Gangsters, Hustlers, and Nobodies Nobody Knows Dreiser, Algren, Liebling, and Bellow on Chicago

Three Wednesdays, September 30 and October 14, 28, 12:30–2:00 P.M. | Compass Bank Building, Second Floor, 2001 Kirby at San Felipe

Chicago and Houston were both founded in 1833, but Chicago’s birthplace in the geographic and economic center of the United States fostered its rapid growth in size and importance. By the Columbian Exposition of 1893, it was a world city and its great art was its architecture. The literary culture of Chicago was mostly the local color naturalism of forgotten writers like Hamlin Garland, Robert Herrick, and Henry Blake Fuller, but this tradition culminated in Chicago’s first great novel, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1905). Between Dreiser and Saul Bellow, there was James T. Farrell, who wrote the Studs Lonigan trilogy and set the tone for tough guys and ethnic types like Nelson Algren whose Chicago: City on the Make (1951) has the swagger and unavoidable sentimentality Dreiser avoided. With Algren’s short book, we’ll also glance at A. J. Liebling’s Chicago: The Second City (1952) for a New Yorker’s take on things, then on to Bellow’s The Dean’s December (1982), which poses Chicago’s racial violence against conditions in Communist Bucharest--an important book of the Cold War, a daring conceit on Bellow’s part, and a slice of his autobiography. Bellow writes as a Chicagoan, a Jew, a Nobel Laureate, and as an American with a clear eye on European culture—not so much as an immigrant as an heir. There’s no time to read Farrell, but we will discuss Dreiser, Algren, and Liebling on the first day, and then Bellow.

Terrence Doody, professor of English at Rice University, has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Mellon Foundation, as well as several prestigious teaching awards.



Upcoming is Spring 2018! 

West Side Story: Leonard Bernstein at 100
Two Wednesdays, March 21 and 28, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Private residence directions to subscribers
A few seats available


Farming Wonders in Richmond, Texas
Saturday, March 24
Details to subscribers
A few seats available


What's on Lisa Falkenberg's Mind
Tuesday, March 27, 6:30-8:00 P.M. | Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, Hermann Park, 1500 Hermann Drive, 77004


Gorbachev: His Life and Times
Monday, April 16, 6:30-8:00 P.M. | The Junior League, 1811 Briar Oaks Ln, 77027
Co-sponsored with World Affairs Council of Houston


Behind the Pages: A Conversation with William Middleton 
Tuesday, April 24, 6:30-8:00 P.M.


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