December 16, 2018
Garrison Keillor returns to Crooner’s with singer Christine DiGiallonardo & pianist Richard Dworsky. Shows at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
New York, NY
December 2, 2018
A mini Prairie Home reunion featuring Garrison Keillor, Rob Fisher, Fred Newman, and Heather Masse and Christine DiGiallonardo.
November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
by Louis Jenkins
It turns out that the drain pipe from the sink is attached to nothing and water just runs right onto the ground in the crawl space underneath the house and then trickles out into the stream that passes through the backyard. It turns out that the house is not really attached to the ground but sits atop a few loose concrete blocks all held in place by gravity, which, as I understand it, means “seriousness.” Well, this is serious enough. If you look into it further you will discover that the water is not attached to anything either and that perhaps the rocks and the trees are not all that firmly in place. The world is a stage. But don’t try to move anything. You might hurt yourself, besides that’s a job for the stagehands and union rules are strict. You are merely a player about to deliver a soliloquy on the septic system to a couple dozen popple trees and a patch of pale blue sky.
“Gravity” by Louis Jenkins from Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970–2005. © Used with permission of the poet. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of Calvin Trillin, (books by this author) born in Kansas City, Missouri (1935), who started out working for the religion section of Time magazine, which he did not like. He said, “I finally got out of that by prefixing everything with ‘alleged.’ I’d write about ‘the alleged parting of the Red Sea,’ even ‘the alleged Crucifixion,’ and eventually they let me go.”
In 1967, Trillin began writing a regular column for The New Yorker magazine called “U.S. Journal,” which he saw as a chance to write about ordinary people who didn’t usually get covered in the national press. As a result of traveling so much Trillin began eating in a variety of local restaurants, and at a time when most food writers focused on gourmet food from France, Trillin wrote about barbecue ribs in the Midwest. His first collection of food writing was American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater (1974), in which he declared that the top four or five restaurants in the world are in Kansas City.
His recent books include About Alice (2006), and Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme (2008), Dogfight: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse (2012), and Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America (2016)
It’s the birthday of the essayist and novelist Joan Didion, (books by this author) born in Sacramento, California (1934). She grew up as a nervous, preoccupied child. She said, “I was one of those children who always thought the bridge would fall in if you walked across it. … I thought about the atomic bomb a lot … after there was one.” At one point in her childhood, she lived near a mental hospital, and she would wander around the hospital grounds with a notebook, writing down all the most interesting snippets of conversation she heard.
She made her name as a journalist in the 1960s even though she always said she wasn’t suited for the job. She said: “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. … Writers are always selling somebody out.”
Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), about her grief following the death of her husband, won the National Book Award.
It’s the birthday of Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti (books by this author), born in London in 1830. She grew up in a large, boisterous household. She had three brothers and sisters, and her parents were Italian, so all the children grew up speaking Italian and English. Her father was a political refugee and a Dante scholar and poet.
Rossetti was a successful and much-admired poet in her own right. She published her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), when she was 31 years old. And most people today would probably recognize one of her poems as a well-known Christmas carol.
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
It’s the birthday of travel writer Kate Simon (books by this author), born Kaila Grobsmith in Warsaw in 1912. Her father moved to America and a few years later she and her brother and her mother met him at Ellis Island. She said: “I must have started being a travel writer when we first came to America. The places I had to get to know very quickly, the languages I couldn’t understand. And all that peeping in places and climbing up on the roof is part of the very primitive beginnings of that kind of curiosity. It was as if, ‘How can anything happen without my being there to witness and report it?'”
Simon grew up in the Bronx, and she loved New York. She wanted to write a city guidebook that would be different from all the other books on the market, so she wrote New York Places and Pleasures: An Uncommon Guidebook (1959), which is still in print and has gone through four revisions since then. It was so successful that she started getting commissions to write travel books, and wrote about cities and countries all around the world.
And she also wrote memoirs, Bronx Primitive: Portraits of a Childhood (1982), A Wider World: Portraits of an Adolescence (1986) and Etchings in an Hourglass (1990), which she completed just before she died from cancer in 1990.
It’s the birthday of Rose Wilder Lane (books by this author), born in De Smet in what is now South Dakota (1886). She grew up in poverty with her father Almanzo Wilder and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. During Rose’s childhood the family struggled with crop failure, terrible debt, diphtheria (which caused Almanzo to have a stroke), and a fire that burned down their house. They finally settled in the Ozarks, where Rose was mortified by having ugly clothes and bare feet, and by riding to school on a donkey.
As soon as she could, Rose left her pioneer childhood behind. She sold real estate, she taught herself languages, she got married and then divorced a few years later. She lived in San Francisco, Paris, New York City, Berlin, and Albania. She made her living as a freelance journalist and a ghostwriter. She wrote sensational stories and profiles, often enraging her famous subjects because she saw no harm in changing the facts if it made for a better story. Lane was one of the highest paid female writers in the country, although she never held on to her money for long — she spent it on travel or luxury items, or gave it away to friends. She despaired of her parents’ self-sacrificing pioneer lifestyle — she insisted on building them a new, fancy house on their land, and made them move into it, which depressed both Laura and Almanzo. She gave them a car, but her father quickly crashed it.
Lane and Wilder were stubborn women with very different lifestyles, but together, they created the beloved Little House books. No one knows for sure how much Lane influenced the books — she was at the least her mother’s editor, at the most her ghostwriter, but probably something in between. For years, Wilder wrote a biweekly column in The Missouri Ruralist, and in 1930 she decided to write an autobiography. Her story was originally called Pioneer Girl and was intended for adult readers, but it was rejected by several publishers. One of them suggested that she rewrite it as a children’s book, and Lane decided to help her with the rewriting. She wrote to her mother about her changes: “A good bit of the detail that I add to your copy is for pure sensory effect,” and Wilder wrote to her daughter “Do anything you please with the damn stuff if you will fix it up.” The two argued over how to structure the books, whether there were too many characters or too few, whether they would be interesting to children. Sometimes both women would dig in their heels and insist on getting their own way, but more often, Wilder deferred to her daughter — when they were working on By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), Wilder wrote: “Without your fine touch, it would be a flop.”
In the end, it’s hard to know exactly how much Rose Wilder Lane was responsible for the finished books. Some books appear to follow her mother’s original text more closely, others to have been rewritten start to finish. Although Lane worked so hard to leave behind the subsistence life of her parents, without her, the Little House books would probably not exist.
It’s the birthday of Walt Disney, born in Chicago (1901). After serving in World War I, he took a job as a newspaper artist in Kansas City, and, later, found work at an ad agency, making animated commercials. It wasn’t long before he started his own animation studio and sold short cartoons — which he called Laugh-O-Grams — to local movie theaters. While he was working in Kansas City, Disney adopted a pet mouse, and later, after he moved to California with his brother Roy and founded Disney Brothers Studio, that pet provided the inspiration for Disney’s most famous character: Mickey Mouse.
Today is the birthday of filmmaker Nunnally Johnson, born in Columbus, Georgia (1897). He began his career as a journalist, and also wrote short stories. When he sold the rights to one of his stories to Hollywood in 1927, he moved to California to work in the film industry. Twentieth Century-Fox hired him as a full-time screenwriter in 1935, and five years later, in 1940, Johnson wrote the screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. The first part of the film follows the book fairly closely, but Johnson diverged sharply in the second half. The movie’s executive producer (Darryl Zanuck) and its director, John Ford, were both politically conservative, and they asked Johnson to tone down Steinbeck’s leftist overtones. He also gave the Joads a happier ending than they met in the book, ending on a more optimistic note.