Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Stuart Dybek  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Born: 1942 in Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Dybek was born and raised in Chicago's Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods in the 1950s and early 1960s. Currently, he is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Dybek is the author of three books of fiction: I Sailed With Magellan, The Coast of Chicago, and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Both I Sailed With Magellan and The Coast of Chicago were New York Times Notable Books, and The Coast of Chicago was a One Book One Chicago selection. Dybek has also published two collections of poetry: Streets in Their Own Ink and Brass Knuckles. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic, Poetry, Tin House, and many other magazines, and have been widely anthologized, including work in both Best American Fiction and Best American Poetry.After teaching for more than 30 years at Western Michigan University, where he remains an Adjunct Professor of English and a member of the permanent faculty of the Prague Summer Program, Dybek became the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Brass Knuckles (Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary Series: Poetry)
ISBN: 0887484158

Carnegie Mellon. 2004

The poems in this powerful first book have grown from the American urban experience of the last half of this century, a time of decay and diminishing possibilities

they vary from realistic vignettes of working-class Chicago neighborhoods to prose poems elegant and spare in their surrealism. At the middle of this book and at the thematic center of the collection is Dybek’s remarkable reworking of the myth of Persephone, in which the American goddess learns to prefer the underworld and has fallen in love with Death.

Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories
ISBN: 0226176584

University of Chicago Press. 2003

In Stuart Dybek's Chicago, wonder lurks in unexpected places—in garbage-strewn alleys, gloomy basement apartments, abandoned rooms at the top of rickety stairs periodically rumbled by passing el trains. Transformed through the wide eyes of Dybek's adolescent heroes, these grimy urban backwaters become exotic landscapes of fear-filled possibility, of dreams not yet turned to nightmares. Chronicling what happens when Old World faith meets the dark side of the American dream, Dybek's poignant stories of coming of age in Chicago alternately appall, amaze, and just simply entertain.

The Coast of Chicago: Stories
ISBN: 0312424256

Picador. 2004

The stolid landscape of Chicago suddenly turns dreamlike and otherworldly in Stuart Dybek's classic story collection. A child's collection of bottle caps becomes the tombstones of a graveyard. A lowly rightfielder's inexplicable death turns him into a martyr to baseball. Strains of Chopin floating down the tenement airshaft are transformed into a mysterious anthem of loss. Combining homely detail and heartbreakingly familiar voices with grand leaps of imagination, The Coast of Chicago is a masterpiece from one of America's most highly regarded writers.

I Sailed with Magellan: Stories
ISBN: 0312424116

Picador. 2004

Following his renowned The Coast of Chicago and Childhood, story writer Stuart Dybek returns with eleven masterful and masterfully linked stories about Chicago's fabled and harrowing South Side. United, they comprise the story of Perry Katzek and his widening, endearing clan. Through these streets walk butchers, hitmen, mothers and factory workers, boys turned men and men turned to urban myth. I Sailed With Magellan solidifies Dybek's standing as one of our finest chroniclers of urban America.

Streets in Their Own Ink: Poems
ISBN: 0374529914

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2006

"Streets in Their Own Ink . . . has a gritty realism infused with a sense of the marvelous." --Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post


In a city like that one might sail
through life led by a runaway hat.
The young scattered in whatever directions
their wild hair pointed and, gusting
into one another, they fell in love.
-from "Windy City"

In his second book of poems, Stuart Dybek finds vitality in the same vibrant imagery that animates his celebrated works of fiction. The poems of Streets in Their Own Ink map the internal geographies of characters who inhabit severe and often savage city streets, finding there a tension that transfigures past and present, memory and fantasy, sin and sanctity, nostalgia and the need to forget. Full of music and ecstasy, they consecrate a shadowed, alternate city of dreams and retrospection that parallels a modern city of hard realities. Ever present is Dybek's signature talent for translating "extreme and fantastic events into a fabulous dailiness, as though the extraordinary were everywhere around us if only someone would tell us where to look" (Geoffrey Wolff).

Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories
ISBN: 0374280509

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014

In this remarkable collection of bite-size stories, Stuart Dybek, one of our most prodigious writers, explores the human appetite for rapture and for trust. With fervent intensity and sly wit, he gives each tale his signature mix of characters―some almost ghostly, others vividly real―who live in worlds tinged with surreal potential. There are crazed nuns hijacking streetcars, eerie adventures across frozen ponds, and a boy who is visited by a miniature bride and groom every night in his uncle's doomsday compound. Whether they are about a simple transaction, a brave inquiry, a difficult negotiation, or shared bliss, the stories in Ecstatic Cahoots target the friction between our need for ecstatic self-transcendence and our passionate longing for trust between lovers, friends, family, and even strangers.
Call it micro-fiction or mini-fiction, flash fiction or short shorts. Whatever the label, the marvelous encounters here are marked by puzzlement, anguish, and conspiratorial high spirits. In this thrilling collection, Stuart Dybek has once again re-envisioned the possibilities of fiction, creating myriad human situations that fold endlessly upon each other, his crackling prose drawing out the strange, the intimate, and the mysterious elements in each.

Paper Lantern: Love Stories
ISBN: 0374146446

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014

A new collection of short stories by a master of the form with a common focus on the turmoils of romantic love

Ready!
Aim!
On command the firing squad aims at the man backed against a full-length mirror. The mirror once hung in a bedroom, but now it's cracked and propped against a dumpster in an alley. The condemned man has refused the customary last cigarette but accepted as a hood the black slip that was carelessly tossed over a corner of the mirror's frame. The slip still smells faintly of a familiar fragrance.

So begins "Tosca," the first in this vivid collection of Stuart Dybek's love stories. Operatically dramatic and intimately lyrical, grittily urban and impressionistically natural, the varied fictions in Paper Lantern all focus on the turmoil of love as only Dybek can portray it. An execution triggers the recollection of a theatrical romance

then a social worker falls for his own client

and lovers part as giddily, perhaps as hopelessly, as a kid trying to hang on to a boisterous kite. A flaming laboratory evokes a steamy midnight drive across terrain both familiar and strange, and an eerily ringing phone becomes the telltale signature of a dark betrayal. Each story is marked with contagious desire, spontaneous revelation, and, ultimately, resigned courage. As one woman whispers when she sets a notebook filled with her sketches drifting out to sea, "Someone will find you."
Some of Dybek's characters recur in these stories, while others appear only briefly. Throughout, they―and we―are confronted with vaguely familiar scents and images, reminiscent of love but strangely disconcerting, so that we might wonder whether we are looking in a mirror or down the barrel of a gun. "After the ragged discharge," Dybek writes, "when the smoke has cleared, who will be left standing and who will be shattered into shards?" Paper Lantern brims with the intoxicating elixirs known to every love-struck, lovelorn heart, and it marks the magnificent return of one of America's most important fiction writers at the height of his powers.


Awards

-- Among Dybek's numerous awards are a PEN/Malamud Prize "for distinguished achievement in the short story," a Lannan Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, several O.Henry Prizes, and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award.I Sailed With Magellan

New York Times Notable Books

Society of Midland Authors award for adult fictionThe Coast of Chicago

New York Times Notable Books

One Book One Chicago selectionChildhood and Other Neighborhoods

Society of Midland Authors award for adult fiction