Event Review: Gothic and Horror Fiction Open Mic Night

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Hannah Cantafio reads at the Gothic & Horror Open Mic Night.

by Taylor Spies, contributor to the Underground

The Gamma Psi Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the National honor society for students majoring in English, held a Gothic and Horror Fiction Open Mic Night on the third floor of Arts and Letters Hall on Monday, October 30th at 6pm. The event was small, but the intimate environment was perfect for ghost stories.

Chapter President Bintou Sy began by greeting those that had gathered and introducing Associate Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Program, Jennifer Conary. Conary gave an overview of the origins of the gothic novel and how we interpret the genre today. It was easy to tell that Conary was passionate about her topic, and her warm voice invited the audience to become intrigued by the gothic, stating, “Gothic novels offer physical manifestations of psychological horrors or fears.”

The first reader, Hannah Cantafio, read a short story from the novel Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, published in 2005. “Dog Years” follows a rich and mysterious wheelchair-bound man. Her words came quick and clear, painting the picture the author created.

The next reader was Assistant Director of Graduate Programs, Janet L. Hickey. Hickey read from The Book of Irish Weirdness by Mairtin O’Griofa, published in 1997. The book showcases short stories by well-known authors. Hickey read “The Judge’s House” by Bram Stoker. This was quite a step back in time as the story was originally published in 1891. However, the story had gotten no less eerie with age, and, followed a student renting out a house rumored to be haunted.

Assistant Professor Bill Johnson González read the next piece, a chapter from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, published in 1984, titled “Geraldo No Last Name.” This piece varied strikingly from the traditional Gothic. González expressed his attempt to find a piece of gothic writing by someone with a Latino or Hispanic background.

Associate Professor and Chair Michele Morano gave the final reading. She read excerpts from a short story by William Faulkner, published in 1930, titled “A Rose for Emily.” This story follows an eccentric lady whose behavior grows increasingly odd as she ages. She never marries, refuses to pay taxes, and dies in the same old house she was born in. It isn’t until after she has been buried that her house is investigated and the truth about her past comes out. The story’s shocking conclusion was the perfect ending to the night. The stories read drew the audience in. One became aware of Halloween’s approach, the dead leaves swirling outside, and the quickly growing darkness.

Event Review: Planet of Microbes with Ted Anton

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by Albora Memushi, contributor to the Underground

Ted Anton’s latest book release, Planet of Microbes: the Perils and Potential of Earth’s Essential Life Forms, was hosted in the Arts & Letters building at six in the evening, on Thursday, Oct 26. The lecture hall was filled with students and faculty.  Rebecca Johns-Trissler presented Anton in a brief bio. Anton’s previous publications include The Longevity Seekers (University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Bold Science: Seven Scientists Who Are Changing Our World  (W.H. Freeman, 2000, Paperback: 2001). His book Eros, Magic and the Murder of Professor Culianu (Northwestern University Press: 1996) won the Carl Sandburg Award and was a finalist for a Book Award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Music was heard from backstage as Anton walked in playing the trumpet. The audience applauded frantically. Dressed in a blue t-shirt and blue khakis, Anton smiled as he played. He thanked the students and his colleagues for helping him shape the book. Anton had prepared a PowerPoint, and he took the audience through an hour-long presentation about his research.

He spoke about the ways our lives might depend on microbes. “The same chemicals that can kill us can also save us. Most of our antibiotics come from microbes,” said Anton.

“How many microbes are on earth?” he asked the crowd. Someone shouted, “Can you give us multiple choices?” As some guessed the answer, Anton said, “There are actually 10 to the 30th power, which is more than the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; if you line them up they would extend from earth to the sun and back two hundred trillion times.”

Anton ended his presentation by reading a snippet of his book. The passage spoke about the NASA conference in Chicago and Anton’s thoughts as an observer, writer, and a scientist as he faced the greatness of life among the fellow L commuters in the downtown district.

Anton completed his presentation by playing the flute and taking questions from the audience.

Upcoming presentations of the book will be hosted at Columbia University, University of Chicago, and others.

Event Review: Career Panel on Editing

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By Caitlyn Ward, contributor to the Underground

On Wednesday, October 18 in Arts and Letters Hall, the English department held a career night featuring a panel of editors. Wendy McClure, senior editor at Albert Whitman and Company, Kate DeVivo, VP at Agate Publishing, and Donna Seaman, editor for Booklist and the recipient of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism, shared what it takes to make it in the world of editing and publishing.

Wendy works in children’s publishing, Kate in developmental publishing, and Donna in the world of book reviews; each career requires passion and creativity. Seeing these women talk about the love they have for their jobs reassured me that this was a field in which I want to work, and hearing about their different backgrounds inspired me to think about all the different career paths an English major can take. Each woman spoke highly of the challenges that come with editing and how each day was a small puzzle in making sure that this book, magazine, or textbook goes out into the world to positively impact readers.

Donna spoke about the need to be inventive, critical, and curious when evaluating any piece of literature. The panel also touched upon the importance of dabbling in different areas of publishing. For instance, you might go from working on cookbooks to working on children’s books, and each experience will add to your understanding of the publishing process. After listening to this panel of women, I took away a valuable lesson: have passion. Whether it’s love for an author, a genre of literature, or a project you hope to work on, a love of English is a must. Seeing three publishing professionals so enthusiastic about their work was inspiring and has made my love of literature, as well as my respect for those who work to bring new books and ideas to readers, grow.

