Conglomerations and Creative Ripples

Some moments make creative ripples in the Universe.

They may be quiet affairs of a half dozen or less people. They may be large gatherings, well-publicized and documented for posterity. Sometimes all we have are whispers, hints of an evening in letters and diaries.

• In the 1930s, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the other “Inklings” met on Thursday evenings in C.S. Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College. They also met on Tuesday nights at the Eagle and Child pub (affectionately known as the “Bird and Baby”) in a private back room for conversation and drinks.

• In Paris in the early 1900s , Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo hosted Saturday night dinner parties at their home. On any given Saturday, Picasso, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemmingway, Alice B. Toklas, and others gathered.

• In Taos, New Mexico, Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband welcomed poets and writers into their home for the second half of the twentieth century. Their guests included D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Georgia O’Keeffe, and more.

• The Algonquin Round Table was the infamous setting for the wisecracks and witticisms of Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, and 24 other members.

• On June 11, 1965, American and European beat poets performed at the Royal Albert Hall for an impromptu event – the International Poetry Incarnation – that some argued marked the birth of London’s gestating counterculture.

Creative ripples.

Sketch of Gene Wolfe by Murray Ewing

On March 17, 2012, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame will present its first-ever Fuller Award to Gene Wolfe, a brilliant writer whose work engages the imaginations of readers all over the world.

At the Sanfilippo Estate, guests are coming from all over the country to honor Gene Wolfe. In attendance will be: Neil Gaiman, Peter Sagal, Gary K. Wolfe, Audrey Niffenegger, Peter Straub, Michael Swanwick, Michael Dirda, Luis Urrea, and more.

There will be writers, artists, dancers, musicians, photographers, journalists, chefs, knitters, sculptors, and patrons from around Chicago—steampunk to hippy, gothic to folk, some in college and others well into their retirement. It’s going to be an incredible gathering of creative people, and you are invited.

When people talk about the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s first Fuller Award Ceremony, will you be able to recount your memory of Gene Wolfe receiving the award statue from Neil Gaiman? Or share a snippet of your conversation over the sweet table with one of your favorite living writers? Or recall the moving speeches and witty toasts given by some of Gene’s closest friends?

When people talk about an Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe at the steampunk mansion with the living marionettes and Gene’s words brought to life on stage and accompanied by the world’s largest restored five manual Mighty Wurlitzer, will you be able to say that you were there?

I hope you will.

Because like the musical machines collected by Jasper Sanfilippo at his “Place de la Musique,” this event is made more remarkable by the diversity of its parts, an audience coming together not only to honor a brilliant writer, but also to celebrate the whimsy and delight of art and imagination.

Join us for an evening that is sure to be wonder-filled.

Register for An Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe at the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills, IL  on Eventbrite

Honoring Gene Wolfe

Last weekend I sent out the first announcements about the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe. I haven’t been this excited about an event since my book launch last October.

There’s a question often asked at parties and dinners long before it became popular as an internet meme:

“Whom would you invite to your dream dinner party?”

Sometimes the question is posed to allow for historical figures. Other times it includes fictional characters. Sometimes it’s limited to only five people, or to a single category like authors or musicians, comic book characters or holy people. The premise is basically the same: given the opportunity, what interesting people would you choose to invite to a party?

An Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe is a bit like my dream dinner party: Gene Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Gary K. Wolfe, Peter Straub, Michael Dirda, Audrey Niffenegger, Michael Swanwick, David Hartwell, Luis Urrea,  Jody Lynn Nye, Patrick O’Leary, and Larry Santoro (plus there are more to be announced soon).


These intelligent, creative, and talented people are gathering at the fantastic Sanfilippo Estate to honor the incredible storyteller and talented writer, Gene Wolfe. Most famous for his epic series The Book of the New Sun, Gene’s writing is smart, beautiful, and stretches beyond the limitations of genre to create unforgettable characters and provocative stories.

“Wolfe is a writer for the thinking reader; he will reward anyone searching for intelligence, crafted prose, involving stories, and atmospheric detail. He is the heir of many literary traditions—pulp stories, fantasy, adventure stories of all kinds, and serious literature—and he makes use of all of them.” ~Pamela Sargent, Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers

Alongside our guests, characters from Gene’s short stories in their Steampunk finest will peruse Sanfilippo’s collections of antique music boxes and gambling machines, Tiffany lamps and phonographs, 65 coin-operated pianos and a street clock that stands 20 feet tall. Not to mention a 1881 Grant Steam Locomotive.

It’s a fitting backdrop for a wonder-filled evening.

Did I mention it’s a dinner party with many of my favorite people?

That means you are invited. Hope to see you in the shadow of the 1890 European Eden Palais Carousel.

Register for An Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe at the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills, IL  on Eventbrite