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The Coast of Chicago

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,170 ratings  ·  204 reviews
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.
Paperback, 173 pages
Published April 3rd 2004 by Picador USA (first published 1990)
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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,170 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Sep 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Those were the days when the Belsen Street Pollacks came down the stairwells with their pockets filled with broken glass, an old Jew shouting out of the window, little Skip Kowalcyk reaching up to grab his fill of undergarments from the laundry lines - old Trouthead Mulvaney was on the mound for the Cubs, the smell of simmering beef heart and boiled tar in the air, Mayor Daley tapping the ash from his cigar as he rode by in his grand Buick, like some kind of pristine ocean liner, outfitted in br ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
The stories “Chopin in Winter” and “Blight” are magnificent and they reminded me of Jack Kerouac
“There seemed to be some unspoken relationship between being nameless and being a loser. Watching the guys from Korea after their ball games as they hung around under the buzzing neon signs of their taverns, guzzling beers and flipping the softball, I got the strange feeling that they had actually chosen anonymity and the loserhood that went with it. It was something they looked for in one another, t
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it
"The Coast of Chicago" is a lyrical short story collection about growing up in Chicago in the 50's and 60's--the poverty, the wild aimlessness of boyhood, those who escape the neighborhood and those who don't. Each longer piece is followed by a short-short, which was a fun pattern. Dybek adeptly captures the mood of the city, especially at night and in the winters. My favorite story in this collection is the simply gorgeous "Chopin in Winter," which is about a boy and his grandpa who fervently l ...more
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I’ve experienced that rare pleasure of hearing Stuart Dybek read his work—in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he is a sometime adjunct professor at Western Michigan University, and so sometimes, not at all often, has read to a large and hungry Kalamazoo audience, myself among them. That was poetry. Good stuff. Really good stuff. And so picking up this collection of stories about my favorite city, Chicago, and Dybek’s hometown, too, I knew I would be in for a street wise treat. Oh yeah.

Fourteen storie
Paul Sebik
May 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Most of these stories have a narrator looking back to the time of the story from an undisclosed or unimportant future vantage point. The way the character looks back indicates the story is vital memory(to the character's existence even). Dybek's vivid flashes of past come in layer upon layer, rendering the story into not just memory, but perhaps the most important time of these characters' lives. The sense of nostalgia is thick and alive--it's hypnotic at times, but slows the read a bit, too. Th ...more
Robert Palmer
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this short story collection when it was chosen for the " one book one Chicago " in 2004. I think the reason the story's resonated so much for me was that I know the neighborhoods,the streets and the people,which it so much easer reading than Dubliners by James Joyce.
The book really had me at the section titled "Nighthawks" a young man killing time at the art institute would always end his day viewing Edward Hoppers painting named Nighthawks.Dybek than brings the paint to life . The couple
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Blight is one of the best stories I've read in a long time, and in some ways its quality dampens the rest of the book for me. As a teacher of mine once said, "Stu really packs it in." A lot of the stories in this collection feel like novels. By the end so much has been seen and experienced that there's an ache for, but a satisfaction in knowing that it Dybek did it right.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. I lived in Chicago for a number of years and I am a catholic born in Eastern Europe so I can definitely relate to parts of what Dybek describes in this book. Stuart Dybek grew up in the South Side of Chicago. At the time, his neighborhood was an ethnic neighborhood full of poles, ukranians, czechs, etc. Most of the characters in the book still have customs coming from the old country, inherited prejudices, church going rituals, love for music, etc.

