Dream City

Written by Brendan Short
Review by James Hawking

Could there be a category called the nostalgic novel which could assume a place within or beside that of historical novel? The work under review starts with a small boy at the time of Chicago’s Century of Progress (1933) and follows his fascination with the world of comic heroes all the way into the next century. The stench of the stockyards and the perfume counter of Marshall Field provide the atmosphere of bygone Chicago as Michael Halligan develops a mania for Little Big Books, illustrated book length stories about heroes like Dick Tracy and Buck Rogers. With a criminal father and a mother who dies during an apparent abortion attempt, Michael seems worthy of sympathy, but as he grows older he has few redeeming characteristics, aside from politeness to the prostitutes he frequents. The only human decency comes from an employee of the publishing company who embodies comic book idealism. Michael becomes a collector, particularly obsessed with a book made for the Dream City of the fair. Various eras are evoked by mentioning brand names, popular songs of the day and, most prominently, the comic book heroes. Not recommended.