February 24, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at Crooners. Shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fergus Falls, MN
February 23, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at A Center for the Arts. 7:30 p.m.
Detroit Lakes, MN
February 22, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at Historic Holmes Theatre. 7:30 p.m.
St. Cloud, MN
February 21, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at Pioneer Place on Fifth. 7:30 p.m.
February 20, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at Paradise Center for the Arts. 7:30 p.m.
by Alexander Pope
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter, fire.
Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
Quiet by day.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.
“Solitude” by Alexander Pope. Public Domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of novelist Susan Vreeland, (books by this author) born in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1946. She grew up in California, became a teacher, and for 30 years she taught English and ceramics in the San Diego public schools. She wrote a book called What Love Sees (1988), based on the true story of her parents’ friends, a couple who were both blind but who managed a ranch and raised children with the help of a Seeing Eye cow. But she was also busy with her teaching, and for a while she wrote occasional stories or articles, but not much else.
Then, in 1996, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. She had chemotherapy and operations, and for a few months she couldn’t do much but read, and even that was hard for her. So instead, she paged through art books, and she especially liked Vermeer, whose paintings were so calming. She needed more treatment, and she had to take off another year of teaching, and so she started writing stories based on Vermeer. Vermeer only painted 35 paintings, and so Susan Vreeland imagined that he had painted one more, and she wrote a story about that, and then several more stories about Vermeer and the imagined 36th painting and the people who owned it over the years. She said, “My goal at the time wasn’t to create a novel that would make it out in the big world. It was to have enough time left in my life to finish this group of stories and print out 12 copies, so my husband could give them to members of my writing group so they’d have something to remember me by.” She did finish them, and she turned them into a novel, and a tiny publishing house in Denver agreed to publish the novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999).
Girl In Hyacinth Blue was a best-seller, and Penguin bought the rights. Vreeland got better, and now she had an audience for her work, so she wrote four more novels centered around art, including The Passion of Artemisia (2002) about one of the first influential female artists, Artemisia Gentileschi, and most recently, Lisette’s List (2014), about a Parisian transplant who finds unexpected love and beauty in the midst of war in the French countryside.
Susan Vreeland passed away in 2017 at the age of 71.
It’s the birthday of comedian George Burns, (books by this author) born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City on this day in 1896. His dad died in the flu epidemic of 1903. To help his family make ends meet, seven-year-old George Burns got a job in a candy store making syrup in the store’s basement. The other kids working there were about the same age. To relieve the boredom, they sang harmony.
One day, a mailman heard them, came downstairs, and asked them to sing some more. Pretty soon a small crowd gathered at the top of the stairs to listen. The people clapped and threw pennies down the stairs. The child laborers decided they’d take their chances and earn their pay busking instead of syrup-making. So they took to the streets of New York City — elementary school-aged kids singing at bars, in brothels, at busy intersections, and on ferryboats.
He quit school before the end of fourth grade to work as a full-time entertainer. He sang, danced, roller-skated, did tricks with seals, and performed in vaudeville. In 1923, he met Gracie Allen, another performer, and began partnering with her in routines. He would later say, “And all of a sudden the audience realized I had a talent. They were right. I did have a talent — and I was married to her for 38 years.” They had a show that ran on CBS throughout the 1950s, The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show.
He smoked cigars, lived to be 100 years old, and worked up until the end of his life. He was a best-selling author, and his 10 books include Living It Up: Or, They Still Love Me in Altoona! (1976), Dr. Burns’ Prescription for Happiness: Buy Two Books and Call Me in the Morning (1984), and Gracie: A Love Story (1988).
It’s the birthday of the fiction author Robert Olen Butler (books by this author), born in Granite City, Illinois (1945). He won the Pulitzer Prize in short fiction in 1993 for his collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (1992).
He was theater major who worked as a cab driver, an editor, in a steel mill, and as a teacher in both high school and college. He enlisted in the Vietnam War and was assigned to Army intelligence, and he spent a year learning Vietnamese living in an old French hotel in Saigon.
He returned to the U.S. in 1972 and worked as an editor and reporter in New York City. He wrote his first novels on a legal pad, while traveling to and from work on the Long Island Railroad. Butler’s first novel, The Alleys of Eden, came out in 1981 after 21 publishers had turned it down. It was the first book in what would become a Vietnam trilogy. The novel received very good reviews, but it sold only a few thousand copies.
In the fall of 2001, he produced a webcast of his writing process, following the journey of a short story from idea to final polish in real time, narrating his thought process as he went along, and answering emails from viewers. The series, called Inside Creative Writing, ran for 17 episodes of two hours each, and it’s still available for download.
Butler’s most recent work includes a short-story collection — Weegee Stories (2010) — and a novel, Paris in the Dark, which was published last year (2018).