The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, March 21, 2020


The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

 

“The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Public Domain.  (buy now)


It’s the birthday of the man who said: “Deprivation often makes a writer.” That’s Ved Mehta (books by this author), born in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) in 1934. When he was four years old, he contracted a form of meningitis that caused him to go blind. He said: “In India, one of the poorest countries the world has ever known, the lot of the blind was to beg with a walking stick in one hand and an alms bowl in the other. Hindus consider blindness a punishment for sins committed in a previous incarnation.” But his father was a doctor who thought that his son should have the same opportunities as everyone else, so he sent him to schools that served blind people. One of these was a school for soldiers who had been recently blinded during World War II, and there, Mehta learned to type. With this new skill, he sent letters to every school he could find in England and the United States, and the Arkansas School for the Blind accepted him.

So he left India at the age of 15, and he ended up getting scholarships and attending Pomona, Oxford, and Harvard. While he was at Harvard, someone offered to introduce him to William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker. Mehta wasn’t really sure what The New Yorker was but he decided to have tea with Shawn, who ended up inviting the 25-year-old to write an article for the magazine. Mehta gave up his fellowship at Harvard to become a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he stayed for almost 35 years.

From the beginning, he was enamored of Shawn, and years later, after his mentor’s death, he published Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker (1998), a memoir of his years there. In it, he wrote about Shawn: “I fell completely under the spell of his manner — kind, courtly, respectful, and patient. The editing process was arduous and time-consuming, since there was hardly a paragraph that was not touched. Yet he made our work, which could so easily have degenerated into a power play, intensely pleasurable. All the while, I felt that he was sensitizing me to the force and the importance of each word — to its weight, tone, and texture — and was teaching me new ways not only of writing but also of thinking, feeling, and speaking.”

Ved Mehta is the author of many books, including Face to Face (1957), Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles (1977), and most recently, All For Love (2002), a memoir of sorts about his love affairs with four different women.

He said, “I didn’t want to be a blind writer. I wanted to be a writer who is blind.”


It’s the birthday of a writer who loved the suburbs, Phyllis McGinley (books by this author), born in Ontario, Oregon (1905). In “Suburbia, To Thee I Sing,” she wrote: “Deluded people that we are, we do not realize how mediocre it all seems. We will eat our undistinguished meal, probably without even a cocktail to enliven it. We will drink our coffee at the table, not carry it into the living room. If a husband changes for dinner here it is into old trousers and more comfortable shoes. The children will then go through the childhood routine — complain about their homework, grumble about going to bed, and finally accomplish both ordeals. Perhaps later the Gerard Joneses will drop in. We will talk a great deal of unimportant chatter and compare notes on food prices; will discuss the headlines and disagree. We will all have one highball and the Joneses will leave early. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow the pattern will be repeated. This is Suburbia. But I think that someday people will look back on our Spruce Manor way of life with nostalgia and respect. In a world of terrible extremes it will stand out as the important medium. Suburbia, of thee I sing!”


It’s the birthday of poet Nizar Qabbani (books by this author), born in Damascus, Syria (1923). His mother, who was illiterate, sold her jewelry to raise money to publish his first anthology, Childhood of a Bosom (1948). Nizar went on to become the most popular Arab poet, publishing more than 20 books of poetry. Much of his poetry was influenced by the tragic deaths of two women he loved. When he was 15, his older sister committed suicide rather than be forced into marriage with a man she did not love, and he turned his attention to the situation of Arab women. He wrote romantic, sensual poems and poetry demonstrating the need for sexual equality and women’s rights. Many years later, in 1981, his second wife, an Iraqi woman, died during the Lebanese Civil War when the Iraqi Embassy was bombed. Qabbani was grief-stricken and frustrated with the political and cultural climate of the Arab world, and he lived in Europe for the rest of his life.

Qabbani said, “Don’t love deeply, till you make sure that the other part loves you with the same depth, because the depth of your love today, is the depth of your wound tomorrow.”


The Alabama Freedom March began on this date in 1965. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King (books by this author) and 3,200 demonstrators set off on a 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the disenfranchisement of black voters. They had tried to set off on this march twice before; the first time, state troopers and deputies attacked them with clubs, whips, and tear gas. The second time, they were turned back by a human barricade of state troopers at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. On March 10, the Justice Department filed suit in Montgomery to block the troopers from punishing the protestors. President Lyndon Johnson, in a special address, said: “Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome” (his ‘We Shall Overcome’ speech on March 15).

