April 27, 2019
Garrison Keillor celebrates National Poetry Month with poems & song at a benefit for Performing Arts of Woodstock.
CROONERS SUPPER CLUB
April 14, 2019
At 76 years old, Garrison Keillor makes his solo nightclub debut! 5:00 p.m.
March 28, 2019
Garrison Keillor heads to Steele County for a solo performance to benefit the Historical Society. 7:30 p.m.
February 24, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at Crooners. Shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fergus Falls, MN
February 23, 2019
“Old Friends” Garrison Keillor, Christine DiGiallonardo, Richard Dworsky reunite at A Center for the Arts. 7:30 p.m.
How to Soothe
by Laura Grace Weldon
When babies cried
my father picked them up,
politely, as if to apologize
for their locomotion issues,
then stepped outside.
He named trees, birds, rain.
“This is grass,” he’d say.
“In no time at all
you’ll be running on it.”
Babies calmed at once,
eyes wide, awake
to the planet’s glories.
I learned from my father
it’s a matter of walking
inside to out
with someone capable
of truly seeing.
“How to Soothe” by Laura Grace Weldon from Blackbird. © Grayson Books, 2019. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the Roman poet Ovid, (books by this author) born Publius Ovidius Naso in what is now Sulmo, Italy (43 B.C.). He became a famous, beloved poet in Rome, privy to the inner circles of the court. He published erotic poems, including his Ars Amatoria (2 C.E.),which instructed people on the arts of seduction and lovemaking. And he wrote Metamorphoses (8 C.E.), for which he is best remembered today, which traces Greek and Roman mythology through the lens of humans’ metamorphoses into other objects — plants, stones, stars, and animals.
But then suddenly, in 8 C.E., he was exiled, and even today no one knows why. In his writings, he talks about Emperor Augustus’ anger toward him, and he alludes to having seen something he shouldn’t have seen, but nothing more specific. Whatever the reason, Ovid was miserable in exile. He had been sent to Tomi, in what is now Romania, and he was isolated and lonely, longing for his beloved Rome. But even after Augustus died, the next emperor, Tiberius, did not allow Ovid back, and he died in Tomi after about 10 years in exile.
Today is the first day of spring. The vernal equinox occurs today, the time when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun. The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.
Margaret Atwood (books by this author) wrote: “Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
It’s the birthday of the playwright Henrik Ibsen (books by this author), born in Skien, Norway (1828). One of his best-known plays is A Doll’s House (1879), the story of a woman named Nora who is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage. The play ends with Nora slamming the door and walking out on her husband. Ibsen was so well-known, and his ending was so shocking to 19th-centry viewers, that it was known as “the door slam heard around the world.”
But he almost didn’t make it as a writer. He had a love-hate relationship with his home country — as he said in a letter to the playwright Olaf Skavlan: “Men with such slave-souls as ours cannot even make use of the liberties they already possess. Norway is a free country, peopled by unfree men and women.” He left Norway in 1864 for a life of self-imposed exile. But life abroad was still hard. He and his wife were living in poverty. Ibsen wrote constantly, but his plays weren’t getting noticed, and he couldn’t support his family. He had appealed to the king for a pension, but his request was denied. It got to the point where he couldn’t even afford postage stamps to put on his business letters. He was depressed and exhausted.
In the winter of 1865, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he became seriously ill with a high fever. Too poor to afford decent medical treatment, he almost died. The next spring he was waiting for his play Brand (1866) to appear in Norway, a drama about a priest grappling with issues of God and free will. He expected the worst, and just before its publication he sent a letter to his friend Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, also a playwright. He wrote: “My book will appear in a day or two, I expect. About my present position — waiting, worn out with anxiety and suspense — looking forward to the appearance of the book and to the possibility of its producing strife and attacks of all sorts — unable in such circumstances to begin something new, which, nevertheless, is already fully developed within me — about all this I will say no more. Dear Bjørnson, it seems to me as if I were separated from both God and men by a great, an infinite void. […] There is nothing so enervating and exhausting as this hopeless waiting. I dare say this is only a transition period. I will and shall have a victory some day. If the powers that be have shown me so little favor as to place me in this world and make me what I am, the result must be accordingly. […] Is it not strange — up there in the north the day is dawning, the song-birds are twittering, there are gleams of light; levers, powerful, and flower-garlanded, such as are offered to no other people, are offered to ours with which to raise themselves; but they do not rise. I have a terrible foreboding that our life as a nation will not be eternal, but definitely terminable. When I read the news from home, when I gaze upon all that respectable, estimable narrow-mindedness and worldliness, it is with the feeling of an insane man staring at one single, hopelessly dark spot. […] You are my one and only trusted friend; you do not know what it means to have only one.”
