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I Sailed with Magellan
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I Sailed with Magellan

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  707 ratings  ·  78 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Picador (first published November 15th 2003)
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Chicago List
10th out of 15 books — 4 voters
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Books Set in Chicago
215th out of 286 books — 231 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sometimes you tear through a book in one day; other times, it takes years. Either way, it could end up as one of your favorites. I read the first four stories in I Sailed With Magellan several years ago. I got sidetracked, most likely by college, and never finished it--although I enjoyed it. At the time, I probably would've rated it like 3.5. More importantly, though, I just forgot about it; and when I saw it on my shelf, I didn't feel the slightest urge to pick it up and read it.

Then, last mont
with expectations so high after Coast of Chicago-I couldn't believe that Magellan surpassed it. I truly enjoed Perry's threading through the narrative. It was like listening to stories of extended families and communities where I have to pause to remember the relationship of my Mother's cousin's husband's best pal that ended up falling into a dumpster after golfing all day and drinking through the night-only to stumble off the path back to the Chrystler into the dumpster. I am incrediby biased t ...more
David Gallin-Parisi
Dybek writes love stories about southside Chicago. He tells stories like snapping tons of quick photographs, rushing depictions images of Polish families shopping during Sunday mass, saxophone bleating uncles, war veterans drinking while bartending, and intense moments of fleeting love. These are beautiful stories, filled with sensual experiences, even when characters are riding in old cars or listening to El pass them by in tiny apartments. Or maybe even more sensual because of those sounds and ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Keegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
A few years back, I had the fortunate opportunity to have lunch with Stewart Dybek (though it's unlikely he'll remember it as much as I did). He was quite delightful during the meal as we talked about his work, my past delusions of being a creative writer, and my current studies at SIU-C.

So, flash-forward several years, and I finally get around to reading I Sailed with Magellan, his follow-up to Chicago Stories, with which I was more familiar. Regardless, my brief and pleasant encounter had not
alexsandar hemon name checked dybek as a great and influential writer to him in his recent occasional memoir The Book of My Lives and one can tell right off why. dybek is fantastic, and he conjures the old chicago neighborhoods of polish czech mexican black puerto rican russian packed in the strictly, though invisible (most everybody was terribly and equally poor, cept the rich banksters), demarcated territories. dybek uses smells and sounds as much as dialog and characterization and plot to bri ...more
I wonder if the dominance of bildungsroman narratives in the shnovels (linked books of short stories) I've surveyed indicates a modern realization about the nature of growing up. It isn't linear or clean, a smooth line of story unspooling over years, and the collage approach of books like Local Girls and this one seems a better fit for our current understanding of memory and childhood.

At any rate, a bildungs-shnovel is more or less what this is; along the way, a portrait of place and yet another
Mar 30, 2008 kasia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to kasia by: John
While there was no single story in this collection that I loved as much as my favorites from Coast of Chicago, I think that overall, this is probably the better book. The echoes between the stories, for some reason, really distracted me, although they probably would be more appropriately seen as a masterful interweaving of stories. I read the book over the course of several months, which I think was wise, because when I read the last 100 pages in one big push, I found myself rolling my eyes a bi ...more
Gerry LaFemina
Stu Dybek is one of the best writers in America today--he's a writer's writer, but he's also a reader's writer. he writes with the cadence, phrasing and eye of a poet. But his characters are real, their dramas unique and poignant, the plots engaging and interesting, and the prose is all together lovely.
Maple Street
Dybek's been called Chicago's James Joyce over and over again, and every collection he puts out gets hailed as his Dubliners. Unlike most of my favorite writers, dude does not shy away from love stories. This book made me knee-bucklingly nostalgic for stuff I never came remotely close to experiencing.
The blue boy story captivated me completely. Others were good, minus Breasts. Dybek entranced me for the first time when I read Chopin in Winter from his other collection, The Coast of Chicago. Hot damn, I read that story in 2000 and it still rattles me when I think about it 13 years later.
My friend Brian turned me on to Dybek with story "PET Milk." It stuck with me, as do the stories in this collection.
Dybek has a gentleness, a backdoor entrance to the rapture room. Man, I'm flamin' away here...
Sep 22, 2007 Garth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chicagoans
"Like the Joyce of Dubliners, Stuart Dybek writes with an exquisite sense of place and an amazing sensitivity to the dreams and dislocations one encounters in the borderland between childhood and adulthood. His last work of fiction, The Coast of Chicago, is one of my favorite books, and I approached I Sailed With Magellan with high expectations. If The Coast of Chicago, with its unified setting, its young-to-old chronology, and its careful patterning (alternating short stories with lyrical “shor ...more
I have to agree with what is printed on the back of this book, courtesy of the LA Times: "Dybek's gift - a considerable one - is a sorcerer's ability to comix the commonplace and the grotesque..." Dybek can very much do that. He takes a simple day, and mixes into it the mystical, imaginary, fantastical... the grotesque. Everything. And he still makes it tangible, real, accessible. Maybe even more so. His description is spot on, in the way that things so specific are.