Event Spotlight: Visiting Writers Kathleen Rooney, Martin Seay

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by Robert M. Keding
contributor to the Underground

Packed in to a small meeting room in DePaul’s Richardson Library, a large audience gathered to hear authors Kathleen Rooney and Martin Seay read selections from their newest novels, and then answer questions on their creative processes and experiences within the literary world.

Martin Seay’s book is entitled The Mirror Thief, and follows three different con artists working in sixteenth-century Venice, 1950s Venice Beach, California, and modern-day Las Vegas in the Venice Casino. This bold debut novel, weaving together these three seemingly separate but mysteriously linked narratives, is a masterfully written tale, evoking comparisons to such work as Cloud Atlas.

Seay’s advice to aspiring writers is to do a lot of background research, especially for period pieces like The Mirror Thief. “Even if you have the facts and details right, you still have to make sure the dialogue flows correctly too. Otherwise you might just end up with characters that sound like the people faking British accents on the subway,” he told the crowd. To get the sixteenth-century portions of the story sounding right, he found himself reading a lot of literature of that time—especially Shakespeare.

Kathleen Rooney spoke about her recent novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. This is her second novel, and was just published by St. Martin’s Press in the first weeks of 2017. The story chronicles an aging Lillian, going for a stroll around New York City and recounting various moments during her life, from humble beginnings to a career as the highest-paid woman in American advertising.

Rooney’s advice touched on the differences between writing prose and poetry, another realm of literature which she is invested in. “It’s possible to accidentally sit down and write a great poem. It’s a task so durationally shorter and full of so many chances for happy mistakes… It is, however, much more difficult to sit down for an hour or two and come up saying, ‘Whoops, I just accidentally wrote a really well-crafted novel!’” The room, undoubtedly filled with aspiring writers, could certainly relate.

Be sure to look for The Mirror Thief and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, in bookstores now.

Just in Time for Halloween: A Review of the Annual Clarke House Edgar Allan Poe Reading

Shari By Shari Guenther, Contributing Writer for The Underground

This past week I had a great desire to embrace the season and fall full-force into the Halloween spirit. After doing some research on Chicago Halloween attractions, I came across a unique experience: the Edgar Allan Poe Reading at Chicago’s historic Henry B. Clarke House Museum.

I knew this event was not to be missed because:

a) it was a fitting literary event for the holiday season,

b) I actually know where the Clarke House is, ensuring I wouldn’t get lost (which happens frequently for me),

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The man himself.

and c) I absolutely love Edgar Allan Poe! His stories are so truly terrifying even for our day and age. Poe’s tales are all about our inherent fears, guilty consciences, and events that cannot be explained using rational thought. Edgar Allan Poe is the father of American Gothic horror stories–the perfect author for a spooky night!

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The Clarke House Museum: photo credit Michael Beasley, cityofchicago.org

The Clarke House is a stunning Greek Revival style mansion located on S. Indiana Avenue. It sits right by the Glessner House, another beautiful and historic Chicago mansion. Being a museum first and event center second, we were allowed a short tour of the first floor.

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A room at the Clarke House: photo credit James Caulfield, openhousechicago.org

Built in 1836, the Clarke House is one of the oldest mansions in Chicago and certainly gives an air of scare when walking through the door. I immediately felt transported back to the time Edgar Allan Poe would have been writing the stories, poems, and tales I would hear later that evening during the reading. Most of the furniture at the Clarke House is antique. When remodeling they tried to stay true to the era, making it the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe reading.

At 5:00 p.m., three readers—actors from the Lifeline Theatre—came out in front of the audience. And actors they were! They put such emphasis and vigor into their readings that it felt as if they were acting out a script. Their delivery and tone perfectly captured the terror in each of Poe’s legendary tales! Each actor read two stories each on their own and two additional stories using more than one actor. The actors also used a book to read from, which initially disappointed me. But when they truly brought the story to life how can I complain of their method!

Seven spooky stories and poems were selected from Poe’s numerous works:

“Alone” — This 22-line poem about the torment of isolation is thought by many critics to be autobiographical.

“Hop-Frog” — After a cruel king humiliates a captured dwarf and strikes another, the dwarf institutes his own brand of revenge. Let’s just say things get a little weird, even for Poe.

“The Cask of Amontillado” — Catacombs, revenge, and a live burial: the perfect tale to read this Halloween!

“A Dream Within A Dream” — Poe’s poem asks whether it is as easy as one might think to distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy.

“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” — Only the great E.A.P. could write a comedic story that takes place in a mental institution.

and two of my absolute favorites:

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A Harry Clarke illustration from the 1919 edition of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

“The Raven” — This popular poem is classic Poe, and will have you wondering just what could rap at your chamber door this Halloween night.

and “The Tell-Tale Heart” — Guilt is certainly eating away at the narrator’s sanity in this spooky Poe tale about murder and what exactly is making that thump-thump sound coming from the floorboards….

The event ended at 6:30 and kept you entertained down to the last minute. All in all this was an outstanding Halloween occasion who anyone with a love of good horror stories will enjoy. The Clarke House did require a reservation for this event, which surprised me a bit. They had limited seating, about 25 or 30 seats, and every single seat was filled. Admission was $25–not exactly a cheap excursion for a college student on the ramen noodle diet–but well worth the dough because of the quality of the event. For those of you looking for a good literary scare come next October, I highly recommend you make a reservation for the 2014 Clark House Edgar Allan Poe Reading!

For more information about the Clarke House Museum, check out their Facebook page today. If you’d like to tour this Chicago gem for yourself and get a small glimpse of what I experienced, the Clarke House offers tours to the public Wednesday through Saturday at noon and 2:00 p.m.