Steinberg’s next book recovering wisdom of the ages

Fresh from his critically acclaimed memoir You Were Never in Chicago, Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg is writing another book for The University of Chicago Press.

For this one — his eighth — he’ll not only be working with a co-author for the first time, but he’ll be drawing insights and inspiration from some of the greatest writers in history.

Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Guide to Recovery, set for publication in spring 2015, will examine the process of recovery from alcoholism and other addictions through the words of famous figures in literature, poetry, nonfiction and the arts. They’ll span the ages from the Greek philosopher Plato to the contemporary singer Pink.

In addition to curating the quotes, Steinberg’s role will be to provide narrative context. “They’re not just collected thematically, but they’re mosaiced together so they tell a story,” he told me in an interview Sunday.

Alluding to 12-step recovery programs that typically involve the use of sponsors, Steinberg said: “Why not have Virgil be your sponsor? He guided Dante through Hell. Why not have Shakespeare — and all these other great writers who struggled and suffered with this — help you. We’ve collected the directions they all left behind, and we’re going to walk you through this.”

Working with Steinberg on the book is Sara Bader, a New York author and archival researcher who launched the website, an online library of verified quotes (“from Homer to Homer Simpson”).  Their collaboration grew out of a review Steinberg wrote of Bader’s 2005 book, Strange Red Cow. 

Steinberg, 52, who has been sober for seven years, previously wrote Drunkard: A Hard Drinking Life, the story of his own struggle. Although the new book won’t be about Steinberg per se, he acknowledged that in some ways it’s an update: “It’s sort of based on Drunkard, but it’s seven years on. It’s a very personal thing and that’s how I see this book.”

The paperback edition of You Were Never in Chicago will be published in August.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)