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 Robert Morgan
I have never understood how
the mountains when first seen by hunters
and traders and settlers were covered
with peavines. How could every cove
and clearing, old field, every
opening in the woods and even
understories of deep woods
be laced with vines and blossoms in
June? They say the flowers were so thick
the fumes were smothering. They tell
of shining fogs of bees above
the sprawling mess and every bush
and sapling tangled with tender
curls and tresses. I don’t see how
it was possible for wild peas
to take the woods in shade and deep
hollows and spread over cliffs in
hanging gardens and choke out other
flowers. It’s hard to believe the creek
banks and high ledges were that bright.
But hardest of all is to see
how such profusion, such overwhelming
lushness and lavish could vanish,
so completely disappear that
you must look through several valleys
to find a sprig or strand of wild
peavine curling on a weedstalk
like some word from a lost language
once flourishing on every tongue.
“Wild Peavines” by Robert Morgan, from Wild Peavines. © Gnomon Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Thomas Edison demonstrated his new phonograph for the first time on this date in 1877. Other inventors had figured out how to record sounds onto metal plates or wax-coated paper, but Edison was the first to come up with a machine that could play the sounds back. He made his first recordings on tinfoil cylinders, and his intention was to develop a “talking telegraph.” It never occurred to him that people would ever want to play music on it. The Scientific American reported, “A young man came into the office … and placed before the editors a small, simple machine about which very few preliminary remarks were offered. The visitor without any ceremony whatever turned the crank, and to the astonishment of all present the machine said: ‘Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the phonograph?’ The machine thus spoke for itself, and made known the fact that it was the phonograph.” The machine was an overnight sensation.
It’s the birthday of novelist Madeleine L’Engle (books by this author), born in New York City (1918). She worked for a while as an actress, and she was performing in the play The Cherry Orchard when she met her husband, the actor Hugh Franklin. She published a novel, The Small Rain (1945), and decided to give up acting and focus on writing and raising her kids. But while she was in her 30s, her career as a writer was going so badly that she considered giving up.
Then she read a book that made her change her mind. She said, “I read a book of Einstein’s, in which he said that anyone who’s not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burnt-out candle.” She was so fascinated by Einstein’s thinking that she kept reading about theoretical physics, and ended up writing a science fiction novel for young adults based on those ideas. L’Engle’s three children loved the book, but it was rejected by 26 publishers; many thought it was too hard for children, and others thought that a science fiction novel shouldn’t have a female as a main character. So L’Engle gave up on the book.
That year, her mother visited for Christmas, and L’Engle hosted a tea party for her mother’s old friends. One of those friends was in a writing group with John Farrar of the publishing house Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. They didn’t publish young adult fiction, but the woman insisted that L’Engle meet Farrar and at least show him the manuscript. He published L’Engle’s novel, A Wrinkle in Time (1963). It won the Newbery Medal; during her acceptance speech, she said: “I can’t possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.” A Wrinkle in Time has sold more than 10 million copies and was made into a major motion picture earlier this year.
Her other books include A Circle of Quiet (1972), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), and A Ring of Endless Light (1980).
It’s the birthday of novelist and theologian C.S. Lewis (books by this author), born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland (1898). He grew up going to church, but he was more interested in mythology, and after his mother died when he was a boy, he became even less convinced that God existed. By the time he was a young teenager, he was a committed atheist. He received a scholarship to Oxford, and although he did not like England and though English accents sounded strange, he loved it there and ended up teaching there for nearly 30 years.
At Oxford, he met another faculty member, J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis said: “At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.” But they became close friends, and it was Tolkien who helped convince Lewis to give up his atheism and embrace Christianity. Lewis described himself as “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England,” but he went on to write books that are now considered classics of Christian apologetics, including The Screwtape Letters (1942) and Mere Christianity (1952). He is best known for his fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, which begins with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).
It’s the birthday of novelist Louisa May Alcott (books by this author), born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1832). Her family friends included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and she was sometimes tutored by them, but mostly she was self-taught or taught by her father. Her father, Bronson, was often involved in idealistic projects. He ran several failed experimental schools, and when Louisa was 10 years old, her father founded an intentional community where everyone ate a vegan diet, no one used animal labor or wore cotton (because of slavery), and all property was communal. Like most of Bronson’s projects, the community was a failure. The Alcotts never had enough money, so as a teenager, Louisa Alcott went to work as a seamstress and governess.
When the Civil War broke out, she enlisted as a nurse at the Union Hospital in Georgetown. She had always been the nurse in the family, and she never got sick. Six weeks later, she contracted typhoid pneumonia and almost died; she never fully recovered. She said, “I was never ill before this time and never well afterward.” Her six weeks as a nurse gave her plenty of material for her writing, and in 1863, she published Hospital Sketches. She wrote later: “The Sketches never made much money, but showed me ‘my style’, and taking the hint, I went where glory waited me.”
It was a while before Alcott took that hint and wrote more about her own life. For several years, she focused on the writing she loved: lurid, sensational potboilers, which she called “blood and thunder” stories. They had titles like “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment” and A Long Fatal Love Chase, and they featured revenge, opium addiction, sex, and cross-dressing.
She was not happy when her publisher asked her to write a book for girls. She wrote in her journal: “Mr. N. wants a girls’ story, and I begin ‘Little Women.’ Marmee, Anna, and May all approve my plan. So I plod away, though I don’t enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters; but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it.” Two months later, she wrote in her journal that she had sent off the manuscript. Little Women (1868) was an immediate hit, and her publisher demanded sequels. Alcott made enough money that, for the first time, her whole family could live comfortably.
She said, “I like good strong words that mean something.”