These collected short pieces comment on Chicago’s North Shore, modern life, and other matters.
From 2015 through 2016, Lubow (Time Pieces: An Informal Memoir, 2016, etc.), a former ad agency creative director, wrote a column, “North Shorts,” for North Shore Weekend, a weekly paper covering Chicago’s northern suburbs. (It also ran on the Daily North Shore website.) Each piece is deliberately short to match today’s brief attention spans, providing “some observation or snippet of light news.” Lubow often begins by noting some particularity of North Shore life, which he expands to more general observations. For example, in “Back to the future,” the author evokes “a time when people on the North Shore saw movies at The Edens.” That theater closed in 1994 to make way for cineplexes, which are now being replaced by posh theaters with pre-assigned seats that offer more luxury but less freedom. Musing that “you can’t go back to the future,” Lubow remembers seeing the movie Back to the Future—at The Edens. This note of lightly ironic nostalgia characterizes many of the pieces. On occasion, the author makes intriguing associations, as with a Bruce Springsteen quote that launches a discussion of creativity and audience (“The connection”). But the short format precludes much thoughtfulness, and too often Lubow cuts off, sentimentalizes, or makes glib what might deserve a deeper exploration. For example, in “Siren song,” he writes about the arrival of urban coyotes and other wild animals, which he takes as a sign that the “wild west isn’t always west, but it’s always wild.” But these animals’ appearance in urban areas isn’t a sign that their populations are rebounding, wild and free; it’s an indication of habitat loss. Some columns offer conclusions so mild that they hardly seem worth noting: it’s good to reread favorite books; old memories can be incomplete; people have different opinions. While Chicagoland readers can enjoy Lubow’s hat tips to local sights and characters, the book offers fewer charms for outsiders, especially because the columns can still be read for free on the Daily North Shore website (jwcdaily.com).
Sometimes amusing, sometimes uneven, this book should appeal to Chicago readers.