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
A Private Man on Public Men
by Thomas Hardy
When my contemporaries were driving
Their coach through Life with strain and striving,
And raking riches into heaps,
And ably pleading in the Courts
With smart rejoinders and retorts,
Or where the Senate nightly keeps
Its vigils, till their fames were fanned
By rumour’s tongue throughout the land,
I lived in quiet, screened, unknown,
Pondering upon some stick or stone,
Or news of some rare book or bird
Latterly bought, or seen, or heard,
Not wishing ever to set eyes on
The surging crowd beyond the horizon,
Tasting years of moderate gladness
Mellowed by sundry days of sadness,
Shut from the noise of the world without,
Hearing but dimly its rush and rout,
Unenvying those amid its roar,
Little endowed, not wanting more.
“A Private Man on Public Men” by Thomas Hardy. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of novelist Michael Cunningham, (books by this author) born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1952). He was accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and everything started out well for him. He got a couple of stories published, in The Paris Review and The Atlantic Monthly, and he got an agent and published a novel, Golden States (1984). He figured that the literary life would be easy. But his novel didn’t do very well, and he kept getting rejected. He worked in restaurants and bars to make his living.
He was working on a chapter for a new novel, and his partner Ken Corbett read it and thought it was great, and told him he should send it out. He sent it right to The New Yorker, which had rejected him many times, just to make a point and show Ken what a tough world it was for a writer. To his shock, The New Yorker loved it and published it as the story “The White Angel,” which turned into his second novel, A Home at the End of the World (1990). It got great reviews, but it was his 1999 novel, The Hours, that really launched him to fame — it was a best-seller, it won the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and it was made into a film in 2002. It’s the story of three women in different times and places — one of them is Virginia Woolf — all tied together by the novel Mrs. Dalloway, one of Cunningham’s favorite books and the first one he fell in love with. He said: “When I was 15 I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, because a girl on whom I had a crush threw it at me and said something like, ‘Why don’t you read this and try to be less stupid?’ I did read it and, although I remained pretty much as stupid as I’d been before, it was a revelation to me. I hadn’t known, until then, that you — that anyone — could do such things with language; I’d never seen sentences of such complexity, musicality, density, and beauty. I remember thinking, ‘Hey, she was doing with language something like what Jimi Hendrix does with a guitar.’ Mrs. Dalloway made me into a reader, and it was only a matter of time until I became a writer.”
His most recent book is A Wild Swan and Other Tales (2015), a collection of reimagined fairy tales in which the Beast stands ahead of you in the convenience store, buying a pack of smokes, and a lazy Jack (of the Beanstalk) prefers living in his mother’s basement to getting a job.
It’s the birthday of Harold Ross, born in Aspen, Colorado (1892). He founded The New Yorker magazine but never really fit in with The New Yorker‘s audience. He was gap-toothed, his hair was always a mess, and he spoke with a Western twang. He had never finished high school, and people sometimes joked that he’d only read one book in his life. But he had actually started out as a migratory newspaper man, traveling the country and filing hundreds of stories from California and Brooklyn and New Orleans and Panama. He later said of that period in his life, “If I stayed anywhere more than two weeks, I thought I was in a rut.”
He settled in New York after serving in World War I, at a time when the city was suddenly filling up with smart, interesting people in their late 20s, and it occurred to him that there was no national magazine being written for this new generation. All the popular magazines at the time were either too intellectual or too middle-brow. Ross wanted to create a magazine that was funny and entertaining and unpretentious, and the result was The New Yorker, which was first published in February of 1925.
Ross knew right away that the magazine should have a distinctive look, and so he made sure that it was filled with cartoons. But at a time when most cartoons were caricatures of public figures or just one line gags with a picture attached, Ross insisted that his artists draw real things and real situations, people at bars or in offices or at parties or at home with their families, and the result was that he helped invent the kind of cartoon that The New Yorker still publishes today. Ross’s genius was in spotting talented writers and hanging onto them. He personally hired E.B. White, James Thurber, Janet Flanner, A.J. Liebling, and Joseph Mitchell. Some of his employees were driven crazy by his endless memos and writing suggestions, or the way that he would walk into the writers’ office and shout that he wanted to hear fingers pounding typewriters. But most people said they never really knew him. James Thurber wrote: “You caught only glimpses of Ross, even if you spent a long evening with him. He was always in mid-flight, or on the edge of his chair, alighting or about to take off.” His is the only photograph that still hangs in the hallway of the New Yorker offices. It shows his hair slicked down, but just starting to stick back up.
