If there ever was a writers’ bookstore, this is it. The Guild has been a progressive-minded literary, political, and artistic institution in Chicago since 1979. It’s kitty-corner from the Biograph Theatre (where John Dillinger was shot dead in 1934) among a row of saloons and blues clubs. The store is an integral part of the cultural and social life of the street. On a summer evening it is not uncommon for moviegoers to exit the Biograph, stop by the Red Lion for a pint of cheer, then swing by the Guild to browse the shelves before catching the show at Lilly’s or Earl’s Pub.
Co-owner Lew Rosenbaum and his staff feel a genuine commitment to the cultural and political life of the neighborhood and the city. There is a rich offering of subjects including Central and South American history (in Spanish and English), black poets and writers, radical women’s studies, Asian literature and politics. You can find news and views from practically any country that comes to mind — including Ireland and Vietnam and Mideast nations — as well as current progressive American writers. Even the works of Marx and other important socialist political writers are displayed in their own section of shelves.
In 1987, the Guild set up the Guild Complex, a literary forum complete with its own logo by cartoonist Nicole Hollander, who draws the syndicated strip Sylvia. The Complex, which meets at a separate location, is devoted to readings, panels, and special programs on subjects including homeless writers, banned books and censorship, and Malcolm X.
What I admire most about the store is that you can walk in the door with a query about Nicaragua or South Africa, Chicago and Delta blues, feminist history, or the Belfast ”troubles,” and the folks there are sure to know of it and able to put their hands on a book that answers your question.
— Larry Heinemann wrote Paco’s Story, which won the 1987 National Book Award for fiction.