Love, Hate, and Sex in the City | The Reader's Guide Feature | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » The Reader's Guide Feature

Love, Hate, and Sex in the City

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

As a young creative-writing teacher 25 years ago, Jean Thompson gave her students only two restrictions: no stories about young love and no it-was-all-a-dream resolutions. But when you're older you get to break at least one of the rules. Thompson's new novel, City Boy (Simon & Schuster), tells the story of Jack and Chloe--newly married, recent graduates of Northwestern who take an apartment in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood, their "vision of smart urban living." Any dreams they have, however, are waking nightmares. The couple have literary aspirations, but Chloe puts hers on hold and takes a job at a downtown bank while Jack stays home and tries to write. Both are attractive, well-off, and intelligent, but their insecurities and mistrust breed ever-increasing cruelties, and they torture each other using the most punishing weapons in their arsenal--words. Searching for validation, alcoholic Chloe drops hints of an affair at work, while self-righteous Jack dallies with teenage Ivory, a friend of the noisy upstairs neighbor they've dubbed Hippie Pothead Rasta Boy. Thompson keeps her own style low-key even while Jack and Chloe indulge in writerly bombast, and her settings and details--from Cubs games to barbecues in Berwyn to "the wrought-iron fencing and sidewalk flower planters"--show she's familiar with the terrain. The wonder of City Boy is that Thompson is able to keep a reader caring about two such self-absorbed, self-pitying characters, and indeed, like in a movie, tough-kid Ivory very nearly steals the show; she's physically crippled but emotionally more whole than Jack and Chloe could ever be. Thompson (who still teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) reads at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, February 17, at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm, Winnetka, 847-446-8880.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marion Ettlinger.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment