You Were Never in Chicago

Neil Steinberg,

You Were Never in Chicago
 
 
This “rollicking newspaperman’s memoir” offers a personal tour of Chicago’s cultural history and makes “a strong case for Second City exceptionalism" (The New York Times).
 
In 1952 the New Yorker published a three-part essay by A. J. Liebling in which he dubbed Chicago the "Second City." From the skyline to garbage collection, nothing escaped Liebling's withering gaze. Among the outraged responses from Chicago residents was one that Liebling described as the apotheosis of such criticism: a postcard that read, simply, "You were never in Chicago."

The dynamic captured in this anecdote has always fascinated Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg. Now, in You Were Never in Chicago, Steinberg weaves his own story as a young outsider making his way into the inner circles of Chicago journalism with a nuanced portrait of the city that would surprise even lifelong residents.

Steinberg takes readers through Chicago's vanishing industrial past, exploring the city from the skybridge between the towers of the Wrigley Building, to the vast Deep Tunnel system below the streets. He deftly explains the city's complex web of political favoritism and carefully profiles the characters he meets along the way, from greats of jazz and journalism to small-business owners just getting by. Throughout, Steinberg never loses the curiosity and close observation of an outsider, while thoughtfully considering how this perspective has shaped the city, and what it really means to belong.


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