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Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Public Library officials today announced that Neil Gaiman’s novel, Neverwhere, is the 20th selection for Chicago’s city-wide book club, One Book, One Chicago.
“Since I’ve been Mayor, I’ve worked hard to encourage Chicagoans to make reading a priority in their lives -- which is why a program like One Book, One Chicago is so important,” Daley said in a news conference held at the Harold Washington Library center, 400 S. State St.
“We look at it as a way to bring people together in all our neighborhoods and to foster the kind of communication that can only help make Chicago a better place to live,” he said.
Neverwhere is a fantasy novel. Neil Gaiman is a prolific author who works in many genres -- nonfiction, film, comics, young adult and children’s fiction, fantasy and more -- and whose work includes Newberry Medal winner The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys and The Sandman comics. He boasts more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter.
The book tells the story of Richard Mayhew, an office worker in London who, after helping a young woman lying injured on a sidewalk, has his existence completely erased. He is subsequently pulled into the haunting and fantastic world of “London Below,” populated by people and things that have “fallen through the cracks” of the world above. He undertakes an unbelievable journey full of unforgettable people, creatures and places, all the while hoping to return to “London Above” and to normalcy.
Daley pointed out that when he became Mayor, many libraries were housed in small, rented storefronts with limited book collections and no technology. Hours of operation were not consistent and there was no Sunday library service.
“But thanks to the efforts of many people working together, we have been able to create rich book collections in our more than 70 locations, hire and train professional staff for all libraries, add state of the art technology to all libraries and build and open 55 new or renovated libraries since 1989,” the Mayor said.
“Millions of Chicagoans who had poor or nonexistent library service in the past, now embrace their libraries as community anchors and places of lifelong learning,” he said.
Chicago Public Library librarians have created a resource guide for Neverwhere and will conduct book discussions across the city at neighborhood libraries. Thousands of Chicagoans are expected to participate in additional discussions, lectures, readings and events.
As a special feature of the programming, Neil Gaiman will participate in two free public events. On April 12, at 6:00 p.m., he will be joined by acclaimed Chicago author Audrey Niffenegger for a conversation on stage at the Harold Washington Library Center’s Cindy Pritzker Auditorium; on April 13 at 7:00 p.m., he will give a solo talk and reading at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago.
Additional events include:
- A discussion of modern fairy tales between authors Lydia Millet (How the Dead Dream) and Kate Bernheimer (editor of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, to which Gaiman was a contributor) on April 7 at Harold Washington Library Center;
- A full reading on April 11 of Lifeline Theatre’s stage adaptation of Neverwhere, which received rave reviews from critics as well as the author himself when it was produced here in May, 2010;
- An exploration of the possibility of parallel universes (such as London Above and London Below) with popular physicist Lawrence Krauss on April 20 at the Harold Washington Library Center;
- A Neverwhere-focused tour of Chicago’s Pedway with guide Margaret Hicks.
DePaul University is offering a variety of One Book, One Chicago related events, including a discussion of the rise of the graphic novel and a Neverwhere-themed art contest. And once again, DePaul University’s English Department is offering a ten-week course, “Literature and Social Engagement – Chicago’s One Book: Issues and Perspectives,” a course dedicated to the close study of the current One Book selection taught by Rebecca Johns Trissler.
- Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia will connect young adults with Neverwhere, related books, technologies and cultural events through a series in interactive workshops.
“Chicago’s place in the global economy and the quality of life in our city will be determined in large part by our children’s ability to read with comprehension,” Daley said. “One Book, One Chicago reminds us we can’t just tell young people reading is important -- adults must set the example.”
The 2011 Spring One Book, One Chicago is presented by the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Public Library Foundation, and Allstate. Partners include DePaul University, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the Illinois Science Council, Chicago Humanities Festival, Park Hyatt Chicago, as well as Chicago Public Radio and the Chicago Tribune.
Past One Book, One Chicago selections
have been To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee; Night
by Elie Wiesel; My Ántonia
by Willa Cather; A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry; The Things They Carried
by Tim O’Brien; The Coast of Chicago
by Stuart Dybek; In the Time of the Butterflies
by Julia Alvarez; The Ox- Bow Incident
by Walter Van Tilburg Clark; Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri; Go Tell It on the Mountain
by James Baldwin; The Crucible
by Arthur Miller; The Long Goodbye
by Raymond Chandler; The Right Stuff
by Tom Wolfe; The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros; The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City
by Carl Smith; Brooklyn
by Colm Tóibín; and A Mercy
by Toni Morrison.
The Harold Washington Library Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library and Conrad Sulzer Regional Library are open 7 days a week, the branch libraries are open 6 days a week and patrons can access all of the Library’s collections online 24 hours a day. For more information about One Book, One Chicago, please visit the website or call the Chicago Public Library Press Office at 312.747.4050.