Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dybek dybbuk

I Sailed With MagellanStuart Dybek caught my attention 15 years ago with his Chicago settings and his quicksilver changes of scene, where staring at swirls of Pet milk stirs memory of a "Risky Business" encounter.

I found his "I Sailed With Magellan" at the central library 10 days ago before Brenda called me home to fix the furnace. Now it's a dreamy 50 degrees outside and protagonist Perry Katzek has developed as quickly as the thaw. The book's repertory cast and its dreamlike setting, simultaneously 1968 South Lawndale and present-day Little Village, leave marks of the writer's creation scattered about.

Like jazz, it's both rehearsed and improvised. I've enjoyed this type of writing since Charles Dickenson's "Rumor Has It" took a newspaper office where the writer and I both worked and made it his own private world.

"What part was real?" friend Temma asked after we saw the movie "Smoke" a decade ago. Except for maybe a photo of a Brooklyn tobacco shop, it was all smoke. "I Sailed With Magellan" seemed to conjure a neighborhood from clouds in the coffee.

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