Reading: An Unfinished Season

Chicago itself had a nineteenth-century identity, a noisy, unlovely city of iron and concrete, a city on the grab, fundamentally lawless, its days spent chasing money and its nights spending it; loveliness was always just beyond the point. The city had elbow room but God help you if you fell behind because there was always a more muscular elbow. The city was ruled by a half-dozen old white men to suit themselves. You were permitted to go about your business so long as your business didn’t interfere with their business. If it did, they invited themselves in. In its cosmic indifference, the city of Chicago resembled a mighty turbine, three and a half million souls oiling the gears and tending the works while the supervisors stood around reading the racing form. I was 19 years old and that was my view of things after my circus summer at the newspaper—an unlovely city, not unloved. I knew that wherever I would go in the world, Chicago was the place I would return to and recognize at once, its fedora pulled down over one eye, a wisecrack already forming in its mouth.
— Ward Just
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