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Peter Smith in the Chicago Reader

By Michael Miner
The Chicago Reader

Smith_Cavalcade coverPeter Smith has lived his life backward. Instead of coming to Chicago to be a writer, he left it. He took his ambitions to Minnesota, where his pedigree, which is impressive, would do him no good but cast no shadows either. His reputation in Minnesota is all his own doing. He’s known up there for the personal, folksy, meditative commentaries he delivers on Minnesota Public Radio.

But he’s virtually unknown in Chicago.

Smith contacted me a while back because he’s published a memoir, a collection of essays called A Cavalcade of Lesser Horrors, and if it cannot quite be considered a Chicago book, it comes close.

Smith grew up in Chicago and Libertyville in the 50s and 60s, and much of the book is set here. Some of it is set in the U.S. Army, which paid Smith to visit Vietnam when it was the most exciting country on earth. Some of it is set in the advertising game, which is where he’s been for most of his adult life. His publisher, the University of Minnesota Press, refers to these essays as a “series of funny, honest, and moving pieces.” What they show is that under cover of humor it’s possible to say about anything.

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