Thursday, November 19, 2009

City on The Make

Just think and repeat the words “Da Bears, Da Bears, Da Bears.” Really open your mouth and use your lips. Do it real obnoxiously.

If you have ever seen the SNL skit of Bill Swerski’s Super Fans, then you can figure out a fun way to read Nelsen Algren’s Chicago City on the Make. If you have never seen the SNL skit, then google it and find the Hulu page; it’s definitely worth six minutes of your time. The clip should be able to give you an idea of an exaggerated Chicago accent that is really not too far from the truth. Chicago City on the Make seems to have this underlying accent that should accompany the beautiful prose that Algren wrote. Maybe not as intense an accent as the Super Fans, but an accent nonetheless. I would of loved to see how Algren read this. How did he pace it? Did an accent form while he read it? I know the deeper I got into the poem the more I felt an accent belonged to the words. Hemingway said, “you should not read it if you cannot take a punch.” How true that is, because the subject matter Algren sticks to is Chicago’s hustlers, thieves, mob men, cheating evangelists, barflies, con men, and so on. He doesn’t insult these men, but instead he praises them by writing this poem about them in their language, which was his language too. He writes about the Chicago he knows and experiences in his day to day life - a brutal beautiful place full of fast-talking, quick witted, con men looking to scoop up any money on the street or in your pocket, but also pour you a cup of coffee while discussing the Sox and Cubs. Algren displays the two sides of Chicago.

Chicago “forever keeps two faces, one for winners and one for losers; one for hustlers and one for squares…One for white collars as well as blue, for our museums like cathedrals and our cathedrals like museums for the windy white-and-blue miles of our beaches, the Saturday night moon excursions to Michigan City, the afternoon at the zoo washed into the mists of sunlit remembrance by a sudden warm, still rain; and for that night-shaded honkeytonk where Sherry Our Shivering Sheba shook the long-night’s last weary shake to twenty empty tables and one middle-aged pimp wheedling a deaf bartender for a final double shot.”

Chicago City on the Make was meant to be read out loud for everyone to hear. I feel you could open up to any page, start reading and allow a Chicago persona take over.

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