11, a media sensation at 12, a columnist for Harper's Bazaar at 13, and founder and editor of Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls, at 14. She's 17 now and a junior in high school, Rookie is thriving, and adults keep asking her the secret to her success. Expect some more of that today in her talk with Christopher Borrelli, plus a discussion of Rookie Yearbook One, a compendium of some of the site's greatest hits. —AL


Hot Doug's Doug Sohn

1 PM, Good Eating Stage

One of the signs of true chef superstardom is the publication of a cookbook. Chicagoans have long known that Doug Sohn, the mastermind and namesake of Hot Doug's, was a superstar, but Hot Doug's: The Book certifies it. Unlike a lot of superstar chefs, though, Sohn doesn't disclose any secret recipes or special tips. Instead his book is a compendium of Hot Doug's history and lore, including an infinitely useful list of sausage double entendres. —AL

Third World Press

1:30 PM, Arts & Poetry Stage

Activist Haki Madhubuti founded Third World Press on the south side in the 60s, and since then it's been a polestar for African-American literature. Madhubuti's own poetry is recognized for militarizing black vernacular against racial injustice; his contemporary Sterling Plumpp, a poet and editor at TWP, relies on black everyday life, instead of politics, drawing from the reservoir of black collective identity he believes is best articulated in good blues songs, jazz, and gospel. Plumpp's most recent work, Home/Bass (forthcoming from TWP), is a study of the blues musician Willie Kent and the backdrop for this panel on the intersections of music and poetry. Plumpp will be joined by Africana studies scholar Fred Lee Hord and black arts movement poet Eugene B. Redmond. —JC

Judy Blume

2-2:25 PM, Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, tickets required

More than 40 years after the publication of her groundbreaking novel Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume has broken new ground for herself: Tiger Eyes, her first book to be made into a movie, opens June 7. Blume wrote the screenplay and worked with her son, Lawrence (the inspiration for her Fudge character), to produce it—a long and arduous road, according to what I've read. —JT

American Heritage Dictionary Define-a-Thon

3:15-4:15 PM, Center Stage

Spelling bees are mostly for suckers, because what's the point in knowing how to spell a word if you can't define it? Or at least that's partially how organizers frame the Define-a-Thon, which features an extended speed round of definitions offered alongside a series of possible answers—followed by the whittling down of contestants through a public shaming for having no fucking clue what punctilious actually means. The five-dollar-word degree of difficulty ramps up as the hour progresses, leading to a final round with four contestants vying for the title of the day's "Best Lexicographer." (I didn't know what it meant either.) Jenniffer Weigel hosts. —KW

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Add a comment