Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories
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Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  234 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 t...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published October 15th 2003 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1980)
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Dybek draws you in with stunningly evocative tales of slavic Chicago in the '50s and '60s. The blue collar ethnic, Catholic culture he draws from was just a few miles west of my Southside childhood but might as well have been on the other side of the world. The writing is as rich and raw as the duck's blood one of stories' many unfortuate children must procure for his ailing grandmother. (And mention of poultry reminds me to tell you pigeon fans that there are plenty of those.) The landscape is...more
Tim Storm
Ever read James Joyce's "Araby"? Dybek's stories are a lot like that. They have a nostalgic feel. Many of them are written from the perspectives of children/adolescents discovering new aspects of their worlds--namely, the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago. These are places that may still exist, but surely not as described by Dybek, who writes of yesteryear. These kids inhabit a sort of wonderland (a time/place that no longer exists); as a result, the stories have a fabulist feel even though most o...more
These stories, all set in Chicago, are arranged in an arc from youngest protagonist to oldest, and then the last two--probably the most emotionally powerful--are again about young, abandoned boys. The specific setting is usually one of the South Side neighborhoods of poor Polish and other Eastern European immigrants. The stories were originally written/published in the 1970s, and they are set in decades prior to that one.

Dybek's mastery of gritty imagery--smells, sights, sounds, textures--of wor...more
Benjamin Obler
Fantastic short story collection. Launched straight into my Top 10 of all time. Chicago's streets, immigrant lives, dreamy America, beautiful eccentricities. This is a vivid world painted with Dybek's unique pallet. His prose is so accessible and so exceptionally crackling without being showy or inauthentic like you sometimes get in Wells Tower, for example. Dybek never trips over himself. As a writer, I may just sit down and chart how he starts sentences; he has wonderful variety and rhythm. "V...more
Rachel Hermans Goldman
This was my first reading of Dybek's debut collection of short stories, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Although these stories do not gut me as much as his later works, particularly my favorite of his collections I Sailed With Magellan, his prose throughout these stories definitely makes you itch to go and write. As always, I love Dybek's ability to cultivate memorable settings, especially his knack at keeping place vivid and present throughout a story.

One of the most inspirational aspects o...more
David Schaafsma
My teacher in the MFA program at Western Michigan University, graduated 1984. I went there from Grand Rapids to work specifically with him after reading this book, then his poetry that I didn't like quite as much, and every story I could get my hands on. He admitted me to the program after a pitcher of beer at a K-zoo bar; I had sent him a couple of my stories, but we never talked about them, we just told stories of Michigan. He had read the stories, he said, as we left for our cars, and liked t...more
This collection was a game changer for me. I was beginning to study writing fiction, and working it out for myself, when along came this book. I have first edition, with its green dustjacket, that I had Stu sign for me when I first met him. It was the first time I connected with material about Chicago that wasn't Sister Carrie, or the like. I remember reading the first story in the collection sort of breathlessly -- seeing where the characters were running, what it looked like -- the grassy lots...more
Heather June Gibbons
Thus far, "The Wake" is my favorite story. The one about the two little boys trying to find goose blood for grandma's soup was pretty memorable, too.


What a strong debut collection-- can't wait to read his more mature work. In terms of range and tone and tenor, these stories all live in the same register and share a lot in terms of plot and theme too-- versions of the hero's journey, loss of innocence, etc.. But Dybek's take on these these familiar elements, within the vivid and even lurid set...more
I first heard of Stuart Dybek through reading an interview with George Saunders and since I work in a library (“well, then why does he seem so god-DAMN stupid?!!”) I popped right up and snagged this one and I’m happy I did. I think of palatski (a treat that I can only imagine, having Googled it and found myself frustratingly directed back to the source of my question), chicken blood, and pervert ushers lurking in nightmare theaters when I think of this.
Eliza T. Williamson
Once again the amazing Hester recommended an author to me that can do in his prose with effortlessness what I struggle to achieve in a sentence. Dybek writes brave, true, seedy and poignant stories about growing up--that alternately mena and vulnerable time when you can get away with nothing and everything and want to evaporate and be noticed. The stories are all set in Chicago which adds an element of grit and danger specific to urban life.
I've read Coast of Chicago and I really liked it, but this collection didn't do as much for me. There a couple great stories, but a few drift a little too far into the surreal/absurd for my personal tastes. But, having said that, he's still one of the best short story writers in the business and I'm looking forward to reading I Sailed with Magellan.
Stuart and my dad were friends growing up, so a lot of his short stories are like looking into my father's childhood, even if they might not actually be his own stories. However, "The Long Thoughts" is an exception~ as my dad is a core character in this particular story (Vulk). Stuart is a very talented writer and I personally appreciate this story. :)
Karen Alexander
An interesting group of short stories linked largely through place (Chicago) and sometimes local lore/peripheral characters. Perhaps not Dybek's best work, or rather most memorable, but an impressive first collection for its cleanness and occasional beautiful observation.
gorgeous stories, gorgeous imagery, low plot - when you're dealing with kids' world, it's easy to get by on low plot since everything is steeped in attention and meaning. lush characters, strong & believable voice-- it's incredible this was dybek's first collection.
Nov 11, 2009 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in Chicago
So far there's been a story about a hobo camp and one about a dying grandma from the old country who sends her grandson out to buy a jar of duck's blood to make soup with. Stuart Dybek won the MacArthur Genius Grant last year, and I'm quickly discovering why.
If you are curious about this one, check out what I had to say about Dybek's other book, The Coast of Chicago. I don't really write about individual stories but I can't really remember which ones were in which book in any case.
This doesn't quite have the compression of his later work, but all the talent, all the pieces and parts are there. Dybek's neighborhoods are cold, dark, part horror movie and part blood soup. There are few happy endings here.
Jul 26, 2011 Diana added it
I will have to check this out, thanks for the recommendation.

But first my cousin gave me a few Gunter Grass books to read and they are thick.
Lovely stories set in Chicago and starring Polish immigrants and their descendants. Lovely magical realistic quality.
Wonderful slice of life stories. How an ordinary life can seem so miraculous.
Really interesting, and often disturbing, collection of Chicago stories.
Astonishing insights into the life of the child, from a little-known master.
Loreen Niewenhuis
the city of chicago is a wonderful character in these stories
The Apprentice, from this collection is a fantastic short story.
Lovely stories from the bard of Chicago.
Beth Shields-Szostak
Aug 11, 2011 Beth Shields-Szostak marked it as to-read
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Stuart Dybek has published three short story collections: Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed With Magellan; and two volumes of poetry: Brass Knuckles and Streets in Their Own Ink. He has been anthologized frequently and regularly appears in magazines such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine and the Paris Review.

He has received numerous awards, incl...more
More about Stuart Dybek...
The Coast of Chicago: Stories I Sailed with Magellan Streets in Their Own Ink: Poems Brass Knuckles Paper Lantern: Love Stories

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“Sometimes, in a tight game with runners on, digging in at short, ready to break with the ball, a peace I'd never felt before would paralyze the diamond. For a moment of eternal stillness I felt as if I were cocked at the very heart of the Midwest.” 4 likes
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