Blue in Chicago

And Other Stories

Bette Howland author


Publisher:Pan Macmillan

Published:9th Jul '20

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Blue in Chicago cover

The bittersweet, sharply observed stories in Blue in Chicago introduce British readers for the first time to Bette Howland, a forgotten great of twentieth-century American fiction, perfect for fans of Lucia Berlin, Lydia Davis and Alice Munroe.

'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.' Observer

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

'Remarkable . . . 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

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. * 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 * The i *
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 *
Howland’s portrait of Chicago reminds us of how collapsed and violent inner-city life could feel in the 1970s. -- Tessa Hadley * LRB *
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
Beautifully bittersweet . . . She’s funny, ruefully poetic and effortlessly perceptive * Daily Mail *
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 *

ISBN: 9781529035827

Dimensions: 216mm x 135mm x 30mm

Weight: 488g

336 pages