Most of the stories have a
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories even though I'm not sure that I understand a few of the endings since Dybek writes poetically. My favorite is Lights because I had totally forgotten about this childhood activity..."Lights! Your lights! Hey, lights!" Makes me smile every time I think about it. I also like the lines from Strays..."I never give any of them names. We don't know an animal's name. A name's what we use instead of smelling." Have no fear...I'll continue to name my pets ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you ever wanted to take a time capsule and go back in time to the Chicago South Side during the 60's and 70's, than this book will take you there. Dybek beautifully describes the lonliness and sadness of the back alleys of a working class neighborhood. I lived in the South Side, definitely during a different time, but he captured a feeling that I had while living there. You see fragments from that era on the street corners, and mixed in with the new culture that's taken over the South Side. I ...more
Jason Pettus
[Earlier this year, I had the honor of being asked to join the staff of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, specifically to help choose the honoree each year of the organization's Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement. 2018's recipient was Stuart Dybek, and I was asked to write a critical overview of his work for the accompanying program. I'm reprinting it in full below.]

It’s been a fascinating thing this month to read through the entire prose oeuvre of Stuart Dybek in chronological order for the
Simon A.
Aug 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I finally read this one. I know a lot of Chicago writers point to this as the definitive collection of stories about Chicago and the vibrant characters that inhabit it. I liked it. I really did, but i didn't love it like I wanted to. The thing that kept me from truly loving it was that while Dybek is a very lyrical, poetic writer, his stories sometimes lack focus and momentum. Many of his stories are ABOUT characters and ABOUT places and ABOUT tragedies without actually diving full-in and allowi ...more
Adam Dalva
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it
A good collection - especially for Chicagoans. It's extremely front loaded, with the first two long stories really standing out (in the 4.3-4.7 range). All the short vignettes are great, and the last piece is good, but the book is dragged down, I think, by Nighthawks, a long story suite that feels a bit forced around the theme of the Nighthawks diner.

Dybek is also a poet, and the book is beautiful on the line-level, but it works best when he takes on tangible reality, especially from the perspe
Michael Joseph
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What Algren did to a generation of Chicagoans Dybek did to me, years late, barely lauded, like every truly great thing about Chicago. Underground by default by defiant and brilliant, brash but not at their mother's table. My mother's table is long gone but I was there in this book. Listening to Chopin although I've never really heard Chopin. On drugs with Manny although I've never done those. In the ice with that woman. On that train in Pet Milk. I'm beaming and this collection is the force in t ...more
Mar 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Melody by: Kelly
Smoky, atmospheric short and short-short stories. Pet Milk is a standout, while some of the short-shorts left me cold. Dybek has a singular voice, that isn't exactly haunting but is... well, muscular. Overwhelmingly male but not in a swaggering way.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Strong, soulful, often enchanting collection of stories from Chicago's gritty Southwest Side.
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Quite simply, the prettiest writing on a sentence by sentence level. The word choice is sublime.
Dana Jerman
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c-h-i-c-a-g-o
A fantastic collection. If you've been to Chicago, you know there's something for everyone there. Same here.
Ivan Labayne
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
So I won’t keep myself from doing this, even only for my stubbornness against the Formalist school, trumpeting organic unity, problematizing it even prior to the potential readings: for what I have went through in the earliest of February 25, 2012 include almost the first half of Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago and consummating the threshold pronouncing that I am through Saramago’s Blindness.

