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 Ted Kooser
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.
Ted Kooser, “Tattoo” from Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Ted Kooser. Used by permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. (buy now)
Today is Father’s Day. The holiday that we celebrate on the third Sunday in June traces its roots to 1910, but the first recorded celebration of a holiday honoring fathers took place in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton wanted to celebrate the lives of 210 fathers who had died in a mining cave-in in Monongah, West Virginia. That particular observance was never promoted outside of Fairmont, and no mention was made of it until years later. The Father’s Day that took root owes its origins to Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington. She heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 and thought it might be nice to honor fathers as well. So the following year, she promoted the idea with the support of area churches. The first bill to make it a national holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913, but in spite of encouragement by President Woodrow Wilson, it didn’t pass. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to honor fathers, and it finally became an official, permanent national holiday during the Nixon administration.
It is the birthday of French existentialist philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre (books by this author), born in Paris (1905). Among his most well-known works: No Exit, Nausea, and The Roads to Freedom trilogy.
Unlike his existentialist colleague Albert Camus — who achieved something akin to movie star status in their homeland of France with his traditionally handsome looks — Sartre stood just five feet tall, had a lazy eye, and dressed in oversized clothes.
Still, Sartre caught the attention of a young woman by the name of Simone de Beauvoir as the two studied for the national competitive exam for a career as a schoolteacher. Sartre scored first in the class, and Beauvoir a close second. The two began a lifelong intellectual and romantic courtship. Beauvoir would herself become a prominent philosopher and feminist scholar.
Shortly after their meeting, Sartre was drafted into the French army to serve as meteorologist. He was captured by the Germans and kept as a prisoner of war for nearly a year. He became an outspoken Marxist, though not a communist; in fact, he was one of the first to point out human rights abuses in the Soviet Union. He was also anti-colonialist, opposing French occupation of Algeria.
He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in literature, but became one of only two laureates in the prize’s history to decline it. He said that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.”
It’s the 72nd birthday of English novelist Ian McEwan (books by this author) (1948), best known for his internationally best-selling novel Atonement (2001), about a young girl who starts a disastrous rumor. It was later made into a hit film starring Keira Knightley. McEwan tends to write about unsavory characters and situations, like incest and murder. He likes to choose unlikely and provocative ways to tell a story. His novel Nutshell (2016) is essentially a retelling of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, but told from the point of view of a fetus in his mother’s womb. His penchant for dark material has earned him the nickname “Ian Macabre” in the British press.
McEwan’s novels include The Comfort of Strangers (1981), Amsterdam (1998), and On Chesil Beach (2007). He’s fond of intense research for his books, like shadowing a neurosurgeon for two years for the novel Saturday (2003) and immersing himself in physics for Solar (2010).
When asked how his writing process has changed with the onset of technology, McEwan answered: “In the seventies I used to work in the bedroom of my flat at a little table. I worked in longhand with a fountain pen. I’d type out a draft, mark up the typescript, type it out again. Once I paid a professional to type a final draft, but I felt I was missing things I would have changed if I had done it myself. In the mid-eighties I was a grateful convert to computers. Word processing is more intimate, more like thinking itself. In retrospect, the typewriter seems a gross mechanical obstruction. I like the provisional nature of unprinted material held in the computer’s memory — like an unspoken thought. I like the way sentences or passages can be endlessly reworked, and the way this faithful machine remembers all your little jottings and messages to yourself. Until, of course, it sulks and crashes.”
About writing, he says, “Not being boring is quite a challenge.”
It’s the birthday of author Mary McCarthy (books by this author) born in Seattle, Washington (1912). She published several novels — including The Group (1963) about a group of Vassar students — but she had a hard time making things up, so most of her novels are autobiographical.
Most critics believe that her best book is the memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957). She is also remembered for her literary criticism. The writer Gore Vidal said, “She was our most brilliant literary critic, [because she was] uncorrupted by compassion.”
It’s the birthday of naturalist and writer Donald Peattie (books by this author), born in Chicago (1898). He married his high school sweetheart, studied botany at Harvard, and worked as a botanist for the Department of Agriculture. He felt that literature was his true calling, and he and his wife moved their family to Paris, where they hoped to become great writers. He said, “We had crossed a wide Atlantic elated with excitement, unafraid to launch the frail bark of our careers.” But two days after their arrival, their young daughter died. Autumn came to Paris — cold, dark, and dreary. They relocated to the South of France and lived there for six years. Peattie published a couple of novels, but they were flops.
In 1933, they returned home with their three sons, so poor that they had to borrow money for the ship tickets back home. It was the middle of the Great Depression, Peattie was unemployed, and his wife’s health was bad. They settled at his wife’s childhood home, The Grove, a 100-acre estate in Glenview, Illinois. He found work writing pamphlets about trees, and he began writing a day-by-day account of the natural area at The Grove — the woods, wetlands, and original prairie. That became An Almanac for Moderns (1935), and it launched his career. He wrote: “I learned also the value of knowing some one thing, at last, with a certain degree of thoroughness, be it only my one square mile. I even began to welcome the very limitations of my problem, as a sonnet writer his fourteen lines … I have learned, however, that three years is utterly insufficient to make me a master of a reasonable amount of wood-wisdom concerning one square mile of Illinois land.”
A few years later, they moved to Santa Barbara, and there Peattie wrote his two greatest books: A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America (1950) and A Natural History of Western Trees (1953). For each tree, Peattie wrote poetic descriptions, natural histories, identifying characteristics, and anecdotes.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®