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+
I Need to Live Near a Creek
by Hayden Saunier
rush of it
“I Need to Live Near a Creek” by Hayden Saunier from How to Wear this Body. © Terrapin Books, 2017. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of writer Manly Hall, (books by this author) born in Peterborough, Ontario (1901). He was fascinated by the occult and he traveled all over lecturing. He wrote quite a few books, and he is most famous for The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabalistic, and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy (1928). It took him six years to write the book, and during that period he worked for a while on Wall Street, which he hated. He wrote: “I felt strongly moved to explore the problems of humanity, its origin and destiny, and I spent a number of quiet hours in the New York Public Library tracing the confused course of civilization. … Translations of classical authors could differ greatly, but in most cases the noblest thoughts were eliminated or denigrated. Those more sincere authors whose knowledge of ancient languages was profound were never included as required reading, and scholarship was based largely upon the acceptance of a sterile materialism.” So he translated and interpreted the texts himself, and wrote his magnum opus.
It’s the birthday of poet Wilfred Owen, (books by this author) born in Shropshire, England (1893). When he was young, his family was well-off, living in a house owned by his grandfather, a prominent citizen. But then his grandpa died, and it turned out that the old man was broke, and the family had to leave and move into working-class lodgings in an industrial town.
He started writing poems as a boy, and he was good at literature and science, but he didn’t do well enough on his exams to get a scholarship at a university. He enlisted to fight in World War I, and he became a lieutenant. In 1917, he was wounded, diagnosed with shell shock, and sent to a hospital to recuperate. There he met another soldier diagnosed with shell shock, Siegfried Sassoon, who was an established poet and mentored Owen. At the hospital, Owen wrote many of his most famous poems, including “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth.” He was one of the first poets to depict the horrifying realities of war, instead of writing glorified, nationalistic poems.
But the next year, he went back to fight, and he was killed in battle at the age of 25. Two years later, Poems of Wilfred Owen (1920) was published.
It’s the birthday of a writer described in his New York Times obituary as “a lanky, urbane man possessed of boundless energy and perpetual bonhomie”: George Plimpton, (books by this author) born in New York (1927). He said of himself: “I am built rather like a bird of the stiltlike, wader variety — the avocets, limpkins, and herons.” He came from an old, wealthy family, went to Phillips Exeter, Harvard, and Cambridge, and served in World War II. He was the founding editor of The Paris Review, a job that he held for 50 years, from 1953 until his death in 2003, and he conducted long, insightful interviews — including one of only two interviews that Hemingway gave in his life. He lived in an apartment above the Paris Review offices, and it never made money so he didn’t get paid for his work. He said: “I can’t help but be hands on. It’s my life, my love. There are other things, fireworks, as you may know, birds and finishing books and articles and God knows what else, but my primary fascination and love is this magazine.”
He was equally famous for the exploits he staged in order to write about them. He fought with Archie Moore in a boxing ring, and cried when he got his nose bloodied. He played baseball with Willie Mays, tennis with Pancho Gonzalez, and golf with Arnold Palmer. He scrimmaged with the Detroit Lions and played goalie with the Boston Bruins, during which he caught a puck with his hand and badly hurt his finger. He played percussion for the New York Philharmonic and hit the gong so hard that Leonard Bernstein, who was conducting the piece, stopped to applaud him. He auditioned for the circus on a trapeze, played bridge against champion players, entered piano contests, and helped design a fireworks display for the city. He lost or did badly at almost everything, but he enjoyed it, constantly proclaiming that things were “Marvelous!” And he wrote clever, funny pieces about his misadventures.
It’s the birthday of John Updike, (books by this author) born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1932). He grew up with a stutter. He wrote: “My first memory of the sensation is associated with our Shillington neighbor Eddie Pritchard, a somewhat larger boy whom I was trying, on the sidewalk in front of our houses, to scream into submission. I think he was calling me ‘Ostrich,’ a nickname I did not think I deserved, and a fear of being mistook or misunderstood accompanies the impediment ever since. There seems so much about me to explain — all of it subsumable under the heading of ‘I am not an ostrich’ — that when freshly encountering, say, a bored and hurried electrician over the telephone, my voice tends to seize up. If the electrician has already been to the house, the seizing up is less dramatic, and if I encounter not his voice but that of his maternal- and amused-sounding secretary, I become quite vocal — indeed, something of a virtuoso of the spoken language. For there is no doubt that I have lots of words inside me; but at moments, like rush-hour traffic at the mouth of a tunnel, they jam. […] Viewing myself on taped television, I see the repulsive symptoms of an approaching stammer take possession of my face — an electronically rapid flutter of the eyelashes, a distortion of the mouth as of a leather purse being cinched, a terrified hardening of the upper lip, a fatal tensing and lifting of the voice. And through it all a detestable coyness and craven willingness to please, to assure my talk-show host and his millions of viewers that I am not, appearances to the contrary, an ostrich.”
And he said: “My father thought that I had too many words to get out all at once. So, I didn’t speak very pleasingly, but I never stopped speaking or trying to communicate this way, and I think the stuttering has gotten better over the years. I have found having a microphone is a great help, because you don’t have to force your voice out of your throat, just a little noise will work. You write because you don’t talk very well, and maybe one of the reasons that I was determined to write was that I wasn’t an orator, unlike my mother and my grandfather, who both spoke beautifully and spoke all the time.”
So he turned his gift with words to writing. He was a good student who worked hard, and after graduating from public high school he got a full scholarship to Harvard. There he had to work even harder. He knew he wanted to be a writer so he majored in English, but he never liked the classics — he knew so little about them that Harvard almost didn’t award him highest honors.
After graduation, he moved to New York and got a job at The New Yorker. But he didn’t like the city, and only lasted a couple of years before moving to the small town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he lived for more than 20 years. The townspeople of Ipswich thought of him as a regular guy. As his fellow citizen Bill Wasserman wrote in the local newspaper after Updike’s death, the great novelist liked to play golf, poker and volleyball; volunteered for the Congregational Church; wore corduroy pants and turtlenecks and sweaters with holes; and “at a party once he slid down the entire stairway on his backside.”
It was in Ipswich that Updike wrote Rabbit, Run (1960), the first of his novels about Rabbit Angstrom. When Rabbit, Run opens, Rabbit is 26. His job is demonstrating a kitchen gadget called the MagiPeel Peeler, and his life doesn’t live up to his glory days as a former high school basketball star. With the Rabbit books, Updike did manage to write an epic out of the Protestant ethic — by the end of the series, Rabbit had been through marriage, parenthood, retirement, and death. Rabbit Is Rich (1981) won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and Rabbit at Rest (1990) also won a Pulitzer.
John Updike said, “I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody’s head.”
Today is the anniversary of the “Gardner Heist”: the largest art theft in United States history (1990). A pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers, complete with fake mustaches, broke into the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum shortly after one o’clock in the morning. They took advantage of Boston’s preoccupation with St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and told the young guards that they were responding to a disturbance. They spent 81 minutes inside the museum and they made off with 13 works of art: paintings and drawings by Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and Rembrandt — including the only known Rembrandt seascape in existence. The thieves manhandled the paintings, sometimes even carelessly ripping them out of their frames. The paintings have never been recovered, and the loss to the museum is estimated at more than $300 million USD. The statute of limitations for prosecution has now passed, though, and the museum hopes that the thieves will step forward and return the art.