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Book Reviews

Illinois' future: problems and prospects


James D. Nowlan. A New Game Plan for Illinois.
Chicago: Neltnor House, 1989. Pp. 190 with
bibliography and index. $9.95 (paper).

Bozidar Yovovich. Chicago: The Next Frontier.
Chatsworth, Calif.: Windsor Publications, 1988.
Pp. 363 with index. $39.95 (cloth).

If Illinois is to have the
future so beautifully
depicted for Chicago by
Yovovich, it is going to have
to deal successfully with
the problems so succinctly
described by Nowlan

These two volumes — one an extended essay describing what the author feels is the current and threatened continuing mediocrity of Illinois and the other a coffee-table book offering a rosy view of Chicago's past, present and future — illustrate the many ways in which a single subject can be viewed by different people with different purposes. These books also illustrate, each in its own way, the various uses of material which has been gathering in one file cabinet or another awaiting the time for collation and presentation.

Chicago: The Next Frontier can be dealt with more easily, for its purpose is both clear and admirably achieved. Underwritten in part by the nearly 70 Chicago-based corporations and institutions profiled in Edward Hawley's portion of the book ("Chicago Enterprises," pp. 213-359), this publication describes why and how Chicago is to be a leader on the frontier of the post-industrial era — that place where the "many intersections and interfaces [create a] border city, a frontier town."

The city's history is briefly recounted to show how Chicago, which, as a true frontier city, recovered from the great fire of 1871, is once again recovering from the "battering of the 1970's." The resources of Chicago — from steel, chemicals and business services to culture, entertainment and recreation — are then described in beautiful prose accompained by spectacular illustrations.

Some of the city's problems are also cited: "Life on a frontier — even a modern urban frontier — inevitably comes with risks." But this is a catalog of resources and possibilities rather than of lacks and of problems. The "risks" — even such major "risks" as public education and public housing in Chicago — are merely mentioned and not discussed.

The final portion of the book (146 pages) is entitled "Chicago's Enterprises" and provides information and pictures probably drawn from the communications departments of local corporations. While the corporate images are presented in an unabashedly positive manner, the overview is both interesting and informative. The book as a whole is a beautiful and instructive tribute to

Book recently received worth mention:

Dan Guillory. Living With Lincoln: Life and Art in the Heartland. Urbana: Stormline Press, 1989. Pp.121. $8.95 (paper).

Chicago and its enterprises. It should cause those who believe that the American city is doomed to question that belief, at least so far as Chicago is concerned.

The Nowlan book is a bit more difficult to review. I have known Jim Nowlan for a number of years and admire his fertile and inquisitive mind. At one point in A New Game Plan for Illinois, he states, "my files contain folders stuffed with additional, intriguing ideas." In some ways, that sentence describes the book. It is designed to assist Illinois in coping with a series of problems which have existed here and elsewhere for some time. All of the standard concerns are presented and discussed (a bit superficially, I fear) with stress upon the problems of schools, the needs of minorities in the urban ghettos, and the leadership required from both the public and private sectors. Each of these areas is real and significant, and yet although I worked hard to find an idea or an argument which I had not heard about previously from some source or another, I was not successful. I looked for the new insights and strategies which would lead to the adoption of some of the remedies Nowlan describes — remedies which have been prescribed and worked for by others (increased taxes, for example) and which will have positive results only if the patient can be convinced to swallow them. All that one finds here are restatements of the problems and reiterations of some possible solutions.

On the positive side, however, one cannot overlook Nowlan's passion on behalf of his proposals. Not content to sit in his professorial study and send out messages of either despair or salvation, he really attempts to become governor of Illinois, he joins action groups without regard for their current popularity, and he actually works in a public and exposed way on behalf of his convictions.

His book should not, then, be lightly dismissed, but should instead serve as an agenda for both individuals and groups dedicated to real reform in Illinois. For if Illinois is to have the future so beautifully depicted for Chicago by Yovovich, it is going to have to deal successfully with the problems so succinctly described by Nowlan. □

John E. Corbally retired in May as president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He formerly served as president of the University of Illinois from 1971 to 1979.

December 1989 | Illinois Issues | 27

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