In Other Words Sa­cred Smokes by Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Sa­cred Smokes,

In an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal col­lec­tion of linked short sto­ries by Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., the teenage Teddy is a mem­ber of a Chicago street gang in the 1970s. He knows the city like the back of his hand. He knows whose turf is whose, all the tags of dif­fer­ent gangs, which El stops are safe and which aren’t, and ev­ery pizza place and sec­ond-run movie the­ater on the North Side — as well as where the drug fronts are. Teddy is a sto­ry­teller who en­ter­tains his friends with darkly off­beat hero’s jour­neys dur­ing drink­ing ses­sions by the tracks in the woods in win­ter. His friends are drunk and high, ruth­less in their treat­ment of one an­other, yet of­ten funny and warm, as fam­ily can be. Teddy’s fu­ture self — the self that slips in and out to nar­rate or pe­ri­od­i­cally add bits of per­spec­tive to his sto­ries — re­mains a cynic who is also ba­si­cally open­hearted, and who is more than a lit­tle bit en­am­ored of his youth­ful abil­ity to put up with end­less amounts of ran­dom vi­o­lence from all cor­ners of his life.

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