This spring Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “I enthusiastically support the efforts to place a national writers museum in Chicago.” His statement may not be as quotable as “These pretzels are making me thirsty,” “Look to the cookie,” “No soup for you!” or the many other “Seinfeld” bon mots integrated into the American vernacular, but it’s related to the topic just the same.
That’s because while The American Writers Museum awaits its 2017 opening in Chicago, staffers are busy working on off-site events that spotlight indigenous writers such as Chicagoland native Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. The acclaimed TV historian and pop culture columnist will be in town this month to discuss her latest book “Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything.”
“Seinfeldia” follows Armstrong’s 2013 bestseller “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic,” which covered television’s iconic female-empowered sitcom of the 1970s. This time around, Armstrong tackles the sociological phenomenon known as Seinfeld, or “Seinfeldia” as she calls it, which began during the show’s run in the 1990s and continues today.
“When it comes to all things Seinfeld…its characters, settings, jokes, and catchphrases continue to intrude on our daily reality twenty years later,” writes Armstrong, who cites a myriad of available online activities inspired by the series: current med school classes wherein students diagnose the mental illnesses of “Seinfeld” characters and ongoing Festivus celebrations at colleges. The book also goes behind the scenes to reveal “in the vault” information about the program, including the actual celebrity who inspired Elaine’s bad dancing.
“With contributions to our everyday speech from ‘yada yada’ to ‘serenity now,’ ‘Seinfeld’s writers have influenced American entertainment far beyond what their sitcom format suggests,” notes American Writers Museum Executive Director Nike Whitcomb. “We’ve been a nation for 240 years. American writers have had enormous impact on our history because of what they’ve written and what they’ve written about. When the American Writers Museum opens next March, we will be showcasing the breadth and depth of the influence of American writing on popular culture.”
Until then, pop culture appreciators and “Seinfeld” fans can don their puffy shirts and sidle up to “Jerry & George & Kramer & Elaine: An Evening with the Bestselling Author of Seinfeldia” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept, 9, 2016, at the Orland Park Public Library, 14921 Ravinia Avenue, Orland Park.
“I’m very excited to be celebrating my book at the local library that helped me to follow my writing dreams,” Armstrong admits. “It was there that I first looked up and learned about writers I admired, like Nora Ephron, and pored over books about writing and journalism.”
Hosted by The American Writers Museum and The Orland Park Public Library, Armstrong’s event is free and open to the public—“not that there’s anything wrong with it.”
(Author photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis)