A Walking Tour of The Shambles

Authors: Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe
Published: 2002
Website: Amazon Page

I have no idea what to call A Walking Tour of the Shambles; it is a part fantastical, part guide, part to-do list, and supremely inventive story created by two very good authors: Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe. Both are better known for their fantasy and science fiction, but they decided to collaborate on this book (by mail!) and the result is wonderful. The entire adventure takes place in a three block area of The Shambles: a shadowy area in Chicago near enough to the Sears Tower that an observer can see the tower from The Shambles, but The Shambles cannot be seen from the tower. Gaiman and Wolfe’s animated word choice and marvelous use of parenthetical remarks (because although parentheses are most often used by authors to explain a previous occurrence, Gaiman and Wolfe use them to introduce new phrases, words, and objects on the reader’s tour) help the reader experience the marvels of co-created ghostly blocks which are haunted by the omnipresent International Brotherhood of Meatworkers. The authors’ inspired creation of words includes the wonderful portmanteau swandolier (because what else would describe the person who directs a swanboat?) and adds to the interesting and mainly second-person experience which the reader undergoes as he feels his way through this alternate Chicago.

As a student in Chicago, A Walking Tour of the Shambles just made me more excited to explore the various downtown neighborhoods and try to find—although they probably do not exist—the detailed houses, streets, statues, and people which this guide does such a good job of exploring.

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