Friday, February 10, 2012

Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab by Dmitry Samarov, Aloes – The Definitive Guide by S. Carter, J.J. Lavranos, L.E. Newton, C.C. Walker

(University of Chicago Press) When I first saw Dmitry hanging out in rock clubs soberly and intensively drawing the bands during their sets I thought maybe he’d be a new Chicago rock scene  “character,” like Thax with his poems or Aadam with his taping or Sharkula with his CD-Rs. But to say Dmitry has proven to be more than Chicago’s answer to Beatle Bob is an understatement. The full-time cabbie is also somehow a fulltime blogger (mostly about his cabbie experiences), a full time painter (he seems to have a dozen shows a year of his amazing works, most recently still life portraits of books), a writer with several columns (included one on the White Sox), a WLS late night caller, and a good dude. Whew! This book collects Samarov’s portraits of shameful and/or noble and/or weary and/or drunken Chicagoans, a few memorable tourists, and our dark, sometimes snowy, good-and-bad accommodating city. He paints these vivid pictures through both expressive drawings that manage to have a gestural looseness and architectural weight at the same time, and through written vignettes that are insightful, heartbreaking, and deft in balancing a nonjudgmental deadpan with an insult comic’s incisive ability to find the caricature elements of real life people. I have read several (mostly self-published) books by cabbies, and generally they think the best stories are the ones with spectacular danger, sex, famous folks, or chaos. Samarov, like all cabbies, knows that the gig is about boredom, tedium, and the challenges and joys of the mundane realities of life. His pieces find the beauty and truth in non-adventures and nothing-happenedness.

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