When I stepped into Dmitry Samarov’s cab — or the literary evocation thereof — I was suspecting a fairly salacious ride. Instead, “Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab” (The University of Chicago Press, 124 pages, $20) is a lyrical glimpse into a cabbie’s world, complete with customers of all stripes, frustrations both human and mechanical, and insight into the ways weather and a major city can combine to challenge even the most resolute driver.
Samarov, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has also included a sizable number of illustrations that complement his vignettes. The black and white images render many of the people and places Samarov encounters, and they make up an interesting catalog in and of themselves.
But Samarov does a fine job sketching with words, as well. Here he is describing some young people he picks up after a no-show: “Two girls and two guys, barely into their twenties. Among the couple dozen articles of clothing covering them, no two match. If colors come close, then sizes diverge; a loose furry top paired with the tightest skirt; unkempt scraggly hair and shiny dance shoes; a straw cowboy hat and a green Day-Glo bracelet. They only get to be this young once.”
Along the way, we meet fares in search of drugs, couples who can’t wait until they reach their destination to get amorous, and folks who just need a ride through the drive-thru. We also meet the mentally ill, the abused, and the down-on-their luck. Samarov introduces them all with care — even when they annoy him greatly — offering a unique meditation on humanity as he travels to and fro.
What: Dmitry Samarov reads from “Hack”
Where: Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
When: 7 p.m. Thursday