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A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago   By: (1894-1964)

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A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago by Ben Hecht is an extraordinary collection of newspaper columns that captures the essence of 1920s Chicago. Each article is a vibrant snapshot of the city's diverse inhabitants and vibrant neighborhoods. Hecht's writing is infused with humor, wit, and an uncanny ability to illuminate the hidden stories that unfold in everyday life.

One of the book's greatest strengths lies in Hecht's gift for storytelling. His characters, whether they are politicians, gangsters, street vendors, or ordinary citizens, leap off the page and come alive in vivid detail. Hecht's knack for dialogue is particularly impressive, capturing the distinct voices and quirks of his subjects. Through his pen, the city of Chicago itself becomes a character—a complex, contradictory, and endlessly fascinating entity.

What makes this collection truly remarkable is Hecht's ability to balance the trivial with the profound. In each column, he manages to capture the soul of Chicago, delving into the joys, sorrows, hopes, and frustrations of its inhabitants. Hecht's keen observations offer a valuable insight into the human condition, shedding light on themes such as love, ambition, prejudice, inequality, and the struggle for survival.

Moreover, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago is a powerful historical document. Hecht's columns provide an intimate look into the city during a time of great social change. The rapid industrialization, the impacts of Prohibition, and the rise of organized crime all find their place within these pages, laying bare the deep-rooted challenges faced by the people of Chicago.

Although written almost a century ago, Hecht's prose remains timeless and relevant. His sharp critiques of societal issues and his unwavering dedication to truth-telling resonate as strongly today as they did in his own time. Hecht's writing reveals a deep empathy for the human experience, and a commitment to using his talent to give voice to those who are often marginalized or unheard.

While A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it is not without its flaws. At times, the sheer volume of characters and stories can be overwhelming, making it difficult to keep track of each individual's narrative. Furthermore, Hecht's style—rich in slang and colloquialisms—may prove challenging for readers unfamiliar with the time period. However, these minor issues do not detract from the overall brilliance of the book.

In conclusion, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago is a literary gem that transports readers to a bygone era. Ben Hecht's ability to capture the spirit of his city and its people through his artful storytelling and incisive commentary is nothing short of remarkable. This collection will undoubtedly leave readers both enlightened and entertained, painting a vivid portrait of one of America's most dynamic cities.

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E text prepared by Eric Eldred, Clare Elliott, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



Ben Hecht


It was a day in the spring of 1921. Dismal shadows, really Hechtian shadows, filled the editorial "coop" in The Chicago Daily News building. Outside the rain was slanting down in the way that Hecht's own rain always slants. In walked Hecht. He had been divorced from our staff for some weeks, and had married an overdressed, blatant creature called Publicity. Well, and how did he like Publicity? The answer was written in his sullen eyes; it was written on his furrowed brow, and in the savage way he stabbed the costly furniture with his cane. The alliance with Publicity was an unhappy one. Good pay? Oh yes, preposterous pay. Luncheons with prominent persons? Limitless luncheons. Easy work, short hours, plenteous taxis, hustling associates, glittering results. But but he couldn't stand it, that was all. He just unaccountably, illogically, and damnably couldn't stand it. If he had to attend another luncheon and eat sweet breads and peach melba and listen to some orator pronounce a speech he, Hecht, had written, and hear some Magnate outline a campaign which he, Hecht, had invented ... and that wasn't all, either... Continue reading book >>

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