My only trouble with the sto
Dreamlike collection of stories that take place in Chicago, a young boy, Perry and his brother, Mick, exploring life in the city with lots of familiar places. The local details made it fun, full of imagination and places i know and love. A bit weird at times, and rambling on in strange directions, but overall a good slice of childhood in Chicago.
Chilly SavageMelon
I was turned on to Dybek through a reading of one of his stories on Selected Shorts. This collection didn't disappoint. The strongest story is most likely Breasts, though Que Quieres left me with a longing to meet a character like the brother, and Orchids is really good as well. And the first one, Song, has to make you smile.

Stylistically, he reminds me a bit of Thom Jones, but that might actually be more a matter of theme. He is very much "his own" writer, carrying in the tradition of loner mal
Some of the stories interested me and others did not and felt excessively prolonged. My favorite was "A Minor Mood" as it perfectly described the nuances I remember when I was once a member of the marching band surrounded by the scents, sights, and sounds of the university band room. Some of the stories read a little crass, but that is due to the perspective of the character telling the story and only reflects the author's ability to spin a story well. While I do appreciate the author's vocabula ...more
Chris Wolak
Took me back to scenes from my own childhood in a predominantly Polish neighborhood that was full of taverns and changing fast with the times (born in Chicago, grew up in Cicero). I enjoyed the honesty of scenes such as the one where "alkies" fighting is good for kids because change invariably flies from their pockets, or how a son, an 8th grader at the time, is alarmed by his father's "general obliviousness to gang etiquette in the neighborhood." Such vivid detail creates a strong sense of time ...more
Jill Schepmann
"Suddenly it's clear to him that memory is the channel by which the past conducts its powerful energy; it's how the past continues to love."
This is a book for boys. I'm sorry to dismiss it in that way, but it was written by, for, and about boys. Women (or girls) only ever appear in its pages as sex objects. (There's a whole short story just called "Breasts," about men/boys' amazing experiences with them. Grrreat.) I guess that's fine if those are the stories you need to tell, but I'd rather not waste my time reading them. (*The only reason I picked up this collection is because it appeared on Francine Prose's list of Books to be Rea ...more
This is somewhere between a 3 and 4 star read.

Structurally, this is a really fascinating book. It's a novel in stories, which functions on two levels: each chapter is a short story and the stories work together to form a larger image--which I believe is tremendously hard to pull off. The downside is that there were stories or places within stories that lost my interest, which probably speaks more to taste than literary ability. Dybek is no doubt a gifted writer. The structure and style of this
Interconnected stories about Chicago. sometimes I didn't totally understand how the stories connected. All in one neighborhood or one family in the neighborhood - I guess.

I think I heard Dybek speak at a ALA program in Chicago which would have been appropriate and also would explain why one story seemed very familiar.

My favorite story was "We Didn't" which may be the one that was read to us.

Worth reading if you like short stories - much of it was serious, but there were definitely some funny bit
I think Dybek is, sometimes, brilliant. There are few short story writers that I am interested in, and I'm always interested in his work. "If I Vanished," which was published in The New Yorker this past summer, was a gorgeous and haunting piece of fiction. Lovely and thoughtful and strange.

However, this collection is like a warm-up--it's not his real work, not his real triumph. It's valuable to see it, to witness him learning and making his way though stories. But I anticipate much greater thin
Oct 10, 2007 Therese rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Short story readers and Chicagoans
I loved this book from the beginning. I identified with each passage of his youth having grown up in Chicago, with the exception that he was a male. He has the ability to clearly describe images and even smells that were indigenous to Chicago city neighborhoods in the 60's and 70's. From the well know "street people" to first loves. It was about "coming home", growth, hard-working middle class people and life in the big city. He quietly reminded us that Chicago is the "heartbeat" of the midwest.
Jun 24, 2007 lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you'll never guess. that's impossible to do
This is a wonderful, wonderful, book of short stories that somehow, inexplicably, add up to one of the most compelling and weirdly linear works I've ver cried my way through. Right. On that note, I've never wanted to repeat the experience of laughing and crying and laughing and crying (repeat) the way I did after finishing "I Sailed with Magellan." If you like Edward Falco, you'll love anything by Stuart Dybeck, but this is by far my favorite.
I read this book shortly after moving to Chicago, and, at the risk of sounding corny, it really helped me foster a sense of connection to my new city. Now, having lived here for a little over a year and preparing to move again, my appreciation for these stories and their strong sense of place has only grown. It's definitely something I'll want to take with me when I leave. Plucks all kinds of heartstrings.
I should explain the one star. The writing is very good, in a few places it is truly beautiful, but I know nothing of Chicago's south side and I found most of the stories boring, even though there is a lot of violence, sex, and profanity. If I was a male and familiar with Chicago, it might have been enjoyable. It did not capture my interest and I only finished it because our book club chose it.
Dybek is, without a doubt, one of the best living American authors. Blurring the lines between memory and imagination, Magellan is full of haunting, magical stories about growing up in Chicago.

Note: It gets a bit to graphic with some subject matter for my taste, but if you can wade through that kind of stuff, there's a lot to be learned from his writing.
Tom McDade
Every story a winner, especially when Uncle Lefty is involved or mentioned!
These linked short stories, about Perry Katzek and his array of friends who grew up in Chicago's fabled South Side, shows Dybek's range for voice, tone and lyricism. Dybek chronicles urban America through specific detailing of the environment and characters. Gritty humor, irony and song play throughout each of these South Side tales.
If you want to live vicariously as a precocious boy growing up in the city, this book can create an alter ego for you. So great! And it's good that Dybek is documenting all of the great Chicago institutions before they're all gone (Field's...Berghoff...etc.)--- ugh. Fun and imaginative stories. Quick read.

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  • The Stories (So Far)
  • Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
  • Believers: A novella and stories
  • Searches and Seizures
  • The Wonders Of The Invisible World
  • Collected Stories and Later Writings
  • Escapes
  • Vintage Baldwin
  • Doting
  • Novels & Stories 1959 - 1962: Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories / Letting Go (Library of America #157)
  • Selected Poems
  • The Collected Stories
  • Paris Stories
  • A Life in Letters
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Story of a Life
  • The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library Paperbacks)
  • Persian Nights
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 about Stuart Dybek...
The Coast of Chicago: Stories Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories Streets in Their Own Ink: Poems Paper Lantern: Love Stories Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories

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“I recalled the afternoon when the two of us stood beating erasers, and Camille confided that she'd done penance for stories - stories that I'll never know if she wrote or only imagined writing. She'd wanted me to tell her a secret from my dreams, a secret from my dreams I hadn't had as yet, and so I didn't quite understand what she was after.
"It's about feeling," Camille had insisted.
I didn't understand then that she was talking about risk.”
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