David Parr, actor and magician with the Magic Cabaret, is mesmerized by:

Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel At the recent Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, I met Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, who introduced me to their book Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel, a beautiful, lavishly illustrated hardcover volume that perfectly combines my childhood fascination for robots with my grown-up interest in history. The book depicts a slightly altered reality in which a humanoid robot called Boilerplate was present for key historical events from 1893 through 1918. Along the way, much of the book is devoted to legit history—the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the beginnings of the labor movement, the outbreak of the Spanish-American War—but in this alt-reality, Boilerplate is a part of the timeline, showing up in photos and handbills and editorial cartoons, looking endearingly fantastical and, at the same time, strangely enigmatic. If you happen to be a history buff with a fondness for retro-futuristic wonders, this book will flip your switch.

Reginald Torian


Hermene Hartman, editor in chief and publisher of
N’Digo magazine is feeling nostalgic about:

The south-side music scene Last Sunday, Reginald Torian, the lead singer for the legendary group the Impressions, released a new tune, “Woke From a Dream.” It premiered on Rick Odell’s program dedicated to Chicago music. Mr. Torian’s voice is a smooth falsetto reflective of Curtis Mayfield. I thought about how the “soul sound” that originated in Chicago—with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Buddy Guy, Gene Barge, Lou Rawls, Etta James—is often confused with Detroit’s Motown. It made me think about the clubs that used to be on the south side that the guys like Mick Jagger visited to learn from the Chicago greats. Jagger visited Theresa’s Lounge and recorded at Paul Serrano’s studio on 23rd Street. He gained voice and moves. Where did the clubs of yesterday go and will they ever come back? I miss the record stores and the jocks introducing new music and the blue-light parties where you listened to your jams. Where did it go? Why did it leave?


Dario Maestripieri, University of Chicago professor and author of
Games Primates Play is mulling over:

The Farewell Party The Sandmeyer’s Bookstore on Printers Row—my favorite independent bookstore in Chicago—has a great selection of European literature.

I recently read Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera’s The Farewell Party (aka The Farewell Waltz) and enjoyed it immensely. In a small spa town somewhere in Europe, the lives of seven characters searching for happiness become intertwined over the course of five days. It’s a tale of ambition, morality, and deception, and of the eternal quest for happiness. The characters take turns and dance with one another in a literary waltz orchestrated by Kundera.

The Farewell Party is probably one of Kundera’s most structured and well-polished novels. It doesn’t have all the philosophical digressions that characterize Kundera’s other books, like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and it shows all of his craftsmanship as a novelist. The Farewell Party is to Milan Kundera what the film Match Point is to Woody Allen, a film in which Allen leaves aside all of his typical autobiographical references, neuroticism included, and simply shows his craftsmanship as a director.

[Maestripieri signs Games Primates Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships Tue 5/15, 6 PM, at Barnes & Noble, DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson.]