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+
The New Year
by Barbara Crooker
When a door bangs shut, a window doesn’t open.
Sometimes, it slams on your fingers. God often
gives us more than we can handle. A sorrow
shared is a sorrow multiplied. There’s a bottle
of Champagne waiting to be uncorked,
but it’s not for you. Nobody wants another poem.
The prize-winning envelope has someone else’s name
on it. This year you already know you’re not going
to lose those ten pounds. How can you feel hope,
when the weight of last year’s rejections is enough
to bury you? Still, the empty page craves the pen,
wants to feel the black ink unscrolling on its skin.
In spite of everything, you sit at your desk and begin.
“The New Year” by Barbara Crooker from Some Glad Morning © 2019. Aired by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. (buy now)
Today is New Year’s Day. Various New Year traditions have been celebrated for a long time — the earliest recorded celebration was in about 2000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, where the new year was celebrated in mid-March, around the time of the vernal equinox. Iranians and Balinese still celebrate the new year with the spring equinox. The Chinese New Year is based around the lunar cycles, and it can fall between late January and late February. In Europe, the Celtic New Year began on November 1st, after the harvest.
The first time that New Year’s Day was celebrated on January 1st was in 45 B.C., when Caesar redid the Roman calendar. He based it on the sun instead of the moon (like the Egyptians), added some days to the year, and declared every January 1st the start of the new year. But Caesar had subtly miscalculated the length of the solar year, and declared an extra day in February every four years, which turned out to be slightly too often, so that by the Middle Ages the calendar was about 10 days off. It wasn’t until the 1570s that the calendar was finally refined with leap years in the correct places, and since then, January 1st has been celebrated as New Year’s Day.
It was on this day in 1660 that Samuel Pepys began keeping a diary (books by this author). Pepys kept his diary for nearly a decade; he wrote about the plague of 1665, the Great Fire of 1666, and the coronation of Charles II. He recorded great scientific discoveries and mundane items as well: his diet, toilet habits, marriage and affairs, and social events that he had been to. He was always very candid about his insecurities and petty jealousies, and he didn’t mind sharing a bit of gossip. He left behind a delightfully detailed portrait of Restoration England. He didn’t intend to make it public; in fact, he wrote it in shorthand, so that it couldn’t be read at a casual glance. He even hid some racy passages in a code made up of a mixture of Italian, Spanish, and French. He kept the diary for nearly 10 years, and finally gave it up when he began to suffer from eye strain.
The hymn “Amazing Grace” was first presented at a prayer meeting in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, on this date in 1773. Vicar John Newton had jotted down the verses in the attic room where he wrote his sermons. The hymn’s theme of redemption was something Newton was keenly familiar with. He had been a sailor as a young man, but an unruly and insubordinate one. One captain called him the most profane man he had ever met, and that was not an easy title to earn among sailors. He was pressed into the Royal Navy, eventually deserted, and then got into the slave trade. In 1748, aboard the slave ship Greyhound, Newton called out to God to save him during a violent storm. It wasn’t the first time he had found religion in times of crisis, but this was the first time it stuck. Even so, his conversion was gradual, and he stayed with the slave trade for several more years.
After Newton became ordained in 1764 and was offered the curacy of Olney, he often shared his own struggles with temptation and sin in his sermons, something his largely illiterate parishioners appreciated. He was devoted to his congregation, and took an active interest in their daily lives. He struck up a friendship with poet William Cowper, and together they published Olney Hymns, which included “Amazing Grace.”
The hymn was written in a standard meter, and was sung to a variety of tunes. Sometimes it wasn’t even sung at all; it was just chanted. It wasn’t until 1835 that it was linked to the melody that we know today.
It’s the birthday of J.D. Salinger (books by this author), born Jerome David Salinger in New York City (1919). The notably reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye (1951) died in 2010, at the age of 91, after 50 years spent avoiding the public eye as much as possible.
Today is the birthday of English author E. M. (Edward Morgan) Forster (1879) (books by this author), born in London. His father died when Forster was a baby, and his mother and his paternal aunts raised him. His mother’s family was impulsive and irresponsible, and his father’s family believed in evangelism and strict moral responsibility, so he grew up in the middle of a clash of ideals. He inherited a great deal of money when he was a boy, so when he graduated from Cambridge, he had the freedom to devote his life to writing.
In 1901, he began a novel that he called Lucy. It was about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, who travels to Italy with her nervous and spinsterish older cousin. It eventually became his third published novel, A Room With a View (1908). He had his first big literary success with Howards End (1910), a novel about the class system in England as revealed through three families: the Wilcoxes, who are upper-middle-class capitalists; the Schlegels, who are left-wing intellectuals; and the Basts, who are struggling to rise above working class.
After publishing four books in five years, Forster didn’t produce another novel until A Passage to India (1924), 14 years later. It’s set during the British colonial period in India, and reveals the undercurrent of tension and prejudice between the two cultures. In a contemporary review, The Guardian said of the book, “To speak of its ‘fairness’ would convey the wrong impression, because that suggests a conscious virtue. This is the involuntary fairness of the man who sees.”
In spite of the great success of A Passage to India, Forster didn’t publish another novel in his lifetime. His novel Maurice (1971), a homosexual love story, wasn’t published until after Forster died in 1970.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®