Dream City by Brendan Short was brought to my attention by the author's father. My library had purchased it back in the fall when it was mentioned in the Chicago Tribune, but I did not put it onto my reading list until the author's dad, who is justly proud of his son, asked me if I too had gone to the University of Texas, as had his son. I had. I also told him that I thought the book was at that moment on display with the new books. When I later checked, it was and it occurred to me to try it.
Mr. Short said that the book was sad, and it was, but it was also very imaginative and thoughtful. The author pulls off a really difficult feat - creating an antisocial character with various vices who is still strangely likable. Readers are introduced to Michael Halligan as a boy with his mother pasting sheets of the Sunday comics onto the wall in his bedroom. While with her at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago in the 1930s, he encounters a man dressed as a super hero promoting Big Little Books, hardcover adventure series for boys. Thus begins a lifelong obsession that contributes to - full stop - I had better not tell what because that will give away the story.
Brendan Short takes the reader through many periods of Halligan's life from the 1930s to the 2000s, frequently jumping a decade or so to get pivital episodes. A subplot lets us also follow the life of an employee of the company that publishs the Big Little Books. All of the story is set in Chicago, its western suburbs, and southern Wisconsin. I particularly enjoyed reading about Lyons, La Grange, and Western Springs in earlier decades. I know exactly where Michael's apartment and his father's gas station were.
Mr. Short said that it took his son seven years to write the book. I think it was time well spent. I recommend this "hard to put down" book to libraries and readers.
Short, Brendon. Dream City: A Novel. MacAdam/Cage, 2008. ISBN 9781596923188.