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Reader, Time Out Writer Cliff Doerksen Remembered

Chicago Reader

(Credit: Chicago Reader)

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OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) – The arts and alternative media communities are remembering Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago writer Cliff Doerksen, who died last week at the age of 47.

Doerksen was found dead Dec. 17 in his Oak Park home. He served for several years as a film critic for Time Out Chicago and a frequent columnist for the Reader.

Earlier this year, he won a James Beard award for best newspaper feature writing, for a December 2009 article on mince pie. The feature, titled “The Real American Pie,” explained how the onetime holiday staple was “blamed for bad health, murderous dreams” and other woes, and chronicled Doerksen’s adventure in making two mince pies from a 1905 recipe that called for minced boiled beef and suet.

Doerksen was also a contributor to The New York Times and to the public radio program “This American Life.”

A Chicago Tribune article characterized Doerksen as a writer who approached all his subjects with “the same wit, dark humor and passion,” with a penchant for oddities of history, and lines that were sure to produce “gut-busting laughs.”

“This American Life” host Ira Glass also offered thoughts on Doerksen on the Reader’s website earlier this week.

“He was a far better storyteller than me,” Glass wrote. “Sure, on the radio, with the benefit of editing and background music, I could hold my own. But in person, after dinner, it was no contest. He kicked my ass. He could kick yours too.”

Doerksen’s final Reader article was published posthumously this week. It was the story of an encounter with a Roman Catholic friar in a brown, hooded robe on a CTA Blue Line train.

Doerksen, a native of Canada, is survived by his wife, Elspeth Carruthers, and their 6-year-old daughter, Gladys, as well as his parents and a brother, the Tribune reported.