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 K.A. Hays
Here floats the mind on summer’s dock.
The knees loose up, hands dither off,
the eyes have never heard of clocks.
The mind won’t feel the hours, the mind spreads wide
among the hours, wide in sun. Dear sun,
who gives the vision but is not the vision.
Who is the body and the bodies
that speak into the dark below the dock.
Who to the minnows in the sand-sunk tire
seems like love.
Make us the brightness bent through shade.
The thing, or rush of things, that makes
an opening, a way.
K. A. Hays, “Petition” from Windthrow. Copyright © 2017 by K. A. Hays. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University Press. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of English author Ann Radcliffe (books by this author), born in London (1764). Radcliffe was an early champion of the Gothic novel, which embraced supernatural elements in the story.
Though her books are widely acclaimed for their influence, no one knows the details of Radcliffe’s personal life. When she died, her obituary read, “She never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen.” Fellow author Christina Rossetti tried to write a biography on Radcliffe, but could not find enough information to go through with it.
Radcliffe’s novels The Italian and The Mysteries of Udolpho made her the highest-paid writer of her era. At the time, her work was classified not as Gothic but as “romance.” Unlike other Gothic authors, Radcliffe’s supernatural happenings always had rational explanation. Her characters suffered from imagined terrors rather than physical dangers, envisioning ghosts or evils that weren’t always there.
In an essay that Radcliffe’s husband released after her death, Radcliffe writes of the difference between emotional terror (which she embraced) and physical horror (which she refuted): “Terror and Horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them.”
It’s the birthday of journalist Dorothy Thompson, born in Lancaster, New York (1894). In 1935, a Time magazine poll ranked her the most important woman in the United States after Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a foreign correspondent for the New York Evening Post in the 1920s, eventually becoming its bureau chief in Berlin. She returned to America after marrying novelist Sinclair Lewis, but went back as a freelancer to Germany, where she so angered Adolf Hitler with her reporting on the Nazis, that he personally ordered her out of the country — the first American journalist to be expelled. Her syndicated column, On the Record, appeared three times a week in as many as 170 papers, and she also had a popular radio show.
It’s the birthday of writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks (1933) (books by this author), best known for his lyrical explorations of the brain’s strangest mysteries in books like Awakenings (1973), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), and Musicophilia (2007).
Sacks was born in London. He was the youngest of four boys and both his parents were doctors. When the Blitz broke out during World War II, his parents sent Sacks and his brother Michael to a rural boarding school in the Midlands. Sacks described the experience as horrendous, saying he and his brother “subsisted on meager rations of turnips and beetroot and suffered cruel punishment at the hands of a sadistic headmaster.” When he finally returned home, he was so traumatized that he sought refuge in his basement chemistry lab, immersing himself in science and determined to become a doctor. After graduating from Queen’s College, Oxford, he immigrated to America for an internship in San Francisco.
Sacks found himself in San Francisco in the heyday of the 1960s and quickly acclimated to the easygoing culture, entering weightlifting competitions, befriending the poet Thom Gunn, and taking a motorcycle trip to the Grand Canyon with the Hell’s Angels. He wrote about his experiences in San Francisco in his memoir, On the Move: A Life (2005), in which he also discussed the realization that he was gay, and his decision to remain celibate for 35 years until he found his life partner.
By 1965, Sacks was in New York, where he found work at a hospital in the Bronx. He’d hoped to enter research, but he didn’t have the knack for it. He said: “I lost samples. I broke machines. Finally, they said to me, ‘Sacks, you’re a menace. Get out. Go see patients. They matter less.’” He tried to write a book called Ward 23 about his experiences, but thought it was terrible and burned it. His first book was called Migraine (1970), and his good friend, the poet W.H. Auden, gently counseled him to improve his writing style, telling Sacks to “be metaphorical, be mythical, be whatever you need.”
Sacks became fascinated with a group of patients who suffered from a form of encephalitis known as “sleeping sickness.” They were catatonic and had been in the hospital for decades. He began to give them doses of L-dopa, which was just beginning to be used for patients suffering from Parkinson’s. The L-dopa roused them from their stupor, into a world they didn’t recognize, but which often delighted them. Sacks said, “There was a great joy and a sort of lyrical delight in the world which had been given back.” He wrote about them in the book Awakenings (1973), which later became a movie starring Robin Williams (1990). The book was a hit, and Sacks kept mining the case histories of his patients, calling his books “neurological novels.”
In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), Sacks explored the case of a man who suffered from visual agnosia and could no longer recognize his wife. That essay was later adapted into an opera, which premiered in London in 1986. Sacks also wrote about Jimmy G., a submarine operator who lost his ability to form new memories due to Korsakoff’s syndrome. He could remember nothing of his life since the end of World War II, even things that had happened a few moments ago. He also wrote about Madeleine J., a blind woman who thought her hands were “useless lumps of dough.” Sacks’s books were best-sellers, but he had his critics. One disability activist objected to his use of real case histories, calling Sacks “the man who mistook his patients for a literary career.”
But Sacks shrugged off the criticism. He said: “I had always liked to see myself as a naturalist or explorer. I had explored many strange, neurological lands — the farthest Arctics and Tropics of neurological disorder.” Sacks’s other books include Seeing Voices (1989), An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), and The Mind’s Eye (2010). There are millions of copies of his books in print and he’s responsible for introducing the general public to conditions such as Tourette’s and Asperger’s.
By the time he died of cancer in 2015, Sacks was receiving more than 10,000 letters a year from readers. He said, “I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90, or in prison.”
Oliver Sacks said: “I would like it to be thought that I had listened carefully to what patients and others have told me, that I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for them, and that I tried to convey this. And, to use a biblical term, bear witness.”
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