He sent off the letter with a postscript apologizing that he could not afford to prepay the postage. Less than two weeks later, Brand was published and got great reviews. Finally Ibsen got the literary victory he was dreaming of, and King Carl of Sweden and Norway granted Ibsen his request for a “poet’s pension.” He went on to write many plays, including Peer Gynt (1887), A Doll’s House, An Enemy of the People (1882), and Hedda Gabler (1890).
It was on this day in 1852 that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (books by this author) novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published.
Today we celebrate the birthday of dime novelist Ned Buntline (books by this author), born Edward Zane Carroll Judson in Stamford, New York (1813) — probably, but not certainly, on this day. As a boy, he got in a fight with his father and ran away to sea. He started out as a cabin boy, but as a teenager he rescued the drowning crew of a boat, and President Van Buren was so impressed that he appointed the young man a midshipman, a low rank of officer. Some of the other officers refused to eat or socialize with him because he had been a regular sailor. In response, he challenged 13 officers to a duel in one day, and seven of them accepted. He wounded four of them and was completely unhurt himself, and after that, everyone accepted him.
After a few years at sea, he decided to take up writing sensational adventure stories. He took his pseudonym, Ned Buntline, from the “buntline” knot that went at the foot of a square sail. He started out writing about gangs and violence in New York — he had firsthand knowledge of that world, being involved in gang wars himself.
After years of setting his popular dime novels in the seedy underbelly of New York, he took a trip out West, and realized that it was the ideal setting for the type of stories he wanted to tell. He met Buffalo Bill Cody, and adapted his adventures into wildly popular and exaggerated stories, a series called Buffalo Bill Cody — King of the Border Men. It was so successful that he made the stories into a play, Scouts of the Prairie, and he managed to convince the reluctant Buffalo Bill to come play himself in the play. Buffalo Bill and Ned himself were terrible actors, and the critics weren’t impressed — the drama critic for the Chicago Times wrote: “On the whole, it is not probable that Chicago will ever look upon the like again. Such a combination of incongruous drama, execrable acting, renowned performers, mixed audience, intolerable stench, scalping, blood and thunder, is not likely to be vouchsafed to a city for a second time — even Chicago.” A critic for The New York Herald wrote that Buntline played his part “as badly as is possible for any human being to represent it.” But despite the opinions of the critics, Scouts of the Prairie was a commercial and financial hit, and it toured all over the country. Ned Buntline and Buffalo Bill parted ways after that, but Buntline had made the western hero so famous that he was able to open his own show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” and Bill’s story had set Buntline on his path to earn more money from his writing than any other author in the country.
Buntline’s life was one big adventure, and he didn’t slow down even after he became wealthy and famous. He fought in the Everglades in the Second Seminole War, and was an officer in the Civil War until he was given a dishonorable discharge for drunkenness. He went around preaching temperance despite his own outrageous drinking habits — he interrupted every show of Scouts of the Prairie for a temperance lecture, and he was frequently drunk during those lectures. He was thrashed in public in the streets of New York City by a woman who was the target of gossip in his magazine. He incited several riots. He got in plenty of trouble with women, too — he was married seven times, and was jailed for bigamy. At one point he was flirting with a married teenager named Mary Porterfield. Her husband, Robert, challenged Buntline to a duel, which of course he accepted, and he killed Robert Porterfield. The angry townspeople attempted to lynch Buntline, and in fact they strung him up hanged him from an awning post. At the last minute, his friends cut the rope and he managed to survive.