The judge ruled in favor of the marchers, but Alabama governor George Wallace complained that deploying the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers would be too expensive. He appealed to Johnson for help. Johnson signed an executive order to federalize the Alabama National Guard, and deployed them to protect Dr. King and the other civil rights protestors on their march.

The marchers traveled about 12 miles a day, and slept in the fields at night. By the time they reached Montgomery on March 25, their numbers had swelled to 25,000. King gave an address from the steps of the state capitol. He said: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — which prohibits racial discrimination in voting — in August, less than five months after the Selma march.


It’s the birthday of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach born in Eisenach, Germany (1685). His many compositions, including the Brandenburg Concertos (1721) and Goldberg Variations (1741), are considered some of the finest music ever written. He once said, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”

Bach came from a musical family. His father was a string player, town piper, and court trumpeter, and all of Bach’s siblings played music. Bach learned Latin and sang in the school choir. When he was nine, he lost both of his parents and went to live with his older brother. His brother taught him how to play the clavichord and to write music, even though ledger paper of that time was costly. When a new organ was under construction at the Ohrdruf Church, Bach was given special permission to watch.

He had a beautiful singing voice, which meant he could go to school for free as long as he sang in the boys’ choir. But his voice changed, so he quickly became an organ virtuoso. He was also something of a rogue, often leaving on foot for faraway towns to see new church organs. He earned a stipend teaching the boys’ choir, but he didn’t really like it, and once got into a fight with a bassoon player in the street. He was even chided for “making music with a stranger maid” in a town church.

Bach wrote both of his famous Passions while serving as the “Thomaskantor,” or music director, of the boys choir in Leipzig. Passion music was typically written for Good Friday services. He was the Thomaskantor in Leipzig until his death in 1750.

His compositions were complicated, and sometimes unwieldy, requiring many more instruments than people were used to. During his lifetime, even though he received commissions and was able to make a living, he wasn’t fully appreciated. At the time of his death, his sole estate was listed as “5 harpsichords, 2 tule-harpsichords, 3 violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, a viola da gamba, a lute, a spinet, and 52 ‘sacred books.’”

 

 

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

How we live in these troubled times

The world is falling apart but my niece has sent me pictures of her, her friends, people from her church, cleaning up along Lake Street in Minneapolis, something that distinguishes a Minneapolis riot from one in Chicago or Philadelphia: when the arsonists leave, the brigades of nice people come in to tidy up.

Say what you will, but this is our neighborhood and we don’t accept trashiness, we believe that clean streets, nice lawns, well-kept houses, bring out the goodness inherent in humanity. My aunts believed that, my mother, my grandma. Men with incendiary devices come through and torch businesses, a library, a police station, but the women will have the last word, count on it.

I have learned this during the almost three months of quarantine: woman rules the roost and man is a detriment to be tolerated. We’ve been isolating in a two-bedroom apartment and she has gotten very strict about squalor. She holds up a pair of black underwear she found on the couch. It is a large pair with a slit in front. I weigh 220 pounds, she weighs half of that. “Whose is this?” she asks, rhetorically.

She knows that I, like other men, have strong latent bachelor farmer tendencies. I set something down where it doesn’t belong — a magazine on the floor by the toilet — and minutes later, you’ve got papers strewn on the dining room table, a sinkful of dirty dishes, bedsprings in the front yard and an old rusted-out Chevy up on blocks, a refrigerator and two rusty sinks in tall weeds. It starts with one magazine on the floor and your life descends into chaos. Without a woman to hold up the underwear and say, “Is this yours?” it’s all over, goodbye Information Age, we’re back to Bronze.

She is tough. Man is a hunter: give me a rock and I’ll go out and bring home my kill and skin it and roast it over a fire. She leans toward veganism. So my meat ration has been cut to a tenth of what it once was. I used to travel for business and wake up in a hotel, having hung my breakfast order on the doorknob the night before, and in comes the waiter with coffee, an 8 oz. top sirloin, two eggs fried over easy, a breakfast that prepares a man to go out and vanquish the Visigoths. No more. In my vegan prison, it’s wheat cereal with some blueberries. She loves lentils, quinoa, green leafy things, stuff that cattle eat.

