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+
by Dorothy Parker
The sun’s gone dim, and
The moon’s turned black;
For I loved him, and
He didn’t love back.
“Two-Volume Novel” by Dorothy Parker from The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker © 1994. Published by the Modern Library and used by permission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (buy now)
Elizabeth I held England’s first recorded state lottery on this date in 1569. The queen needed to raise funds to rebuild some harbors and make England more competitive in global trade, so she instituted the lottery for “reparation of the havens and strengths of the Realme and towards such other public good works.” Her lottery was limited to 40,000 entries of 10 shillings each — too steep a price for most commoners. People lined up at the west door of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to buy their tickets. The winner’s name has been lost to us. The prize was 5,000 pounds, part paid in cash and the rest paid in tapestries, plate, and good linen cloth. To sweeten the pot even further, the queen offered all entrants a “get out of jail free card” for all crimes besides murder, treason, piracy, and other felonies. The total jackpot was equal to the number of tickets sold, but the prize wasn’t paid out for three years, so the crown enjoyed an interest-free loan.
Government learned a valuable lesson: the lottery — sometimes known as a “voluntary tax” — is a great way to bring in some extra revenue to fill state coffers.
As Henry Fielding wrote in his play The Lottery (1732): “A lottery is a taxation upon all the fools in creation; and heaven be praised, it is easily raised, for credulity’s always in fashion.”
It’s the birthday of the botanist William Curtis, born in Alton, England (1746). A scientist, he directed the Apothecaries’ Garden––the world’s leading botanic garden––at a time when amateur gardening was booming and exotic plants were available through catalogs. He became an authority on how Londoners could grow plants from all over the world.
It’s the birthday of historian Bernard DeVoto (books by this author), born in Ogden, Utah (1897). He wrote a novel, The Crooked Mile (1924), and dreamed of writing the Great American Novel. Then he wrote a book on one of his literary heroes, Mark Twain, a book called Mark Twain’s America (1932). It blended literary criticism and history, and DeVoto found he had a knack for nonfiction, and especially for history.
In 1935, he began a monthly column for Harper’s, “The Easy Chair,” which he wrote until his death in 1955. He covered a huge range of topics: the evils of McCarthyism, detective novels, the Civil War, railroads, the best way to make a martini, and international politics.
In the summer of 1946, DeVoto took a three-month road trip through the West. He had been writing about the West on and off for years, and had just finished two books set there: a novel and a history of fur trading. He wanted to revisit the place in preparation for a book on the Lewis and Clark expedition, and he thought he would write some essays during his trip. He was horrified by the land abuse that he discovered there. The novelist Wallace Stegner, who wrote DeVoto’s biography, said: “DeVoto went West in 1946 a historian and tourist. He came back an embattled conservationist.” Commercial interests—especially cattle grazers and big timber—were attempting to take back huge amounts of public land, and DeVoto coined a phrase to describe it: a “land grab.” Instead of the lighter travel pieces that he intended to write, he wrote a series of essays for Harper’s criticizing the assault on natural resources and the exploitation of wilderness.
The preservation of Western land and resources became his life’s work. DeVoto lived for just nine more years after his summer road trip, but in that time he published more than 30 essays about Western conservation.
His book The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto (1948) was reissued in 2010. In it, he described a Manhattan as “an offense against piety,” a daiquiri as “a regressive fantasy,” and mixed drinks with fruit juices as “all pestilential, all gangrenous, and all vile.” He wrote: “The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.”
On this date in 1770, Benjamin Franklin introduced rhubarb to America. He was representing the American colonies as an ambassador in London, and sent a crate of rhubarb to his friend John Bartram. The plant, native to central Asia, had been introduced in Europe by traders; the rhubarb that Franklin sent to America had come to London from Siberia. Rhubarb first appeared in American seed catalogs in 1829, and soon became a popular ingredient in pies. John Bartram was also responsible for introducing kohlrabi and poinsettias to America.
It’s the birthday of the American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (books about this historical figure) (1755). He was born in the British West Indies, but moved to New York City when he was 17. He became a vocal advocate for a strong centralized government, wrote more than half of the Federalist Papers, and became the leader of the Federalist Party. During Washington’s presidency, Hamilton served as the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury (1789– 1795).
Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®