There's no point in getting wordy, so we'll simply remind you that the Tribune-sponsored 27th annual Printers Row Lit Fest takes place June 4-5. For now, here are 10 "chapters" of Chicago lit:
1 Ben Hecht, who co-wrote the play "The Front Page" and was a script doctor for the movie "Gone With the Wind," got his start in Chicago journalism in 1910 as a "picture chaser" for the Chicago Journal. The job required him to find pictures of murder victims and other newsmakers — and to swipe the pictures if necessary. According to a friend, Hecht would climb into people's windows or pose as a gas meter reader in order to gain entry to a home and nab the picture.
Saul Bellow was once discouraged from pursuing a doctorate in English because, he was told, as a Jew he would never have the right "feel" for the language. Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize and was given the National Book Award three times.
3 Ray Bradbury says he remembers being born. The beloved author of "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451" admits it sounds preposterous, but the Waukegan native says he recalls emerging from the womb, the taste of his mother's breast milk and the pain of being circumcised.
4 Richard Wright based aspects of his novel "Native Son" on a 1938 Chicago case in which black suspect Robert Nixon was executed by electric chair for fatally beating a white woman with a brick. Wright said he studied Tribune articles that reflected the racism of the times, featuring headlines such as "Brick Slayer is Likened to Jungle Beast."
5 Hyde Park resident Blue Balliett rocketed onto the young adult literary scene in 2004 with "Chasing Vermeer" and has since sold more than 2 million copies of her four books. And yes, she has always been called Blue, though she says the name on her birth certificate is Elizabeth. As she told The New York Times: "I was named after the color of the sky. I don't really associate it with the color anymore."
6 Sherwood Anderson, an Ohio native who gained his fame in Chicago with such fictional works as "Winesburg, Ohio" (1919), died of peritonitis, an abdominal infection, after accidentally swallowing a toothpick at a cocktail party.
7 Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were not born at Oz Park on the North Side. Instead the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" characters were created a few miles west of there at L. Frank Baum's home in Humboldt Park circa 1898. According to a family story, Baum's Emerald City got its name when a child asked where his story was set and he saw O-Z on a file cabinet and replied "Oz." But many believe that story is as fanciful as Baum's fairy tale.
8 Oak Park looms large in the literary world as the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway and the one-time home of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the list doesn't stop there. Among those born in the near-west suburb: Pulitzer Prize-winner Carol Shields, Richard Bach, Jane Hamilton and the amazingly prolific Rev. Andrew Greeley. And those who call it home now: Elizabeth Berg, Alex Kotlowitzand graphic novelist Chris Ware. Finally, Barbara Mertz, who writes the Amelia Peabody mystery series as Elizabeth Peters, attended high school there.
9 In May of 1997, Sandra Cisneros, Chicago native and author of "The House on Mango Street," sparked an uproar when she painted her San Antonio home a vivid purple. Critics said it violated the law protecting the integrity of the historic district. Cisneros argued that it was a valid color for the area if city officials acknowledged Mexican culture and influences in the rules. In the end, Cisneros told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "My house faded to work-shirt blue. The sun resolved the issue."
10 Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife," says on her website that she's working on a novel called "The Chinchilla Girl in Exile," the story of a 9-year-old girl who has hypertrichosis — she's covered with hair.
Mark Jacob, a deputy metro editor at the Tribune, is the co-author of four books, including the recent "What the Great Ate." Stephan Benzkofer is the Tribune's weekend editor.
Sources: "L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz," by Katharine M. Rogers; "Tarzan Forever," by John Taliaferro; "Richard Wright: The Life and Times," by Hazel Rowley; "Sherwood Anderson Remembered," by Welford Dunaway Taylor; "Ben Hecht: The Man Behind the Legend," by William MacAdams; "Dictionary of Midwestern Literature," by Philip A. Greasley; "Bellow: A Biography," by James Atlas; "The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury," by Sam Weller; audreyniffenegger.com; blueballiettbooks.com; New York Times; Texas Monthly, The Houston Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer