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 quality of mercy
by William Shakespeare
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest,—
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,—
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice.
“The quality of mercy” from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Act 4, Scene 1, spoken by Portia. Public domain. (buy now)
To Kill a Mockingbird was published on this date in 1960. Nelle Harper Lee (books by this author) started writing anecdotes about life in the South after she moved to New York City in 1949, but they just weren’t coming together. The work she produced was good enough to land her an agent, who encouraged her, but in 1957 she became so frustrated that she threw her manuscript out the window of her apartment. Luckily for lovers of literature, she quickly repented and retrieved the pages. She completely dismantled what she had written, rebuilt it, and turned it into the book that would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.
When To Kill a Mockingbird first came out, Lee wasn’t sure what to expect. “I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement,” she later said. “I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”
At first, she was happy to grant interviews with anyone who asked, but she soon realized that journalists were just asking the same questions over and over again — most people wanted to know how much of the book had been drawn from Lee’s own childhood. She grew up a tomboy in Monroeville, Alabama, and her father practiced law at the courthouse. Young Nelle would often sit in on his trials, just as Scout did in the book. But she insisted that any similarity was superficial. Others tried to get her to admit that her friend Truman Capote had written most of the book. And finally, everyone wanted to know what her next book was about, and when it would be published. After several failed attempts to write a follow-up book, she finally admitted that she had been overwhelmed by the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, and she feared she would never be able to match it.
The novel has sold more than 30 million copies since it was published, and has been translated into 40 languages. Since the book’s publication, Monroeville has become a popular destination for literary tourists. Her father’s courthouse has been turned into a Mockingbird museum and gift shop, and there are a handful of restaurants named after the book and its characters. The town has staged a play based on the book every year since the early 1990s; the first act is presented in the town square, and everyone troops inside the courthouse for the second act.
It’s the birthday of the artist best known for a painting of his mother: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, born in Lowell, Massachusetts (1834). His most famous painting was titled Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), but it’s more commonly known as “Whistler’s Mother.” It’s a portrait of Anna Matilda McNeill Whistler in a black dress, seated in profile against a gray wall. When Whistler’s scheduled model didn’t show up for a sitting, he decided to paint his mother instead.
It’s the birthday of Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri (books by this author), born Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri in London (1967). Her father, a librarian, moved the family to Kingston, Rhode Island, when Lahiri was two. Growing up, Lahiri often felt conflicted between two worlds: that of her parents, who still listened to traditional Bengali songs on a reel-to-reel tape player, and that of her American friends, who watched television and went to the movies. A nervous child who was afraid of sports and public speaking, she found solace in reading. She says: “Books, and the stories they contained, were the only things I felt I was able to possess as a child.” She began writing stories at age seven with a school friend, stealing blank notebooks from the teacher’s supply closet. They wrote stories about orphaned girls, prairies, and girls with magical powers.
She moved to Boston after graduating from Barnard College and worked the cash register at a bookstore. She rented a room in a house and pecked out stories at night on her typewriter. It took eight years and several rejections until her first collection of stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, was published (1999). It became an instant best-seller and won the Pulitzer Prize (2000).
It’s the birthday of the essayist and children’s writer E.B. White (books by this author), born Elwin Brooks White in Mount Vernon, New York (1899). He started publishing essays when he was in his mid-20s. Eventually, The New Yorker decided to hire White as a staff writer, and he wrote for the magazine for nearly 60 years. In 1938, he and his wife — the New Yorker’s fiction editor, Katharine Angell — left New York City and moved to a farm on the coast of Maine. There he continued to write essays, and his reflections on farming for Harper’s were collected in the book One Man’s Meat (1942).
For the January 1948 issue of Atlantic Monthly, he contributed an essay called “Death of a Pig,” about his futile attempt to save a dying porker. In it, he wrote, “I discovered … that once having given a pig an enema there is no turning back, no chance of resuming one of life’s more stereotyped roles. The pig’s lot and mine were inextricably bound now, as though the rubber tube were the silver cord.” And though he often said there was no connection, his second children’s book — Charlotte’s Web (1952) — is also a story about a pig. But this time, the pig is saved from the slaughter through the efforts of a little girl and a clever spider.
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