Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

The Broken-down Grace of Bill Murray

A look back at the career of a comedy star turned dramatic actor:

Murray rebounded nicely that same year with Caddyshack, which paired him with Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Chase. Murray’s investment in Caddyshack was minimal. He simply showed up on set for a film co-written by his brother Brian Doyle-Murray (who also appears in the film) and directed by Ramis, and improvised his entire performance as Carl Spackler, a groundskeeper at a snooty country club engaged in all-out war with a sassy gopher. In the process, he created a slacker hero for the ages, a singularly inspired cross between the perpetually thwarted Wile E. Coyote and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Murray babbled divine nonsense and emerged the MVP of an all-star comedy dream team, stealing the film from stars at the height of their powers. Caddyshack wasn’t a competition, but Murray won it all the same.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 17, 2014
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8603 words)

Longreads Member Exclusive: The Creature Beyond the Mountains

(Subscribe to Longreads to receive this and other weekly exclusives.) A look at the giant sturgeon in the Pacific Northwest—one, named Herman, weighs nearly 500 pounds—and about our relationship with them. Doyle is editor of Portland Magazine and writes frequently for Orion's print edition and blog. His piece won the John Burroughs Award and was listed as "Notable" by both Best Science and Nature Writing 2012 and Best American Essays 2012.

"There are fish in the rivers of Cascadia that are bigger and heavier than the biggest bears. To haul these fish out of the Columbia River, men once used horses and oxen. These creatures are so enormous and so protected by bony armor that no one picks on them, so they grow to be more than a hundred years old, maybe two hundred years old; no one knows. Sometimes in winter they gather in immense roiling balls in the river, maybe for heat, maybe for town meetings, maybe for wild sex; no one knows. A ball of more than sixty thousand of them recently rolled up against the bottom of a dam in the Columbia, causing a nervous United States Army Corps of Engineers to send a small submarine down to check on the dam. They eat fish, clams, rocks, fishing reels, shoes, snails, beer bottles, lamprey, eggs, insects, fishing lures, cannonballs, cats, ducks, crabs, basketballs, squirrels, and many younger members of their species; essentially they eat whatever they want. People have fished for them using whole chickens as bait, with hooks the size of your hand."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2011
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3250 words)

Joyas Voladoras

Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird's heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird's heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird's heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas Voladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 5, 2005
LENGTH: 4 minutes (1024 words)