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Praise for Granta 108: ‘Chicago’

Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune:

‘Inside the covers readers will find fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and photography by widely recognized contributors – Nelson Algren, Alex Kotlowitz, Richard Powers, Sandra Cisneros, Stuart Dybek.’

Victoria Lautman in the Huffington Post:

‘Russia did it. So did Africa. Even India pulled it off, along with London. Now, it’s Chicago’s turn to inspire a hefty new issue of Granta, the esteemed British literary journal which, when spied on a coffee table, seems to instantly confer upon the subscriber a mantle of elevated intellect, or at least the appearance of it. ... The Chicago issue crams 288 pages-worth of poems, essays, riffs and stories behind a cover illustrated by the city’s own Chris Ware. ... There are plenty of surprises tucked among the 22 entries: Don DeLillo on Nelson Algren, a new poem by Anne Winters, an essay about Obama by Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, plus a searing memoir by a previously-unpublished young author, Maria Venegas and an excerpt from Peter Carey’s forthcoming novel, which does not take place on The Third Coast.’

Rosita Boland in the Irish Times:

‘Mordant and fresh writing on the Windy City... Four times a year Granta Publications brings out excellent anthologies of essays, articles, stories and photo essays in a book-length format. The slightly esoteric choice of theme for this issue is the American city of Chicago, which the publishers describe as “a city emerging as a microcosm of America”. So if you have never been to Chicago, as I have not, what do you learn about the city from issue No 108? Possibly that politics is the infrastructure that supports every city, and that emigration is the one that underpins it... Camilo José Vergara writes a thought-provoking piece to accompany his absorbing photo essay on the city’s housing projects, which he has documented over decades. Turn the pages and see portions of the city appear and disappear, projects replaced by skyscrapers, and wonder bleakly what happened in the process to all the people who lived in the now-vanished apartment blocks... One of the residents of a similar project, Khalid, is the subject of Alex Kotlowitz’s narrative. Chicago, like most cities, has a violent, visceral section, where drugs and guns rule the streets and outsiders do not stray, even if they are residents of the same city... You read that piece, and then one by Wole Soyinka, the first African-American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature: Soyinka’s subject is the first African-American US President. One city, two men, Khalid and Obama, two such different lives.’

Chris Flynn of Torpedo Magazine on his blog Falcon vs. Monkey:

‘What really matters... is that this issue grabs you straightaway. No messing around, no protracted intros or crowing about why they’ve chosen to base an issue around the city of Chicago, just straight down to business. And it’s consistent business indeed.

Congratulations to Granta for reminding us of America’s oft-forgotten diamond in the rough.’

Veronica Bond in Gapers Block:

Granta 108: ‘Chicago’ collects poetry, fiction, essays and photography by Chicago authors and artists, illustrating their experiences living in the city and depicting what it means to experience the life of the city itself. To this end, they’ve brought together some of our brightest and most recognized literary stars, studded with some lesser known names, and mixed them with others extolling the merits of the city’s subjects. The result is a variegated portrait that, if, as some of these writers will show, we cannot or should not always be proud of Chicago, we have every right to proudly champion as the product of Chicago’s rich literary tradition. ... What this issue of Granta shows is that Chicago is a city rife with contradictions. It is a land made beautiful by the lake and towering skyscrapers and less so by crumbling homes and crime-stricken neighborhoods. It a place that opens its arms to immigrants the world over, yet cannot promise to keep safe those who call its limits home. It is a city that can inspire monumental aspirations and crush dreams. But, as George Saunders intones here, this is our city. For better or for worse, it contains everything we could ever desire and Granta superbly does everything to make that known.’

Tom Lynch in New City Lit:

Granta’s fall issue, number 108, is Chicago-themed, and the marvelous collection features entries from Aleksandar Hemon, Alex Kotlowitz, Neil Steinberg, Richard Powers, Sandra Cisneros, Stuart Dybek and more. Don DeLillo offers a brief introductory essay to a Nelson Algren piece, and Chris Ware did the issue’s cover. A photo essay by Camilo Jose Vergara is included and provides an intermission to the text. This collection serves as a packaged insight into what Chicago means — how it feels to live here, be from here, exist within a city sometimes difficult to love yet impossible to resist.’

Lynn Andriani in Publishers Weekly:

Granta 108, which focuses on Chicago, goes on sale September 14, marking the second time the publication has focused an entire issue on a city. Issue 108 features a cover illustration by graphic novelist Chris Ware showing the city skyline and writings by Chicagoans Aleksandar Hemon, Neil Steinberg and others. The magazine will support the issue with a week of events in Chicago.’

Robert Duffer in the Chicago Tribune:

Granta is one of the few literary journals that I save because the collection by contributors reads like a time capsule anthology of the best new writing in the world. It is, without hyperbole, the best literary journal for fiction.’

Michael Yessis in World Hum:

‘I got my hands on a copy last weekend at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and loved what I’ve been able read so far, including stories by Don DeLillo and Aleksander Hemon, and Roger Ebert’s online-only piece A Bar on North Avenue. Also pretty great: Chris Ware’s cover.’

Dwight Garner in the New York Times Culture Blog, Arts Beat:

‘This decade’s great food writing glut, kicked off by Anthony Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential in 2000, hasn’t left many literary kernels unpopped… One thing’s been lacking: pointed, ground-level testimony about working inside those industrial food factories that the more philosophical writers have demonized… In the new issue of Granta - it’s the magazine’s special Chicago issue - the short story writer Thom Jones takes a step toward filling this gap. He delivers a rude, funny account of working the Betty Crocker Noodles Almondine line - anybody remember that stuff? - at a General Mills plant in Aurora, Ill. during the 1960s.’

Chris Cox in the Guardian Books Blog:

‘It's a collection of new writing about Chicago, a city that is stalked by the redoubtable ghosts of Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel. Its aim seems to be to prove that while those writers have created the Chicago of our imaginations – the roughest city going – there is still plenty left to be said.’

Gina Frangello in the Huffington Post:

‘Right now, Granta magazine’s Chicago issue is selling like gangbusters.’

Janet Potter in the Urban Coaster:

‘The various studies of modern Chicago life are solidly balanced by regional history – a stunning photo essay on urban housing, an essay in praise of Jane Addams, and a little known piece of local lore. Nobel Peace Laureate Wole Soyinka provides a detailed examination of Barack Obama’s place and potential in domestic and international politics, a scrupulously reasoned piece that should be read twice, and slowly. The juxtapositions to be found in the issue are endless... Granta makes no attempt to explicate or justify, it merely holds up a mirror – an extraordinary, nuanced, pitch-perfect, complicated mirror – to an equally complicated city.’

Chris Flynn on

‘San Francisco and New York are the touchstone cities of American literature, leaving somewhere less fashionable like Chicago out in the wind and rain, despite the fact Hemingway, Eggers and Obama all grew up there. Strangely, Chicago has found an unusual champion in UK lit journal Granta. [...] There's Pulitzer, Booker and Nobel prize winners a-go-go here, riffing on what a cool, corrupt, exciting and downright scary city Chicago can be.’

Granta 108: ‘Chicago’ is available to subscribers from September 22. Buy your copy here.