cover image The Coast of Chicago

The Coast of Chicago

Stuart Dybek. Knopf Publishing Group, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57449-3

Dybek ( Childhood and Other Neighborhoods ) here evokes the bizarre mysteries of everyday life in Chicago's gritty ethnic enclaves, the territory of the 14 stories in his second collection. The author's memorable characters lead odd, fairy-tale existences. Marcy in ``Chopin in Winter'' returns home from college pregnant and disgraced, and plays her way through Chopin's piano oeuvre before moving without warning (her note reads simply ``Ma, don't worry'') to a black neighborhood on the city's South Side. In ``Nighthawks,'' a suite of meditations on love and loss, Choco, a conga drummer, is led through the subways on a hauntingly surreal trip inspired by a vision of his dead girlfriend. Dybek's fiction is not without a comic edge: Ziggy Zilinski in ``Blight'' suffers from a recurring nightmare in which atomic bombs drop on Chicago when the White Sox win the pennant. A quote from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado provides the phantasmagoric book with an apt epigraph: ``Out of the whole of memory, there's one thing worthwhile: the great gift of calling back dreams.'' Dybek has this exemplary gift. (Apr.)