“Paper Lantern: Love Stories,” Stuart Dybek
It was a great year for Chicago writing, with notable new books from Cristina Henriquez, Rick Perlstein, Rebecca Makkai and many many others. Unfortunately for them (at least in terms of this particular conversation), it was also one of those rare years in which Stuart Dybek published a book. (Two books, actually, as he simultaneously came out with another collection of stories, “Ecstatic Cahoots,” thereby increasing his published books of fiction by two-thirds in a single year of a seventy-plus-year lifetime.) Dybek has become the dean of Chicago authors, a writer’s writer, who’s as well liked in person as he is loved on the page. And loved he is: you cannot find a writer who won’t bring up his name in admiration when Chicago’s literary existence is invoked. Speaking of love, “Paper Lantern” is a collection of love stories, in which Dybek seizes back the greatest concern in the history of mankind from the bodice rippers too often married in the mind with romance. Of course, Dybek’s stories don’t necessarily conjure up romance, either, nor certainly happy endings. In Dybek’s world, in fact, the perishability of love, and life itself, means almost certainly unhappy endings. Dybek’s stories here are compelling meanderings, in a way he masters like no other as he gracefully shifts and pivots narrative around in such a manner that his reader ends up in a destination seemingly unimaginable at the outset of the voyage. And yet, deeply satisfied by the journey.
Audience Choice: Where To? Dmitry Samarov
Best of Chicago 2014