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
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
“How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River,” by Barbara Crooker from More. © C & R Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try,
walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,
arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.
Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road
goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.
A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,
so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole
thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more.
Today is the birthday of English author Aldous Huxley (1894) (books by this author), born in Godalming, Surrey. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a scientist and man of letters who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his defense of the theory of evolution. Huxley wrote a few of novels that satirized English literary society, and these established him as a writer; it was his fifth book, Brave New World (1932), which arose out of his distrust of 20th century politics and technology, for which he is most remembered. Huxley started out intending to write a parody of H.G. Wells’ utopian novel Men Like Gods (1923). He ended by envisioning a future where society functions like one of Henry Ford’s assembly lines: a mass-produced culture in which people are fed a steady diet of bland amusements and take an antidepressant called Soma to keep themselves from feeling anything negative.
It’s natural to compare Brave New World with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), since they each offer a view of a dystopian future. Cultural critic Neil Postman spelled out the difference in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. … In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
Today is the birthday of the man who said, “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion” and “War does not decide who is right, but who is left”: playwright and founder of the London School of Economics George Bernard Shaw (books by this author), born in Dublin in 1856. He moved to London with his mother in 1876, determined to be a writer. His first attempts at fiction were failures by nearly any standard. He wrote a semiautobiographical novel, the aptly titled Immaturity, in 1879; no publisher in London would touch it. (It was finally published in 1930, after he was famous.) He then wrote four more novels without publishing any of them, either. He tried submitting articles to various newspapers for a decade, and not a single one ever ran. His last attempt at fiction was published posthumously as An Unfinished Novel, which he worked on in 1887-8 and finally gave up on. He earned less than 10 shillings a year from writing during this period; luckily his mother made enough as a music teacher to support them both.
In the mid-1880s, he finally got work as a journalist, writing book reviews and a music column, and later, as a theater critic. He made a good living, and his reviews were witty. In them he argued passionately that the theater needed fresh ideas, and that’s when he started to write his own plays. He’s best known for Pygmalion (1912), about a Cockney girl who’s taught to talk like a lady. It was made into a film in 1938, and also a musical, My Fair Lady (the stage version premiered in 1956; the film version was released in 1964). He also wrote Arms and the Man (1894), which was his first popular success, as well as Man and Superman (1903), Major Barbara (1905), and Saint Joan (1923). He’s considered one of the most significant English-language playwrights since Shakespeare, and also nearly as widely quoted. He’s the one who gave us “England and America are two countries separated by a common language,” and “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches,” and “People who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of people who are doing it.”
On this day in 1908, W. B. Yeats’ muse, Maud Gonne, wrote Yeats a letter where she described having a ghostly vision of him the previous night. At the time, Maud Gonne was living in Paris, had already turned down four marriage proposals from Yeats in the past two decades, and married a man whom Yeats considered a brute.
Both Yeats and Gonne were deeply interested in the occult. They were each members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a British secret society that practiced ritual magic, trances, and invocations in order to access hidden wisdom. On this day, she described to Yeats her “astral” visit to him that night before. She wrote:
Last night all my household had retired at a quarter to 11 and I thought I would go to you astrally […]
We went somewhere in space I don’t know where — I was conscious of starlight & of hearing the sea below us. You had taken the form I think of a great serpent, but I am not quite sure. I only saw your face distinctly & as I looked into your eyes (as I did the day in Paris you asked me what I was thinking of) & your lips touched mine. We melted into one another till we formed only one being, a being greater than ourselves who felt all & knew all with double intensity — the clock striking 11 broke the spell & as we separated it felt as if life was being drawn away from me through my chest with almost physical pain.”
In a poem inspired by Maud Gonne, Yeats wrote:
“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with the golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
It’s the birthday of Carl Jung, (books by this author) born in Kesswil, Switzerland (1875). He was the founder of analytic psychology. He noticed that myths and fairytales from all kinds of different cultures have certain similarities. He called these similarities archetypes, and he believed that archetypes come from a collective unconscious that all humans share. He said that if people get in touch with these archetypes in their own lives, they will be happier and healthier.