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Scribe Publications , May 3 2019

Scribe Publications, May 3 2019

Filling the Gaps

By Jonathan Carr

There can’t be many contexts in which it can be claimed, even metaphorically, that a famine is better than a feast. Yet when it comes to the source material accessed by a historical novelist, a dearth can often be more valuable than a glut. Take this reaction from the reader of an early draft of Make Me A City about the representation of a character called Eliza Chappell. Eliza, a schoolteacher, was depicted as being toothless by the age of twenty eight. Wasn’t that hamming things up? Would it make any difference, I asked, if you knew that Eliza Chappell was based on a real life figure, and that this detail about her was true? Yes, came the answer, it would. I, though, was not so sure.

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London Review of Books , March 30 2019

London Review of Books, March 30 2019

The Rambunctious Protagonist

By Jonathan Carr

I came across John Dos Passos’ novel Manhattan Transfer, set in New York in the early 1920s, when I was in my own early twenties. It is not an easy book to read. The pace is frenetic, its construction fragmentary with frequent narrative shifts and a changing cast of characters. But on that first reading, as I saw intratextual connections developing, I began to sense the presence of an overarching story to which each episode might be contributing. Whatever that story was, it wasn’t linear, logical or obvious.

About one thing, though, I was sure. Dos Passos had channelled many of my own responses to the city on a visit I had made there a few years earlier. Young and naïve, I had been overwhelmed by New York’s unceasing rush and noise, by its immense scale, and by that uniquely urban sensation of being lonely and alone among a multitude of strangers. Although Dos Passos had written about a different age, many essentials of city life remained constant. Indeed, his novel struck me as an attempt to cram the whole metropolis, in one go, between the covers of a single book.

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'Make Me a City': A chat with the author of a new epic about the founding of Chicago

By John Warner

I first met novelist Jonathan Carr almost 25 years ago when we were both studying creating writing at McNeese State University, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, under the tutelage of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler. Carr, an Englishman, has just published “Make Me a City,” a stunning novel about the first

hundred years of Chicago’s existence as a city. I had to pick up our conversation from a quarter-century ago about what’s so fascinating about the city we both love. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

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Chicago Tribune , March 26 2019

Chicago Tribune, March 26 2019


The Guardian , March 13 2019

The Guardian, March 13 2019

Top 10 books about building cities

By Jonathan Carr

A big city is rather like an overcrowded cruise ship, direction unclear, belching smoke, the lives of the many controlled by a few. Except that citizens are not, of course, on vacation. We have become a predominantly urban species. More than 80% of us, in Britain and the US, live in cities. So shouldn’t we know by now what makes them work?

Despite a changing world, many of the fundamentals have indeed stayed the same. There must be a viable economy, social inclusion, technological innovation, sufficient housing, clean water and sanitation. Growing cities require visionaries, inventors, engineers and a ready supply of immigrants. Inevitably, cities will breed crime, inequality, corruption and cause environmental degradation.

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