Where does a city end and the surrounding sprawl begin? Is it right at the municipal boundary, or is there seepage on either side of the divide? This has been on my mind because of what I’ve been reading and watching the past week. The Reader accepted pitches for reviews of the new John Wayne Gacy miniseries and Avner Landes’s Meiselman on the same day. So I got to work on both straight away.
I didn’t intentionally pair a TV show about an infamous serial killer and a debut novel about a put-upon young Orthodox Jew. It was only afterwards that I noticed both stories are set in the near Chicago suburbs. Gacy could’ve very plausibly done rehab work on buildings in New Niles (were it a real town), due to its proximity to his all-too-real Norwood Park home. And Meiselman——or his parents, given the timeline——might easily have passed many of Gacy’s favorite haunts on the way to O’Hare Airport, or even have hired him to entertain children at a birthday party as Pogo the Clown.
I know the difference between fact and fiction (on a good day). But the nearby geographical locations common to the true-crime show and the novel encourage the blurring of boundaries that have hovered around the outskirts of my mind as I’ve watched and read.
I told my friend, Frank, about the Gacy show when I realized he grew up just up the street from the murder house. He wrote back that he used to ride his bike down there when they were digging up the bodies in 1978.
My landlady grew up in the likely model for New Niles, Skokie, Illinois. I’ll probably give her my copy of Meiselmannow that I’ve finished it. There’s a shelf outside my back door where we leave each other food, holiday cards, misdelivered mail, etc.
This city and its environs is fertile soil for all kinds of stories, from the horrific to the hilarious, and everything in between.
—Two final excerpts from the new book were posted this week: “Ask for Rose” in Vol.1 Brooklyn and “Casanova at the Corner Bar” in the Chicago Reader. Was hoping to have the book here this week, but the printer says next week. To all who’ve ordered them, hang tight, I’ll get them to you ASAP.