You Were Never in Chicago (Paperback)

By Neil Steinberg

University of Chicago Press, 9780226104157, 247pp.

Publication Date: August 22, 2013

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Description

In 1952 the New Yorker published a three-part essay by A. J. Liebling in which he dubbed Chicago the "Second City." From garbage collection to the skyline, nothing escaped Liebling's withering gaze. Among the outraged responses from Chicago residents was one that Liebling described as the apotheosis of such criticism: a postcard that read, simply, "You were never in Chicago."

Neil Steinberg has lived in and around Chicago for more than three decades--ever since he left his hometown of Berea, Ohio, to attend Northwestern--yet he remains fascinated by the dynamics captured in Liebling's anecdote. In You Were Never in Chicago Steinberg weaves the story of his own coming-of-age as a young outsider who made his way into the inner circles and upper levels of Chicago journalism with a nuanced portrait of the city that would surprise even lifelong residents.

Steinberg takes readers through Chicago's vanishing industrial past and explores the city from the quaint skybridge between the towers of the Wrigley Building, to the depths of the vast Deep Tunnel system below the streets. He deftly explains the city's complex web of political favoritism and carefully profiles the characters he meets along the way, from greats of jazz and journalism to small-business owners just getting by. Throughout, Steinberg never loses the curiosity and close observation of an outsider, while thoughtfully considering how this perspective has shaped the city, and what it really means to belong. Intimate and layered, You Were Never in Chicago will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of all Chicagoans, be they born in the city or forever transplanted.


About the Author

Neil Steinberg is a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he has been on staff since 1987. He is the author of seven books, including Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life and Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora, and the History of American Style.


Praise For You Were Never in Chicago

 "[A] rollicking newspaperman's memoir . . . and a strong case for Second City exceptionalism."



“In this wonderful book, Steinberg weaves a poetic mosaic of his life and the life of Chicago—past, present, real, imagined. Like many of its citizens, he came here from elsewhere, drawn by its brawny allure. He lives in Chicago and Chicago lives in him.”—Roger Ebert

“I grew up in Chicago. And reading You Were Never in Chicago reminds me why I still think of Chicago as home even though I haven’t lived in the city for more than twenty years. Steinberg brilliantly explores the historical and contemporary city and how each of us makes (or loses) our way in it. Whether you're a native or you just arrived at O'Hare, read this book: it will make you feel at home in Chicago. Even better, it will you make Chicago yours.”

"Like Studs Terkel before him, Steinberg mixes memoir, history, and travelogue in You Were Never in Chicago as he takes readers along on an engaging tour of the characters—and character—of his adopted city, past and present."
-Kristin Baird Rattini

"[O]n display in You Were Never in Chicago, a memoir interwoven with local history just published by the University of Chicago Press . . . is [Neil's] curiosity, insight, amusing self-awareness and enormous talent."
-Eric Zorn

"Steinberg’s new book is a pleasing blend of what makes him and his city distinctive. You Were Never in Chicago is a sort-of memoir of his professional life, a kind-of love letter to the city—a scrapbook, as it were, of Chicago eccentricities. Unlike most columnists who get called 'humorists,' Neil Steinberg is a funny writer." 
-Andrew Ferguson

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