Today is the birthday of the “March King,” John Philip Sousa, born in Washington, D.C., in 1854. He began studying music when he was six, and over the course of his life he studied voice, violin, flute, piano, trombone, cornet, baritone, and alto horn, as well as composition. When he was 13, he tried to run away from home and join a circus band, prompting his father to enlist him in the United States Marine Band as an apprentice musician. He published his first composition in 1872, at the age of 18, and was conducting a Broadway orchestra — for Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore — by the time he was 21. He went back to the Marine Band in 1880, this time as its leader, a position he held for 12 years. During his tenure, he composed “Semper Fidelis,” which became the official march of the United States Marine Corps.
After he retired from the Marines, he formed his own concert band; they were the first American band to go on a world tour, and they even had their own baseball team. He was a strict perfectionist: Everything they played was note perfect and was accorded the same respect, whether it was a classical piece or a pop tune. During World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and led their band; by this time he was a wealthy man, so he donated his naval salary to the Sailors’ and Marines’ Relief Fund.
He composed many kinds of music, including suites, fantasies, humoresques, and dances; he even composed several university fight songs, operettas, and other vocal pieces. It’s his marches that he’s remembered for, though. On Christmas Day, 1896, he composed one of his best beloved marches, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” It was named the official march of the United States by an act of Congress. In addition to his skills as a composer and conductor, he was also a fine marksman, and is enshrined in the Trapshooting Hall of Fame. His Hall of Fame biography includes the following quote: “Let me say that just about the sweetest music to me is when I call, ‘pull,’ the old gun barks, and the referee in perfect key announces, ‘dead’.” He wrote several articles about trapshooting; he also wrote a full-length autobiography and three novels.
He was not a fan of the new recording industry and all its technology, and spoke adamantly against it at a Congressional hearing in 1906: “When I was a boy … in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today, you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.”
He was a hard worker, devoutly religious, and known far and wide for his personal integrity. He often said, “When you hear of Sousa retiring, you will hear of Sousa dead!” and his words were prophetic: He died suddenly of a heart attack following a rehearsal in 1932.
It’s the birthday of sci-fi and fantasy novelist Catherine Asaro (books by this author). She was born in Oakland, California, in 1955. She’s the daughter of Frank Asaro, a nuclear chemist who discovered what’s known as the “iridium anomaly,” an unusually high level of iridium in one particular stratum of rock dating to the end of the Cretaceous Period. Iridium is otherwise quite rare on Earth, but it’s common in meteorites, and this discovery led his team of scientists to hypothesize that an asteroid may have struck the Earth 65 million years ago and caused the mass extinction of — among other organisms — the dinosaurs.
Catherine Asaro is best known in science fiction circles for her series of novels and novellas, Saga of the Skolian Empire. She also holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in the field of chemical physics, and is a member of a think tank called SIGMA, which is made up of authors of speculative fiction who advise the government on future trends that may affect national security. She often introduces complex mathematical concepts in her fiction, based on her numerous research publications in that field. Sometimes she includes an essay in the back of the book that explains the concepts more fully, and in lay terms. Here’s an example of how her mind works: “When I was making up the story for The Quantum Rose, I was also writing my doctorate, which used quantum scattering theory to give a coupled channel formalism for describing polyatomic photodissociation (such a catchy subject, soon to be a major movie … or maybe not). I used to lie in bed at night, thinking about my work. The way I relaxed was to let stories evolve in my mind, so the story for The Quantum Rose evolved right along with my thesis work. Pretty soon I was associating characters in the book with quantum scattering processes. It was fun, like putting together a puzzle.”