In the spring of 1973, I was fresh out of college with a B.A. in English and a lot of uncertainty about what to do next. I wanted to live the literary life, one way or another. But I wasn't getting anywhere with my own writing and moving on to graduate school seemed like giving up. So when a friend of mine, an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, got his hands on a set of galley proofs of Kurt Vonnegut's upcoming novel, Breakfast of Champions, I decided I'd try to review it for one of the Chicago newspapers.
My friend, of course, laughed at me. The idea that a nobody with no academic affiliation, could snag an assignment from a major city newspaper to review the latest book by an important novelist like Vonnegut was beyond absurd.
But Vonnegut's novels are steeped in the absurd, so I took that as signal to proceed and queried Herman Kogan, who was then editor of the Chicago Sun-Times Book Week. I told him how I'd come to have a copy of the galleys, included an as-yet-unpublished review I'd written of a Charles Bukowski novel for a small literary magazine, and asked for the assignment.
I also told him that according to Vonnegut's new novel, free will was an illusion and that his decision would actually be determined by the microscopic chemicals that he took in with his breakfast that morning, so I hoped he'd had a great breakfast.
My review of that Charles Bukowski novel never did get published, but my review of Breakfast of Champions appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on May 13, and I went on to write a good number of reviews and articles for the book pages of various newspapers and magazines over the next 10 years.
In the early 80s, I put aside my literary pursuits and took up a new obsession when someone sat me down at a computer, but that's another story altogether.
Selected Articles and Reviews