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+
Waiting in Line for Eternity
by Naomi Cochran
the final check-out lane
miles and miles
and miles long
not a shopping cart in sight
how am I going to pay
for my life?
how will I account
for what’s missing?
we shuffle along
no turning back
will it matter
who I loved
what I loved
why I loved
check me out
check me in
forgive my passions
give me time
“Waiting in Line for Eternity” by Naomi Cochran from Fill in the Blank: Collected Poems 2005-2016. Just a Thought Press © 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
He’s best remembered today for his short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1944), which was made into a movie in 2013 staring Ben Stiller. It’s the tale of a henpecked husband who fantasizes about a life of daring adventure. As a young man, Thurber’s own fantasy had been a little more tame: he dreamed of working as a staff writer for a new magazine called The New Yorker. He began submitting pieces to the magazine in 1926, when it had only been in print for about a year. He said, “My pieces came back so fast I began to think The New Yorker must have a rejection machine.” He persisted, and the first story that was accepted was so impressive that editor Harold Ross offered him a job.
But the story must have impressed Ross a little too much, because instead of getting the staff writer position he longed for, Thurber found himself higher up the ladder as an administrative editor. Unhappy, he tried to get himself demoted by making mistakes on purpose, but it didn’t work. He gave up and just kept submitting pieces to the magazine. When Ross found out how badly he wanted to write, he gave him the position and put him in an office with E.B. White. The two men became good friends, and collaborated on a self-help parody called Is Sex Necessary? (1929), which featured Thurber’s cartoons.
It’s the birthday of poet and short-story author Delmore Schwartz (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York (1913). He studied philosophy, and wanted to become a poet, and one summer while he was in college, he locked himself in his apartment for a month and wrote a short story. It was called “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” and it was published as the lead piece in The Partisan Review. In the story, which is based on Schwartz’s life, the main character watches his parents’ courtship unfold on a movie screen. When his father proposes, the author begs them to reconsider, to never marry and have children. Schwartz also gave the title to his first collection of poetry and short stories, which he published in 1938 to great acclaim from literary luminaries like Pound, Eliot, and Nabokov.
Schwartz was one of the most promising writers of his generation, but he fell into the abyss of alcohol abuse and mental illness. He began spending his days drinking at the White Horse Tavern in New York and collecting little bits of quotations in a journal. He died of a heart attack in 1966, and no one claimed his body for three days.
On this date in 1660, a professional female actress appeared on the English stage in a production of Othello. It’s one of the earliest known instances of a female role actually being played by a woman in an English production. Up until this time, women were considered too fine and sensitive for the rough life of the theater, and boys or men dressed in drag to play female characters. An earlier attempt to form co-ed theater troupes was met with jeers and hisses and thrown produce.
But by the second half of the 17th century, the King’s Company felt that London society could handle it. Before the production, a lengthy disclaimer in iambic pentameter was delivered to the audience, warning them that they were about to see an actual woman in the part. This was, the actor explained, because they felt that men were just too big and burly to play the more delicate roles, “With bone so large and nerve so incompliant / When you call Desdemona, enter giant.”
It’s the birthday of novelist Mary Gordon (books by this author), born in Far Rockaway, New York (1949). She grew up in a Catholic household. She wanted to be a writer from a young age, but for a while she also wanted to be a nun, and figured that she could write poetry on the side. She changed her mind about being a nun, but she never gave up on the writer idea. She went to college at Barnard, got a master’s in writing, and then went to work on a Ph.D. on Virginia Woolf. She was almost finished with it but she felt like it was compromising her fiction writing. And eventually, it was actually Virginia Woolf who inspired Gordon to quit her dissertation. She said she would take notes on Woolf’s writing, and that “the rhythms of those incredible sentences — the repetitions, the caesuras, the potent colons, semicolons. I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Since then she has published many novels as well as short stories, memoirs, and essays, including Final Payments (1978), The Company of Women (1980), Temporary Shelter (1987), Pearl (2005), The Love of My Youth (2011), and most recently On Thomas Merton (2019).
It’s the birthday of travel writer Bill Bryson (books by this author), born in Des Moines, Iowa (1951). He writes so many travel books that he’s always away from home researching, so he promised his wife he would write a book from home. He said, “So, I decided I’d do a book about the home.” That book was At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2010).
In it, he wrote: “Looking around my house, I was startled and somewhat appalled to realize how little I knew about the domestic world around me. Sitting at the kitchen table one afternoon, playing idly with the salt and pepper shakers, it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea why, out of all the spices in the world, we have such an abiding attachment to those two. Why not pepper and cardamom, say, or salt and cinnamon? And why do forks have four tines and not three or five? There must be reasons for these things. Dressing, I wondered why all my suit jackets have a row of pointless buttons on every sleeve. I heard a reference on the radio to someone paying for room and board, and realized that when people talk about room and board, I have no idea what the board is that they are talking about. Suddenly the house seemed a place of mystery to me.”
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