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+
Learning How to Write the Beginning
by Judith Waller Carroll
I’d want it to be early autumn,
a day like today, still green,
but gold around the edges,
our old yellow lab lying at your feet,
a Red Stripe beer
on the redwood table.
The sky would be as soft and faded
as that shirt you used to wear,
and it would be quiet, not even birdsong,
nothing to betray
what led up to the middle
or happened in the end.
“Learning How to Write the Beginning” by Judith Waller Carroll from What You Saw and Still Remember. © Main Street Press, 2017. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of writer Djuna Barnes (books by this author), born near Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York (1892). For many years she lived in the Bohemian world of Greenwich Village and then as an expatriate in Paris, drinking and smoking and having love affairs with men and women alike. She interviewed celebrities, from Florenz Ziegfield to Coco Chanel, and she was friends with James Joyce, Emily Coleman, and Gertrude Stein.
She had a long affair with the sculptor Thelma Wood, who was constantly unfaithful. Barnes’ most famous novel, Nightwood (1936), was a modernist novel about the destructive relationship of lovers named Robin and Nora, and she based Robin heavily on Thelma. Nightwood didn’t sell well—her first royalty check was for £43. But it got rave reviews from other writers. T.S. Eliot convinced Faber and Faber to publish it, and he said, “It is so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it.” Dylan Thomas called it “one of the three great prose books ever written by a woman.” William S. Burroughs wrote: “I read Nightwood back in the 1930s and was very taken with it. I consider it one of the great books of the twentieth century. At that time I even tried a few writing experiments, consciously imitating her style. It is an entirely unique style: one sentence, and you know it is Djuna.”
Whatever its critical reception, Nightwood didn’t make money, and Barnes lived off the support of Peggy Guggenheim, the patron of many writers and artists. She went through a bottle of whiskey a day. As early as 1930 she wrote: “I’ve gotten cranky and old-maid like — I don’t even like to have an animal looking at me, and when I lay a thing down I want to find it exactly where I put it — it’s as bad as that!”
So she moved back to New York City and into an apartment in Greenwich Village, 5 Patchin Place , where she lived as a recluse for the last 42 years of her life. In 1971, she agreed to be interviewed by The New York Times. She said, “Years ago I used to see people, I had to, I was a newspaperwoman, among other things. And I used to be rather the life of the party. I was rather gay and silly and bright and all that sort of stuff and wasted a lot of time. I used to be invited by people who said ‘Get Djuna for dinner, she’s amusing.’ So I stopped it.” Writers came to pay homage to her, including Bertha Harris and Carson McCullers, but she sent them away. Her neighbor E.E. Cummings used to check on her by yelling out his window. She rarely left her house, and she spent her last 30 years working on a long poem that was found in her apartment when she died in 1982. In 1973, she told her editor Douglas Messerli: “It’s terrible to outlive your own generation.”
It’s the birthday of the young woman who wrote, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.” That is Anne Frank (books by this author), born this day in Frankfurt, Germany (1929).
In 1933, when Anne was four years old, elections were held in Frankfurt for the municipal council, and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party won. Fearful for their safety, her father, Otto, moved the family to Amsterdam, joining an exodus of more than 300,000 other Jews who fled Germany between 1933 and 1939. In Amsterdam, her father sold fruit pectin, herbs, and spices. After the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Jews were no longer allowed to own businesses or cars, attend movies or musical performances, and could only shop between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Her father sold his business to his employees and prepared a hiding spot in the building, a series of secret rooms located behind a bookshelf.
For her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, Anne received a red-and-white checkered cloth diary with a small lock on front. She named the diary “Kitty.” She wrote, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” Several weeks later, Anne’s older sister, Margot, receive notice to report to a German work camp. Anne, Otto, Margot, and her mother, Edith, dressed in several layers of clothing, walked in the rain to the warehouse, and made their way upstairs to the warren of rooms Anne would come to call “The Secret Annex.” Within weeks, they were joined by four other people, and for two years, eight people shared five hundred square feet, with one toilet that they could not flush during the day, for fear of being found out.
Otto’s employees brought them food, clothing, and newspapers. Anne wrote every day in her diary, detailing her difficult relationship with her mother and recording daily life in the annex. She told Kitty: “When I write, I can shake all of my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived. But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something truly great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
On June 4, 1944, Anne, her family, and their four companions were arrested in The Secret Annex. One of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, cleaned the Annex after the arrest, saving the diary and family photographs. Anne and Margot were sent to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen, where both sisters died of typhus and malnutrition just weeks before the British liberated the camp. Anne was 15 years old. Of the eight people who hid in the Secret Annex, only Otto survived the concentration camps. Miep Gies gave the diary to Otto. She said, “This is Anne’s legacy.” In June of 1947, The Secret Annex was published; its English translation was called Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1952). It has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. In 1960, the warehouse that held the Secret Annex was restored and opened to the public as the Anne Frank Museum. More than 1 million people visit the house each year.