Out of Dad’s Shadow: 5 Brilliant Daughters of Famous Fathers

She translated the first English version of Madame Bovary. She learned Norwegian so she could better understand the work of Ibsen. She went on strike with dock workers, organized labor unions, and founded the Socialist League. She was a writer, an activist, an actress, a suffragist, and a journalist. Her name is not… » 2/25/15 2:14pm Wednesday 2:14pm

Unstuck in Time with Bob Weide, Kurt Vonnegut’s Documentarian

In 1982, a young go-getter by the name of Robert Weide randomly typed a note to his literary hero. In it, the 22-year-old Weide mentioned that he had written and produced the documentary "The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell," which had recently been the highest-rated program in the history of PBS, and that he was hoping… » 2/18/15 12:13pm 2/18/15 12:13pm

Life in Literature: The Real Murder that Inspired ‘The Great Gatsby’

Who killed Jay Gatsby? Or at least, what inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to kill him? In Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of 'The Great Gatsby', author Sarah Churchwell suggests Fitzgerald was influenced by two real-life murders. » 2/03/15 3:41pm 2/03/15 3:41pm

(Mis)Quoth Poe Nevermore: 5 Funny Edgar Allan Poe Misattributions

This week — January 19, 2015 to be exact — marks the 206th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the most recognizable names in Western literature. Poe, a jack of all writing trades, is best known as the master of the macabre, with stories like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Mask of the Red Death, and The Tell-Tale Heart » 1/22/15 2:43pm 1/22/15 2:43pm

Pendulums, Clepsydras, and Such: A Brief History of Telling Time

New Year's Eve: the night we celebrate time. We count off the last ten seconds of the soon-to-be-last year while the ball drops to midnight, then dance into the new one reaching unhurriedly into the future. And in that stroke of midnight there is a myriad of tacit agreements, for time the concept would be hard to… » 1/13/15 12:52pm 1/13/15 12:52pm

Man, Myth, Legend: David Letterman and the End of a Late Night Era

A couple of weeks ago, I trekked into Times Square on a gloomy Thursday to pay homage to the king one last time. I was eleven when Dave took the spot after Johnny Carson, not quite old enough to watch it every night — and we wouldn't own a VCR to tape it for a few more years — but at an age where I caught it… » 12/23/14 11:15am 12/23/14 11:15am

Back to the Future: The Eerily Accurate Predictions of J.G. Ballard

This, above all else: beware the boring future. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from reading Extreme Metaphors: Interviews With J.G. Ballard 1967-2008, but this is the big one, something at which observers of technology and readers of science fiction will shudder with recognition. As befits a writer whose… » 12/09/14 10:58pm 12/09/14 10:58pm

On Their Own Terms: 6 Rockin’ Ladies Who Altered Music History

It is tempting to write about the many famous all-male punk bands that Viv Albertine's band, The Slits, influenced and inspired. Many reviewers, writing about her new memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys have been unable to resist that temptation. But isn't the message of so many… » 12/01/14 11:47am 12/01/14 11:47am

Baseball Penman Roger Angell on Derek Jeter, Aging, and Love

Come late afternoon this Sunday, after twenty years of playing shortstop for the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter will walk off the field to a hellacious ovation. Yes, even in Boston's Fenway Park, where his cleats will drag across the infield dirt one last time. Where does Jeter rank among the Yankee greats? Well, the… » 9/25/14 9:49am 9/25/14 9:49am

O Captain My Captain: 7 Rebel Teachers Who Inspire Us

In an era of high-stakes testing and endless assessment, students and teachers alike can feel that they're drowning in paperwork at the expense of learning. As political debate rages about how best to manage schools and keep standards high, we're celebrating seven teachers­ — real and fictional — who broke the rules… » 9/22/14 4:49pm 9/22/14 4:49pm

In The Mood For Laughs: An Interview with Phil Hartman's Biographer

The man may be gone, but the characters live on: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Anal Retentive Chef, Lionel Hutz, Lyle Lanley, Bill McNeal, Captain Carl, Troy McClure. All brought to life by sorely missed funnyman extraordinaire Phil Hartman, the subject of You Might Remember Me by longtime Chicago Sun-Times staff… » 9/18/14 9:38am 9/18/14 9:38am

Smashing Ceilings and Taking Names: Powerful Women in Politics

Famed filibusterer Wendy Davis and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand both launch new memoirs this week. Gillibrand's book Off the Sidelines is already making waves for calling out certain (unnamed) male colleagues as, well, sexist pigs. Unwelcome comments on their appearance have long been an occupational hazard for… » 9/11/14 12:18pm 9/11/14 12:18pm

Interference: One Man Questions Everything Football Has to Offer

At 8:30 pm E.S.T., the NFL jumpstarts its ninety-fifth season with a donnybrook between the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and America's sweetheart hunk of cheddar, the Green Bay Packers. More than 20 million viewers will tune in tonight, and more than 100 million will catch a game over the opening… » 9/04/14 12:12pm 9/04/14 12:12pm

Ray Bradbury's Biographer: 'He Was Who He Always Maintained He Was'

In many ways, Ray Bradbury's life is a biographer's dream — the extensive record of his very public life as a master storyteller surfaces through thousands of media publications, announcements, advertisements, and his own reminiscences. Many years of private interviews led me to still more sources, published and… » 8/27/14 11:10am 8/27/14 11:10am

Remembering the Astronaut Wives of the '69 Moon Landing

I decided to write the story of the astronaut wives after seeing an incredible Life magazine photo of them in their skyrocketing beehives, outfitted in their candy-colored minidresses. When I learned that they actually have a club—and that they raised their families in the Houston "space burbs" near NASA's operations,… » 7/21/14 5:50pm 7/21/14 5:50pm

Margaret Atwood Dreams Up Murder in the Arctic

A summer! But which of the seventy-five summers I have spent? The summer of 1957, when I was a waitress at a boys' camp on an island in Lake Huron and first ate a rattlesnake? The summer of 1965, when I was writing The Edible Woman in exam booklets on a card table in Vancouver? Perhaps the summer of 1976, when we took… » 7/21/14 4:19pm 7/21/14 4:19pm

Among Thugs: Hooliganism and the Evolution of Soccer

This Sunday, roughly a billion viewers will tune in to the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina. I know where I'll be at kickoff for what is unquestionably the planet's biggest sporting event: in front of a large television screen, cold beverage in hand, joining one-seventh of my fellow humans of Earth in… » 7/10/14 11:28am 7/10/14 11:28am