Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
The Blue Blanket
by Sue Ellen Thompson
Toward the end, my father argued
with my mother over everything: He wanted
her to eat again. He wanted her to take
her medicine. He wanted her
to live. He argued with her in their bed
at naptime. He was cold, he said,
tugging at the blanket tangled
in my mother’s wasted limbs. From the hall
outside their room I listened
as love, caught and fettered, howled
at its captors, gnawing at its own flesh
in its frenzy to escape. Then I entered
without knocking, freed the blanket
trapped between my mother’s knees and shook
it out once, high above
their bodies’ cursive. It floated
for a moment, blue as the Italian sky
into which my father flew his bombs
in 1943, blue as the hat I’d bought her
for the winter she would never live
to see. My father’s agitation eased,
my mother smiled up at me, her face
lucent with gratitude, as the blanket
sifted down on them like earth.
“The Blue Blanket” by Sue Ellen Thompson. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the novelist Edmund White, (books by this author) born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1940). He realized he was gay when he was 12 years old, but he kept trying to blame it on things, like his shyness or the fact that his mother was overprotective. He came out to his father, and his father didn’t believe him until he hired a private investigator to follow him around.
He got a job working for Time Life Books, and he wrote fiction on the side. He wrote five novels about contemporary gay life, but he couldn’t get any of them published. So finally he wrote Forgetting Elena (1973), about a man who wakes up after a party and can’t remember who he is. Writer Vladimir Nabokov called it the best new novel he’d read in years.
But he wanted to write about his own experiences, and he set out to become the foremost gay novelist in America. His third novel, A Boy’s Own Story (1982), was the first gay coming-of-age novel in America, and it became a best-seller in the United States and England. He has gone on to write a series of novels, chronicling the history of gay society in his lifetime, including The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988), The Farewell Symphony (1997), and The Married Man (2000.)
He was out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping for his wife in 1957 when he came across a small toy bear sitting on a shelf. It was the only one in the display that had not been sold, and Bond thought the bear looked “very sorry for himself.” He bought the bear and then named him “Paddington” because he and his wife lived near the Paddington underground station in London.
The bear is from Peru and had been sent to England — along with a jar of marmalade — by his Aunt Lucy. He wears a label that says, “Please look after this bear.” Throughout a series of children’s books, Paddington Bear gets into troublesome situations, but always emerges safely and everything turns out fine.
Michael Bond said: “One of the nice things about writing for children is their total acceptance of the fantastic. Give a child a stick and a patch of wet sand and it will draw the outline of a boat and accept it as such. I did learn though, that to make fantasy work you have to believe in it yourself. If an author doesn’t believe in his inventions and his characters nobody else will. Paddington to me is, and always has been, very much alive.”
It’s the birthday of Lorrie Moore (1957) (books by this author), born Marie Lorena Moore in Glens Falls, New York. She said of her childhood: “There was acting, and dressing up. We’d play music, and write crappy songs. We’d draw and paint, and fancy ourselves as artistic. It was part of being a girl in the ’60s that you were creative.” She won a short-story prize from Seventeen magazine when she was 19 years old, which prompted her to send them everything she’d ever written. She said, “They couldn’t get rid of me. I was like a stalker. I sent them everything, and of course they didn’t want anything more from me.” It was only after she told her parents about her publication that she found out they had both wanted to be writers themselves. Her father went up into the attic and brought down stories that he’d once submitted to The New Yorker, and her mother admitted that she’d given up journalism for nursing.
She published her first book, a collection of stories that she’d written in graduate school at Cornell, when she was 28. That book was Self-Help (1985), a book Moore later said has “too many birds and moons, and space aliens, and struggling artists of every stripe, as well as much illness and divorce and other sad facts of family and romantic life.” But the book was received well, and she was compared to everyone from Grace Paley to Woody Allen. She published two novels after Self-Help: Anagrams (1986) and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994); as well as some short story collections, including Birds of America (1998).
She still writes essays and criticism; a collection of such work was published last year under the title See What Can Be Done.
Today is the birthday of Horatio Alger Jr. (books by this author) born in Chelsea, Massachusetts (1832). He was the oldest of five kids, and he was nearsighted and asthmatic. He was accepted to Harvard when he was 16, and he said, “No period of my life has been one of such unmixed happiness as the four years which have been spent within college walls.” He studied under Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was named Class Poet, and wrote essays, poetry, and short sketches. After graduation, he didn’t enjoy much publishing success, so he made his living by taking a series of temporary teaching jobs.
He moved to New York City, and began working with homeless and delinquent boys, establishing boarding houses and securing homes and public assistance for them. It was during this time that he started writing dime novels for boys. It was his book Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks (1868) that finally made him a literary success. Inspired by the street boys he worked with, he had found a formula that he would return to again and again: a young boy, living in poverty, manages to find success and happiness by working hard and never giving up. His books had a powerful influence on America’s self-concept as a land of rags-to-riches success stories. If you worked hard, and lived virtuously, and had a combination of “pluck and luck,” as Alger said, you could go from the gutter to the mansion.
His popularity waned near the end of the century, as boys’ tastes changed. He tried to keep up by making his books more violent, but his income dried up, and he died in near-poverty in 1899. At his request, his sister Augusta burned all of his personal correspondence. Historians have only gradually been able to reconstruct the story of his life.