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Why Writers Leave Chicago


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To the editors:

Your article on the state of Chicago's literary situation ["Reading: Where Publishers Perish," December 3] was rather silly, actually. Everyone wants to leave the small town they were brought up in, particularly artists and writers, and Chicago has always prided itself on its provincialism.

The other reason Chicago has bred writers but can't keep them is that this is essentially a theater/performance town and probably people read even less here than they do elsewhere in America. Nobody, absolutely nobody, reads poetry, which is why there is a "performance" poetry scene. Those "poets" who get known in that milieu do so because they have some kind of personal appeal and they can read well; the content of what they are reading is vapid, pretentious and self-serving--but ultimately of no importance anyway. They are out to get grants and when they get them, they use them to leave town; not a bad thing (for audiences too). The Reader plays its part in sheltering mediocrity. All of the articles sound like they were written by the same sycophant. There are no interesting styles in language to delight in--could Djuna Barnes have had her charming short literary newspaper pieces accepted in the Reader? Forget it. And as for our own Ben Hecht, well. . .The only intelligent person who can get anything printed in the Reader is Jonathan Rosenbaum, and that's only because he comes with impeccable credentials and the powers-that-be are no doubt intimidated. Oh, there are writers in Chicago, but if pointed out they would not be recognized. And if recognized, they might have to leave town.

Raymonde Oliverus


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