About Stuart and the Brent Family
In 1946 or 47, my father, Stuart Brent, founded his first bookstore, The Seven Stairs, on Rush Street in Chicago, using a GI loan and money he borrowed from his brother-in-law. He later wrote about it in his book, The Seven Stairs, which was originally published in 196? and reissued by Simon and Schuster in 198?. In 1952 or thereabouts, he moved the bookstore to Michigan Avenue, where it was eventually designated a landmark by the City of Chicago. He also wrote three other children's books about our dog, Mr. Toast, which were published by Viking. My father is fond of saying that he was lucky because his vocation and his avocation were the same. My father didn't just go to work every day in his bookstore. He was always about books. Reading and thinking and talking about books were the constant background of every moment in my parents' house.
For seven years during the 1960's, my father had a show on television five days a week, called Books and Brent. For two or three of those years, the format was my mother interviewing him. He read a book every night, got up and went to the studio early every morning, did the show live, and went to work in the bookstore. For years he made a living selling the books he had just reviewed, although the number of people who came back saying, I didn't see anything Kafkaesque about that book was pretty substantial. He had a lively literary life with Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel, Ben Hecht, and every author he could possibly lasso into the store. He actually gave Nelson the title The Man with the Golden Arm. He got arrested one night trying to break the wall of his own bookstore down to bring a piano in for Louis Armstrong. They were very drunk. He taught literature and ran the University of Chicago Bookstore for many years. But probably his main accomplishment was creating a place in the middle of Chicago where people could talk about books. You can still find people in Chicago who will tell you that they were just walking past the bookstore, and my father would hijack them into the store, telling them, I have just the book for you. It will change your life. And they loved him for it.
My father closed the bookstore in 1995. Sadly, he passed away in June of 2010 at the age of 98.
Hope Latta Brent graduated from Smith College in 1957.She ran the children's section of Stuart Brent Books on Michigan Avenue in Chicago for 25 years until her death in 1984.
David Brent has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago. He has been an editor at the U. of C. Press for more than 30 years. He currently holds the post of Senior Editor.
Jonathan Brent has a Ph. D. from the University of Chicago in English Literature. Jonathan founded the literary magazine Formations. Formations was the first English language publisher of Elfriede Jelinek, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004. While he was the director of Northwestern University Press, he acquired and was the only US publisher of Imre Kertesz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002. From Northwestern, Jonathan went to Yale, where he is currently the Editorial Director of Yale University Press. He is the brains behind, and the editor of, the Annals of Communism series published by Yale. He has edited The Best of Triquarterly Magazine and The John Cage Reader. He has written two books about Stalin: Stalin's Last Crime and Inside the Stalin Archives. Jonathan has appeared in three documentaries about Stalin. He is a frequent contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, New Criterion, and other newspapers and magazines. He is currently the director of the YIVO Institute in New York City.
Frances Brent has a Master's Degree in English Literature. She has been a professor at Yale and won the May Swenson Prize for her poetry. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker Magazine. She has also published a book of poetry, The Beautiful Lesson of the I. Her book, The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson was published by James Atlas in September, 2009.
Adam Brent owns Brent Books and Cards, a bookstore in Chicago on the corner of Washington and Franklin. He also owns the online bookstore, Pennyworth Books.
Jill Shimabukuro-Brent is the Design Manager and Associate Production Manager at the University of Chicago Press. She has won the American Institute of Graphic Artists Prize for book jacket design.
Joshua Brent worked at Brent Books and Cards for many years, then ran the Kabbalah Bookstore in Los Angeles for several years.
Susan Brent, Lisa Brent, and Joseph Brent are all veterans of Stuart Brent Books, but they have gone on to much more sensible occupations.