I’ve worked with Don Evans’ Chicago Literary Hall of Fame for many a moon. I even got to induct Shel Silverstein when Jon Langford couldn’t make it. But mostly I’ve designed postcards and posters.
Six years ago I hand-typed and illustrated a Stuart Dybek story for Independent Bookstore Day, so when Don asked for a poster for the Hall’s commemoration of that event this year, it felt like coming full-circle.
I love bookstores and books and Chicago, but I’ve never gotten the sense that I’m part of a larger literary scene or community. There are people like Don, or J.R. at Myopic, or Mandy and Katharine at Pilsen Community, who I’ve done stuff with. That Dybek project came about through someone at Open Books reaching out. But I’ve never had the sense of a continuum or anything enveloping or stable; an ecosystem of which I’m a part. It’s probably a defect of my personality.
I know that, to the small extent that people know my work, it is associated with this city. I feel proud when people say that. Like I’ve put in the time. But every morning, I get up and have to do my work alone. Making a poster connects me to whatever subject-matter it consists of——say, Independent Bookstore Day——but when that’s done, I’m back to being a guy alone in a room.
Maybe we’re all this way. You tell me. I went to a birthday party the other night where everyone else was part of the music scene. They had a way of talking to each other I couldn’t be part of. It didn’t make me feel bad or anything, just something I noticed. I tried to imagine a party where every guest is that way with me, but couldn’t fathom it. So, perhaps there is a vibrant Chicago literary/art scene that would welcome me with open arms if I knew how to ask. But I don’t know how to do that.
This past plague year has served to highlight how comfortable I am spending every waking hour alone in a room. It’s nice to be asked to do things, but if the offers stop entirely, there would still be a lot to do here. The walls aren’t closing in and I don’t feel left out. I obviously prefer it this way. But feel free to drop a line if you need something of the book or art variety. Or if you just want to tell me something. I always answer.
—I wrote about Avner Landes’ Meiselman.