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+
Country Music Every Time
by Margaret Hasse
In every song there’s a little story
of a love and the myriad ways
it can go wrong. It can go wrong
as she stands in the kitchen
frying eggs. It can go wrong
as he’s driving truck
through slick black nights
down highways too long
to dream about. It can go wrong
for a strikebreaker or a stargazer.
It can break up with a word, a blow,
a night spent alone, over a TV show,
a menu, a baby who comes
or one who was only dreamed about.
Love, the country singer insists,
is the only thing worth anything.
The heart like a rock in the sand.
The waves in human song
break over it, over it.
“Country Music Every Time” by Margaret Hasse from Stars Above, Stars Below. © Nodin Press, 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1892, Anton Chekhov (books by this author) wrote a letter to his lover, Lydia Avilov. He said: “Yes, it is nice now in the country, not only nice but positively amazing. It’s real spring, the trees are coming out, it is hot. The nightingales are singing, and the frogs are croaking in all sorts of tones. I haven’t a halfpenny, but the way I look at it is this: the rich man is not he who has plenty of money, but he who has the means to live now in the luxurious surroundings given us by early spring.”
Today is the birthday of publishing colossus William Randolph Hearst, who was born in San Francisco in 1863. He demanded the helm of his first paper, the San Francisco Examiner, when he was 23 and his father acquired the paper as payment for a gambling debt. It wasn’t long before his papers had a reputation for sensationalism, or as it came to be called, “yellow journalism” — one of his writers said “A Hearst newspaper is like a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” On the other hand, Hearst newspapers also employed some of the best writers in the business, like Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Jack London.
He and Joseph Pulitzer had an open rivalry in the New York market. Reporters from Hearst’s Morning Journal and Pulitzer’s World went beyond scooping each other to stealing stories outright from the competition. Hearst had the last laugh when he ran a story about the death of Colonel Reflipe W. Thenuz — an anagram of “we pilfer the news” — and Pulitzer’s paper took the bait, even adding made-up dateline information. This prank was harmless enough, but when the U.S. battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor in 1898, the two papers both published a supposedly suppressed cablegram saying the explosion was not an accident. There was no such cable, but it boosted sales of both papers to record levels, and the public demanded that President McKinley declare war on Spain. As the famous story goes, artist Frederick Remington was sent to Cuba by Hearst to cover the war. He wrote home, “There is no war. Request to be recalled,” only to be told, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” And so he did.
It’s the birthday of editor Robert Gottlieb (books by this author), born in New York City (1931). In 1957, 26-year-old Gottlieb was a young editor at Simon & Schuster, when the company was in turmoil and nobody seemed to be in charge. That summer, he received a 75-page manuscript for a book called Catch-18, by Joseph Heller. Gottlieb thought it was brilliant and offered to publish it. Heller and Gottlieb worked on the book for years; Gottlieb would tape pieces of the manuscript and Heller’s handwritten notes all over his office walls and desk and then rearrange passages. Gottlieb was a tough editor, and he pored through every line, demanding that Heller rewrite whenever he thought it could be better.
One day, Gottlieb got the bad news that best-selling novelist Leon Uris was about to publish a book called Mila 18, and Gottlieb insisted that there could not be two books with the number “18” in the title during the same publishing season. They had a long brainstorming session and went through every possible number — they discarded “11” because it sounded too much like Ocean’s Eleven, and Heller wanted “14,” but Gottlieb didn’t think it was funny enough. Gottlieb was so worried about the title that he lay awake at night thinking about it, and the number “22” came to him. For whatever reason, he thought it was a funny number, and Heller agreed. Later that year, Catch-22 (1961) was published, and by spring of 1963, it had sold more than 1 million copies.
Gottlieb went on to work with writers Toni Morrison, John le Carré, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, John Cheever, and many more. He was the editor of The New Yorker from 1987 to 1992.
He said, “I have fixed more sentences than most people have read in their lives.”
It’s the birthday of the man who said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”: Duke Ellington, born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C. (1899). His father’s job as a butler paid well, his mother dressed him in fancy clothes, and so his friends gave him the nickname “Duke”. When he was seven years old, a piano teacher refused to teach him, because he wouldn’t stop improvising and experimenting with off-tone chords. So he taught himself to play by studying the family player piano. He said, “I never had much interest in the piano until I realized every time I played, a girl would appear on the piano bench to my left, and another to my right.”
Ellington thought of his band as a musical laboratory, and he experimented with many different styles, everything from “swing” to “bop”. He said, “Playing ‘bop’ is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.” He went on to compose jazz standards like “Mood Indigo” (1930). In his later career he combined jazz and classical music in works such as Black, Brown and Beige (1943), a musical portrayal of African-American history.
His autobiography was Music is My Mistress (1973), in which he said, “Jazz is a good barometer of freedom. In its beginnings, the United States spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free, that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”