Blue in Chicago: And Other Stories (Paperback)
  • Blue in Chicago: And Other Stories (Paperback)

Blue in Chicago: And Other Stories (Paperback)

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Paperback 336 Pages
Published: 24/06/2021
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'One of the significant writers of her generation.' Saul Bellow

'Her prose is cooler than a cocktail and sharper than a Japanese knife . . . Nora Ephron meets Lorrie Moore, which is about as good as it gets.' Rachel Cooke, Observer

'We should be glad to have her back . . . Howland has the pinpoint vision that can make any sentence into a jewel.' John Self, The Times

Blue in Chicago brings together the bittersweet short stories of the remarkable American writer Bette Howland. Hailed as a major talent before all but disappearing from public view, this tenderly compiled collection restores her vital voice to our shelves.

Bette Howland was an outsider: an intellectual from a working-class neighborhood in Chicago; a divorcee and single mother, to the disapproval of her Jewish family; an artist chipped away at by poverty and self-doubt. Her stories radiate a passionate commitment to the lives of ordinary people and the humble grace of everyday.

From city streets to the hospital to the public library to the mundane family outing, her sly humour, aching melancholy and tender insight illuminate every page. Here is an astonishing literary voice rediscovered.

Blue in Chicago features an afterword by Honor Moore and was published in the US under the title Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage.

'Beautifully bittersweet . . . funny, ruefully poetic and effortlessly perceptive.' Daily Mail

'Captivating writing: rhythmic, alert, empathetic . . . I haven’t enjoyed another book more this year.' Telegraph

'Profound . . . To read Bette Howland is to be handed a gift you didn't know you needed.' Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781529035858
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 240 g
Dimensions: 197 x 131 x 23 mm


The work of a woman who has invested her life in her art, and who will, I think be remembered as one of the significant writers of her generation. - Saul Bellow

She holds the city's humanity in an uneasy but affectionate embrace, and her voice is unlike any other. Fiercely straightforward, honest, angry, warmhearted. - New York Times

Her prose is cooler than a cocktail and sharper than a Japanese knife. It’s zippy, witty and sometimes deeply sad: Nora Ephron meets Lorrie Moore, which is about as good as it gets. - Rachel Cooke, Observer

We should be glad to have her back . . . Howland also has the pinpoint vision that can make any sentence into a jewel you’d be proud to put on display. - John Self, The Times

Remarkable . . . Captivating writing: rhythmic, alert, empathetic . . . Cool satirical swing . . . I haven’t enjoyed another book more this year. - Telegraph

She sees those most of us like to forget: the impoverished, the old, the lost, forlorn and unhappy . . . Howland doesn’t shy away from the bloody sinews of life. Blue in Chicago is truthful, compassionate and absolutely devastating. - Lucy Scholes, TLS

These are stories both intimate and universal, populated with recognisable characters, from a grieving widower to overlooked delivery men and set in a busy, bustling world that is brought vividly to life. - Sarah Hughes, iNews

An ode to Chicago winters and the places that keep us warm when we have nowhere else to go. - Simon Han, Lit Hub

Howland’s sense of humor illuminates every page, and even her sharpest barbs glint with wisdom and humanity . . . Her lyrical passages approach not merely poetry, but something like the sacred, almost holy in their cadences . . . At last Howland’s claim has been re-staked, hopefully with a degree more permanence this time, for the rightful (after)life that awaits her work is that she be recognized as a Chicago writer of near-universal delight. - Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune

Loving, lacerating sketches . . . With her flexible stance toward reality, her eye for the amusing, curious, minutiae of existence, and her tonal range, Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin. - Harper's Magazine

Beautifully bittersweet . . . She’s funny, ruefully poetic and effortlessly perceptive - Eithne Farry, Daily Mail

Howland’s portrait of Chicago reminds us of how collapsed and violent inner-city life could feel in the 1970s. - Tessa Hadley, Tessa Hadley

Profound. A masterful, layered portrait of city life, womanhood and the chaotic beauty of families. To read Bette Howland is to be handed a gift you didn't know you needed. - Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

Sharp, wry, entirely of their city; confidingly cynical, then with a sudden soulfulness that sends you reeling - I loved these stories. - Lucy Caldwell, author of Multitudes

Blue In Chicago is a complex and incisive masterpiece but actually every paragraph of Bette Howland’s is a complex and incisive masterpiece. A phenomenal writer. - Nicole Flattery, author of Show Them a Good Time

Brilliantly percipient and darkly witty stories that go memorably and feelingly deep into life and come out with something like hard-won wisdom - David Hayden, author of Darker with the Lights on

Grippingly good . . . an insanely sane mix of the hard-to-fight city in the '70s and the accidental poetry of families stumbling through time. - Vogue

If there's a Howland bandwagon (and there should be), hold me a seat, or I'll stand. No problem, I'll stand. - Paris Review

The stories of Bette Howland return to you like friends met once in a dream—strange, familiar, roughing up the texture of your days. These are stories that defy classification, but seem as fresh and vital as though they were written last week. The revival of Howland’s work is one of the best things to have happened in recent memory. - Madeleine Watts, author of Inland Sea

This achingly beautiful book throbs with life, compassion, warmth, and humor; hums with an undercurrent of existential despair; and creeps into your soul like the slushy-gray-yellow light of a wintry Chicago morning. - Kirkus

That Bette Howland produced any books at all is a testament to her determination, for until she won the MacArthur she lived nearly always at or below the poverty line . . . Given such circumstances, one might assume that Howland’s writing would present a kind of literature of grievance, but one would be wrong. The energy in her fiction comes instead from a ferocious sense of engagement . . . A stubborn avidity crowds out despair. - Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal

There is the long slow boil of lives lived. There are lives, piled over top of and inside of, brushing up against one another . . . lives that perhaps the myopic mechanisms of fiction-writing have not often worked hard enough to make space for. - Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

Bette Howland's stories are built of wry, handsome, heart-wrecking sentences and rooted in a cool intensity of observation. Like Grace Paley, she writes about loss, poverty, aging, the friction of family, and failure—both personal and bureaucratic—yet the work is full of delight. - Kathryn Scanlan, author of The Dominant Animal

Whether you call it fiction or memoir, essay or reportage, Howland’s work manages to feel both rooted in its twentieth century milieu and absolutely at home among today’s genre-agnostic writing. - Laurie Muchnick, Kirkus

Howland’s eye is that of a camera. She sees the things most folk are in too much of a rush to notice . . . Comedy sparks on every page but so does something sadder. - Rosemary Goring, Herald

A perceptive, poignant and astute collection of stories from a 20th-century writer whose rediscovery is long overdue. - Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

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“Gorgeous Writing!”

Thank you to the publishers for this early review copy.
I had never heard of Bette Howland before but let me tell you this collection of short stories is a collection of gorgeous writing!
Relaxing, emotional,... More

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