Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) was a journalist, advertising manager, secretary to a circus, cabaret artiste, satirist, convict and actor as well as the author of twenty-one plays, many of which reflect aspects of his extraordinary career. He himself paid for the publication of Spring Awakening (1891), though it was not staged till 1906. (In England it was banned from public performance until 1963.) Earth Spirit (1895), the first of his plays to be seen on stage (1898), introduced the sexually voracious Lulu, who also figured in Pandora's Box (1904) and subsequently in Alban Berg's opera (Lulu, 1935) and in Peter Barnes' conflation of the two plays seen in England in 1970. Other notable plays include The Marquis of Keith (1900; British premiere, 1974), King Nicolo (1902), Castle Wetterstein (1910) and Franziska (1912). Wedekind was greatly admired by Brecht, and his satiric songs still have considerable bite.
Jonathan Franzen was born in Western Springs, Illinois, in 1959, but grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, near St. Louis. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1981, and went on to study at the Freie University in Berlin as a Fulbright scholar. Franzen worked in a seismology lab at Harvard University's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences after graduation. In addition to winning a Whiting Writers' Award in 1988 and the American Academy's Berlin Prize in 2000, he has been named one of "Twenty Writers for the 21st Century" by The New Yorker and one of the "Best Young American Novelists" by Granta. Mr. Franzen is the author of "The Twenty-Seventh City," published in 1988, and "Strong Motion," published in 1992, and is a frequent contributor to Harper's and The New Yorker.