For Dybek, which I happened to own only two days ago, and who is being compared to Hemingway and Joy
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dybek's collection of stories is engaging. Music plays a role in many of them. Chopin played int he houses of the neighbors in "Chopin in Winter." In that story Mrs. Kubiac's daughter, Marcy, who studied music in college, came home pregnant and she remembered the narrator as a little boy crying alone in his bedroom at night and said she could hear what his mother did not. Marcy played the piano at night. The story was also about the narrator living with "Dzia-Dzia," his grandfather, whose rememb ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Why did no one tell me about Stuart Dybek before? These stories were extraordinary. Just as a writer I found the quality of his prose alone making my little heart beat faster, these stories are breathtaking. But these are also stories of a working class kid growing up in a fucked up but well-loved Catholic, half Polish half Mexican neighbourhood. A view and a voice that is all too rare, and perhaps explains why no one has told me about Stuart Dybek before. It involves memories, beauty, urban myt ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
A two and a half star review would have been appropriate for this book, I decided to round up instead of rounding down. If you remember reading and enjoying short stories in high school or college, this might be the book for you. Just be forewarned that unless you are really interested in what life was like in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods of Chicago in the 50's and 60's you are going to finding reading this book to be extremely tedious as about 75% of the book's short stories are ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great read. The language was a standout for me - simple, fluid and often poetic. Having never visited Chicago (Southside or otherwise), I had no connection to the place. Over the course of these stories, I picked up a strong sense of time, place, identity and loss. I think all the stories are well worth reading but my personal favourites were Pet Milk, Chopin in Winter, Farwell, Blight and Hot Ice. If you enjoy good writing and well-told stories, the Coast of Chicago is a place for man ...more
A student, who was reading this in her English class this semester, recommended this book to me after we discussed Edward Hopper's Nighthawks in class. As it happened, she had totally misinterpreted the story (inspired by the painting) as it occurs in the book, but I still enjoyed this evocative, poetic collection of short (some short-short) stories about a city where I've enjoyed spending time.

Reading Challenge Tags: #11, written from multiple people's perspectives; #12, passes the Bechdel test
Mark Greenbaum
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's a soulfulness to the writing, as though every story were running through the head of a mournful person lying in bed, under the covers in the dark, running through his vivid memories and his regrets, and this gives much of Dybek's writing a warmth. And his prose and his description are light Faulknerian, also Carver-like in their loneliness and the depth he plumbs with such simple language. Still, there aren't a lot of standouts here and the themes seem to repeat over and over. 3.5/5
Colin Brightwell
May 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Boring, trite, pretentious. Dybek has been published in a lot of places. That's probably because he's a "safe" writer who doesn't really take risks. I didn't feel anything from him. I felt bored to tears and skimmed through most of his longer stories here because there are things on my shelf to read that WILL make me feel something. Feel like this guy has his head so far up his that he thinks his crap pretentious prose don't stink like a truck-stop bathroom.
Dave Barie
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There’s a great many books that try to capture the essence of Chicago as it was in the memories of those who lived through its evolution. The torch must have been invisibly passed from Algren to Dybek because that same magic is here on nearly every page. None but these two can make your heart long for the decrepit alleys, abandoned lots, and the El the way they do.
Katherine Shaw
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Listened to pet milk on New Yorker fiction podcast and now want to read the rest.

Beautiful concrete sensory description.

“Our plans for the future made us laugh and feel close, but those same plans somehow made anything more than temporary between us seem impossible. It was the first time I’d ever had the feeling of missing someone I was still with.”
Jason McKinney
These stories have a 70s/80s aura to them and so feel sort of dated at this point. The gems include Chopin in Winter, Blight, and Nighthawks. I didn't end up finishing Hot Ice because though the plot is different, it felt like the characters and setting are almost identical to Blight. I didn't feel like this was a great collection, but it's certainly readable enough.
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This is the second selection for Chicago History Book Club and I am super excited to talk about it. It reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver and that whole late 80s/early 90s era of short story lyrical realism. I especially enjoy Dybek's micro-stories, although I think Nighthawks was my favorite of the bunch.
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Short Story lovers: Stuart Dybek's Death of the Right Fielder 16 52 Jan 11, 2015 04:28PM  

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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
“Our plans for the future made us laugh and feel close, but those same plans somehow made anything more than temporary between us seem impossible. It was the first time I’d ever had the feeling of missing someone I was still with.” 156 likes
“Love, it’s such a night, laced with running water, irreparable, riddled with a million leaks. A night shaped like a shadow thrown by your absence. Every crack trickles, every overhang drips. The screech of nighthawks has been replaced by the splash of rain. The rain falls from the height of streetlights. Each drop contains its own shattering blue bulb.” 9 likes
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