Down the Block
by Peter Zelchenko October 23, 2009

At 7 p.m. tonight, several local writers will be at Quimby's, 1854 W. North in Wicker Park, reading from Margaret Larkin's new anthology Down the Block.

Margaret is humility personified. Not only does she live in an unusually humble way with her husband Del on the Gold Coast (they're not at all well off), but she's a bookish, quiet, bespectacled, small, humble woman who doesn't try to call attention to herself, who clearly underestimates herself.

She also writes a very popular blog called Metrolingua, a humble treatise about language and its usage. It's fascinating in the way William Safire was fascinating about the subject when he wasn't being a fascist. It's been praised in the Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere.

(Fascist, incidentally, derives from the Roman fasces, the large poleaxe bundled with branches and originally symbolizing authority in ancient Rome. And, by the way, Mr. Safire died September 27. We've just lost one of America's great journalists and language experts.)

What else about Margaret? You may not know it, but you've probably heard Margaret's voice many times before. This quiet woman -- who speaks in a humble way -- is the spunky and engaging female voice behind most of the advertising on WGN Radio 720. Isn't that weird? I still can't believe it! Margaret's got a power like the radio equivalent of ducking into a phone booth. It's the oddest thing, and she never even talks about it. If it were me, you know I'd talk about it.

Margaret's no fascist, she's a local treasure, and she recently published this interesting treasury of urban writers that would be a fun read even if my writing were not in it (at the end). Anthologies are hard to produce, and she did this one singlehandedly. Here are a few excerpts:

"Looking back, I realize that Bucharest was never mine, fickle lover capable of deep betrayals for which you swore never to forgive her, only to succumb again to her charms, to be yet once again chewed and kicked out through the back door into a dark, dirty alley." --From "The Two Bucharests" by Cristina Hanganu-Bresch

"So there I was one cool, crisp night, on the side of one of the busiest streets in Guangzhou, China, wrestling with a vagrant." --From "Sods in the City" by Jordan McVeigh

"You begin to understand why you are here in this place that reduces all energy and plans to a nervous pacing. The creepiness of Zamboanga [Philippines] is not just a relic of the distant past -- it is a clarifying glimpse of the present, and maybe the future." --From "City of Flowers" by Hugh Iglarsh

"Another thing that never slowed down in L.A. was time. It rushed by like a great vacation you don't want to end. Living in L.A. was like being on a permanent holiday. You could blame it on the weather, the scenery and the attitude of the people." --From "One Day in L.A." by Sharyn Elman

(Strange. I seem to be one of the few who wrote about Chicago.)

"It was not very far from Lincolnwood, from a small bridge on Pulaski Road, where I first spotted and then followed his moccasin prints into the moist river bank. ...His favorite hunting and trapping grounds were a good two miles due north from the main trail now known as Milwaukee Avenue. His French -- spoken with a kind of nasal flatness -- was quaint and antiquated." --From "Just Visiting" by Peter Zelchenko

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