“It’s good for you,” she says and of course she’s right and that’s the irritating part. She wants me to do sit-ups and jumping jacks and stretching, she encourages me to join her in yoga with her YouTube instructor Adriene. I don’t do yoga, I’m a guy. Some male persons may do it but guys don’t. What’s His Name doesn’t do yoga with Melania and neither does Joe Biden with Jill, and if either one were to be photographed in black tights doing Ardha Chandrasana, he would no longer be eligible to become Leader of the Free World. The LOFW plays golf. He doesn’t kneel or squat, he swings a club and sends a missile flying with deadly accuracy.

Before the lockdown I went to an office and was consulted by employees who offered their suggestions, which, wisely, I took, with minor revisions. I wore a suit, sometimes a tie. I had a role. Now my usefulness is limited to reaching the copper boiler on the top shelf and bringing it down and then, later, putting it back up. Height is my main asset, not experience. Sometimes I unload the dishwasher. Once in a while, if the sky turns black and bolts of lightning appear to the south and the wind moans in the weatherstripping and she becomes anxious, she turns to me for manly reassurance, though I know less about meteorology than the average medieval peasant did, but I put my hand on her shoulder and say, “It’s okay. Only a storm.”

And that is what makes quarantine bearable, putting my hand on her shoulder. We’ve been locked up together for a long time and whenever I walk into a room and see her, I put my hand on her shoulder, her back, I kiss her hair, I know this woman by heart. For her sake, I eat lentils and quinoa instead of muskrat or wild boar. She runs the house and I get to put my hand on her shoulder. It’s not a bad deal.

A modest proposal for a day of forgiveness

Memorial Day gives us a long weekend and marks the beginning of summer, but I remember back in my Boy Scout youth attending a service at a military cemetery and listening to a chaplain talk about men who willingly gave their lives for their country, and heard Taps played by a bugler in the distance. It was moving. Since then, however, we became aware of men who didn’t give their lives — their lives were taken from them by their country fighting a misbegotten war it didn’t know how to stop.

Even in the Good War, WWII, in 1945, preparing for the invasion of Japan, men had no enthusiasm for giving their lives. A friend of mine was in the invasion force, stationed on Okinawa, and was glad when the A-bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “We were cannon fodder and we knew it,” he told me. “The death toll in an American invasion would’ve been in the millions. It took a nuclear horror to break their will. What a relief not to have to do it by hand-to-hand combat.”

We spent lives heavily in Vietnam and lost the war and now we wonder, “What in God’s name was it for?” Vietnam is a major trading partner, cruise ships stop in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. My nephew lives in Hanoi and works in a bank there. I could call him and FaceTime if I could figure out the time difference.

I can imagine that FaceTime, YouTube, Instagram, Google, by making the world smaller, might lead to an epoch of relative international peace, and Memorial Day might become a museum piece, and if so, we might consider a Marital Memorial Day, when we honor our divorced and bring some peace to our personal lives. The current divorce rate is around 40% and that is a sorrowful thing, and just as the VFW honors the war dead, knowing how easily the living and the dead might have traded places, so we should acknowledge that marriages crash and burn for reasons not understood and blame should be withheld and peace restored.

To live all the days of your life with your best-informed critic is a heroic venture and it’s worth honoring. Respect your failures and you will more fully enjoy your success.

The MMD should be held in the spring and there should be a lighthearted lunch with exes and their families. You sit next to your ex and toast each other’s health and catch up on the latest and recognize that you launched a romance out of hopeful idealism and though it crashed, the impulse was admirable.

You’re done with the yelling, the door slamming, the lawyers. Sit down and be decent, look each other in the eye, forgive. This would be more valuable in the real life of our country than the patriotic speech and Taps and the rifle salute.

The pandemic has brought husbands and wives closer together than ever and in some states, angry men have stormed state capitols demanding that the bonds be loosened, even at the risk of death. In quarantine, men quickly realize that they married women who possess powerful corrective impulses — who rush to clean up things even before they’re spilled, who straighten and adjust and set things right that men have left askew. Women will edit your sentences as you speak, and if you pause, she will finish the sentence for you. Men are grateful for women’s corrections but it can be exhausting to be held to high standards 24/7 and so, in order to escape supervision, men take up fishing. Fishing makes no sense whatsoever, to go to great trouble and expense to catch inferior game fish when for a fraction of the dough, you can buy salmon or tuna and broil it briefly and have something fabulous. That’s why so few women fish. Men fish because women don’t. For the same reason, they go hunting, go to blues clubs, sit in crowded sports bars and play video games. These things have been shut down by the pandemic. That is why armed men have threatened the woman governor of Michigan.

