[node:14734249 noterms imagecache=field_image:timeout_250x220:image:0; cck=field_caption; cck=field_credits;]
Through his small press and quarterly magazine, McSweeney’s—and his 2000 memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius—Eggers, 41, changed the landscape of literary publishing, creating an influential humorous and inventive style. He also founded 826 National, a nonprofit writing center for kids in eight cities, and most recently cofounded a school in South Sudan with the profits from What Is the What, his book about the country’s “Lost Boys.” He now lives in San Francisco with his wife, novelist Vendela Vida, but he hasn’t forgotten dreary frozen Lake Michigan or Chicago sports teams’ heartbreaking, staggering letdowns.
What was it like growing up in Lake Forest?
It was pretty uneventful. There were trees, lawns, parks and the beach. We went to public school, we ate at Burger King and went to 7-Eleven. We really had no idea that it was considered a fancy place to live—not until Mr. T arrived. Then we thought we were pretty cool.
As kids, what did you and your friends do for fun?
We spent a lot of time in the ravines and on the lake. I remember going to the waterfront just as often in the winter as the summer. I was a moody adolescent and the gray frozen lake spoke to me, I guess.
What was the first cultural institution you remember attending?
In middle school, Ravinia was pretty much the ultimate cultural and social experience. One night every summer Ravinia would have a rock & roll concert, and it was usually the Little River Band. That was our Woodstock.
What’s the best and worst thing about growing up here?
When I was 15, the Bears won the Super Bowl. A few years later, the Bulls started their streak, and the Blackhawks were good most of that time, too. It was a good time to live in Chicago. The worst thing, if we’re sticking with sports, was watching the breakup of those Bears and those Bulls. Pippen, my favorite player, was never the same.