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I Sailed with Magellan: Stories

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  964 Ratings  ·  91 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Picador (first published November 15th 2003)
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Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
“But we didn’t, not in the moonlight, or by the phosphorescent lanterns of lightning bugs in your back yard, not beneath the constellations we couldn’t see, let alone decipher, or in the dark glow that replaced the real darkness of night, a darkness already stolen from us, not with the skyline rising behind us while a city gradually decayed, not in the heat of summer while a Cold War raged, despite the freedom of youth and the license of first love—because of fate, karma, luck, what does it matt ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After reading of Dybek's collection of novel-in-stories, I Sailed with Magellan, it is hard to resist the sense that contested dreams, memories and what remains unspoken between us are what most deepen the love we have for others and for ourselves. These dreams, memories, and secret thoughts and feelings may fuel our greatest creations; may turn us into endearing fools; or bring us luck; may make possible living on for another day; or grant us a long circuitous lifetime. Even if these memories a ...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
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Jan 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 Book Shop
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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...
Ryan Williams
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Worth it for the story 'We Didn't' alone.
Robert Palmer
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This is a book of eleven short stories ,it takes place in Chicago’s south Side in the 1950s—1960s it is a bleak and sad landscape populated by hard people,a few Italian mobsters and a few bag ladies, the stories are somewhat connected by a young “ Perry Katzek “a young Polish native of Chicago’s “ little village “,one of the many neighborhoods of Chicago,I grew up on the south side in the neighborhood of Hyde Park about a thousand miles from Little Village. In this book there is a lot of violenc ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
overall great, dreamy dybek. here dybek is nearly always writing about the difficulties of becoming an adult, either by translating childhood memories from their native language or through the agonies of early adulthood. these stories feel heavy, humid, densely minor key, but not overdone. the book wilts a bit at the end, drooping into sentiment and losing some of the sharp, almost pointy brilliance of dybek's descriptions. i wondered reading "the coast of chicago" whether the book reads the sam ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Chris Wolak
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this to remind myself of the form and lyricism of "We Didn't," which is still as good as ever, but I also got a refresher on how clearly Dybek captures setting. What I love best isn't his evocation of place, although the way he renders Chicago makes me feel that city more acutely than any of my visits to it ever have. No, I'm a sucker for how he gets at time, as in this sentence from "Orchids": "It was that lull in afternoon for which there's no name, when the streets seem composed of sha ...more
Chilly SavageMelon
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: francine-prose
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
Sep 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
May 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
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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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
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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.”
“We were sitting, no longer talking or touching, and I remember thinking that I didn't want to argue with you anymore. I didn't want to sit like this in hurt silence; I wanted to talk excitedly all night as we once had. I wanted to find some way that wasn't corny sounding to tell you how much fun I'd had in your company, how much knowing you had meant to me, and how I had suddenly realized that I'd been so intent on becoming lovers that I'd overlooked how close we'd been as friends. I wanted you to know that. I wanted you to like me again.” 1 likes
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