A Marital Memorial Day would be a small step toward civility in this anger-riven country. The country needs to calm down and learn to speak gently. Once we do MMD, then perhaps Democrats and Republicans will be able to talk to each other. If you can make peace with a well-informed critic, what’s the harm in talking to an ignorant one?

Some self-isolating thoughts about hair

Jenny cut my hair yesterday out on the balcony in the sun and she kept laughing as she did, which doesn’t instill confidence to hear your haircutter laugh, but at least the hair stays out of my eyes and the worst part (she says) is in back, and we’re in isolation so who cares, and at my age I’m not applying for a job, so it’s rather immaterial. If I wanted to do something wild with my hair, dye it deep purple with bright green stripes, now would be the time to do it, but I lack the motivation to be colorful. I’m a writer and an observer and you can’t see the world clearly if other people are staring at you: it’s see or be seen.

Hair was crucial in the 10th grade, 1958, when you had greasers like Trump and jocks with crewcuts and farmboys had shaggy hair and we cool guys aimed for an Ivy League look. My dad cut his sons’ hair and he was a carpenter and not so keen about fashion. I told him, “Short on top but with a part, a little longer in back.” Coolness was the point of it, blue button-down shirts, khaki pants, loafers, white socks, but now I have no clue about what’s cool, if anything is, and coolness is no longer a factor in my life. I’m old. The first section of the paper I turn to is the obituary section. People I know keep showing up there.

I went away to the U aiming to be a writer so I majored in English, not knowing how much I’d come to hate it. I wanted to be F. Scott Fitzgerald and my teachers were his mortician. The English Department was across the street from the Institute of Technology and we writers loved to look down on the engineers. They wore the wrong color shirts with plastic pocket protectors and high-water pants with belts hitched way up under their rib cage and half-rim horn-rimmed glasses and short nerdy hair whereas we had long majestic hair and we wrote dark incomprehensible poetry. If I ever felt miserable about having to write a paper about Dryden or Coleridge or Milton, I just crossed the street and mingled with engineers, their slide rules in a holster on their belt, a race of dullards without a single amazing and original thought, and it gave me the arrogance I was looking for.

I think of this now as I consider what engineers have given the world, such as this little gizmo the size of half a sandwich that is always near me, a telephone that is also a camera, encyclopedia, newspaper, calendar, compass, weather monitor, phone book, and twenty other things I’m not aware of. Quiet studious men from the world of numbers changed the world in some wonderful ways. Bill Gates does not appear to spend a great deal of time worrying about his hair. Mark Zuckerberg has hair like a skullcap. Facebook is my link to family and friends. The nerds who invented Google gave a great gift us old people who forgot what “postmodern” means and can’t remember the year Rod Carew set a record for stealing home base and Google will find it for you: he stole home seventeen times. Seven times in 1969 alone.

Nineteen sixty-nine was an enormous year in my life. I was 27 and had a baby boy and needed to get serious and instead of finishing a novel that nobody would want, I got a job in radio doing the early morning shift and I shifted from tragic self-awareness to humor because that’s what people needed on a dark winter morning and that was when I started to feel useful and that’s when you find your vocation. And hair has nothing to do with it.

I write this on a laptop hooked up to a printer with an instruction manual written by engineers for other engineers, people who whizzed through college courses that to me were a solid brick wall, so it’s unreadable for me. Imagine if all your cookbooks were in French and you had to call one of your few Francophones in order to make pancakes. But never mind. Thank you, Nerdland, for the laptop and the phone. I could live without them but it wouldn’t be nearly so much fun. I apologize for looking down on you for your bad hair.

A few words while I wait for her to come in

I married a perfectionist and am glad for it especially during this pandemonium or pandora or veranda or whatever it is we’re going through these days, even my dream life is clearer, more detailed than in normal times, which now are only a memory, those evenings when we ate dinner in a crowded restaurant and sat in the tenth row of a theater and packed into a crowded train to go home.

