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 George Bilgere
First it was five above, then two,
then one morning just plain zero.
There was a strange thrill in saying it.
I said when you got up.
I was pouring your coffee
and suddenly the whole house made sense:
the roof, the walls, the little heat registers
rattling on the floor. Even the mortgage. Zero,
you said, still in your robe.
And you walked to the window and looked out
at the blanket of snow on the garden
where last summer you planted carrots
and radishes, sweet peas and onions,
and a tiny rainforest of tomatoes
in the hot delirium of June.
Yes, I said, with a certain grim finality,
staring at the white cap of snow on the barbecue grill
I’d neglected to put in the garage for winter.
And the radio says it could go lower.
I like that robe, it’s white and shimmery,
and has a habit of falling open
unless you tie it just right.
This wasn’t the barbarians at the gate.
It wasn’t Carthage in flames, or even
the Donner Party. But it was zero, by God,
and the robe fell open.
“Zero” by George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the third Monday in January, so today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 1983, after years of petitions, conferences, and advocacy on behalf of the holiday, Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday.
On this day in 1926, 33-year-old novelist Vita Sackville-West (books by this author) wrote an impassioned love letter to 43-year-old novelist Virginia Woolf. (books by this author) Vita was a distinguished English writer, had been married for more than a decade, loved her husband, and was attracted to other women. All of these things applied to Virginia Woolf as well.
The two women had met through the Bloomsbury Group of London, which gathered to discuss things like philosophy, literature, and art. Their romance started cautiously, but by the time Vita composed this letter four years after they’d met, she was deeply smitten, languishing and lovesick. She was on a bumpy train ride from Milan to Trieste 85 years ago today when she wrote:
“I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it.”
About a year later, Virginia Woolf came up with the idea for a new novel, inspired by Vita, who often liked to dress up in men’s clothes. That novel was Orlando: A Biography (1928), about a transgender writer who lives for hundreds of years. Vita’s son Nigel wrote, “The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando … in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.” He calls Orlando “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.”
They two ended their affair in the late 1920s but stayed friends until Virginia Woolf’s death in 1941. There’s a book out from Oxford University Press that chronicles their relationship: Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of V. Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf (1993), written by Suzanne Raitt.
On this date in 1952, William Shawn (books by this author) took up the reins of The New Yorker, after the death of his predecessor and the magazine’s founder, Harold Ross. Ross, a lifelong heavy smoker, was diagnosed with cancer of the windpipe the previous summer. In December, Ross went up to Boston for a surgery to remove his right lung and died of heart failure on the operating table. William Shawn edited the magazine for 35 years thereafter. Shawn guided the magazine toward a more serious tone. He was quiet, and gentle, but on this point and many others, he was firm. He wanted The New Yorker to reflect a “new awareness” among its writers and readers. In the 1960s, Dorothy Parker criticized the magazine’s utter lack of humor, and Shawn himself later expressed some regret that he hadn’t had many humorists on staff, but in 1975, New York Times book critic John Leonard said, “Shawn changed The New Yorker from a smarty-pants parish tip sheet into a journal that altered our experience instead of just posturing in front of it.”