She is a violinist, dedicated since her teen years to perfection, practicing many hours a day so that she could play in a string section and not stand out as an individual. I am a struggling writer for whom individual identity is crucial. She sat in an orchestra wearing black like all the others, suppressing the urge to wear a tiara with flashing red and green pulsating lights. I sat in a café, in a red T-shirt, corduroy jacket, jeans, boots, smoking a Gauloise, a Panama hat on the table, writing on a yellow legal pad, something original. It was a café (actually a cafeteria) patronized by engineering students and I was the only Gauloise/Panama person there. The others lived in a world of correct answers and I lived in a forest of wild surmise.

Had I not married the violinist, I’d be in a hospital, trying to breathe, having refused to self-isolate because I hate the term, I prefer the term “drift.” But thanks to her attention to detail, we live with our daughter in a clean apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and haven’t ventured outdoors, except to step out on the balcony, for two months. She is more sociable than I — most musicians are, having a common exclusive language — and so she misses the street life more than I do, but she studied up on the situation — a strange and dangerous contagion, an elderly and careless husband — and saw what needed to be done. And so I find myself in a quiet room with an empty schedule, an ideal life for a writer.

If I taught Creative Writing now, I wouldn’t be encouraging wild originality, I’d be teaching people to keep an orderly house and a spotless kitchen, hang up your clothes, and defend against interruption. A cluttered desk is a prison cell; a life of confusion is a dungeon.

The argument these days between Opening the Doors and Maintaining Quarantine is the argument between ignorance and knowledge and ordinarily I’d go with ignorance but I have a manager who is in for the long haul. She misses her work, playing in a pit, two feet away from two other players, a soprano and a tenor onstage singing Puccini passionately and projecting thousands of saliva droplets with every fricative, but she knows that people shouldn’t die from opera, only in it, so life is rearranged.

And so, when she wakes up in the morning and appears in the doorway of my quiet room, I hold out my arms and she sits on my lap and puts her head on my shoulder. We live day by day. All the big bets are off. The calendar is empty. The canvas chairs on the balcony that I was always too busy to sit in now have occupants. I look at the planter with the herbs my violinist has planted, an orchestra of mint and marjoram, cilantro, basil and rosemary, who will wind up in a stir-fry or what we in Minnesota used to call “hotdish” before we went to college. It’s the middle of May, a chilly spring, you can count the warm days on your left hand. But if the sun shines, even the low 50s are good enough.

Old man in a black winter coat looking out on the rooftops of New York, and a slim blond with violin scars on her jaw, and we talk about the boxes of useless unused stuff in closets that should be dealt with, and it brings to mind a fit of shelf-clearing years ago, an old unread book I opened and found, pressed between the leaves, a piece of yellowed handstitching: “Elizabeth Crandall is my name And America is my nation. Providence is my home And Christ is my salvation When I am dead and in my grave and all my bones are rotten, if this you see, remember me, when I am quite forgotten. 1845.” A fellow writer, long gone, and the thought isn’t original but the stitching is perfect. The perfection is stunning.

A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Humor Love & Comedy Tour Old Friends Poetry Prairie Home Christmas Show Solo Songs Stories The Gratitude Tour
Schedule
Radio

To sign up for the daily Writer’s Almanac e-newsletter, please click here.

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, June 4, 2020

It’s the 80th anniversary of the end of the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk, during which civilians answered the call to rescue Allied troops from the French seaport.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, June 3, 2020

It’s the birthday of historical romance writer Kathleen Woodiwiss (1939-2007), who wrote her first novel secretly on a typewriter that she’d gifted to her husband.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, June 2, 2020

It was on this day in 1865 that the Civil War came to a formal end. The war took 620,000 American lives.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, June 1, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, June 1, 2020

It’s the birthday of Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), who said, “I don’t want to make money, I just want to be wonderful.”

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, May 31, 2020

It’s the birthday of poet Walt Whitman (1819), who was once fired from a job at the Department of the Interior for being a “very bad man” and a “free lover.”

Read More
A Prairie Home Companion: June 6, 2015

A Prairie Home Companion: June 6, 2015

Featuring pianist and essayist Jeremy Denk, singer Heather Masse (pictured), and The DiGiallonardo Sisters in a show in Canandaigua, New York.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, May 30, 2020

It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France at the age of 19. About 500 years later, she was canonized as a Catholic saint.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, May 29, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, May 29, 2020

It was on this day in 1913 that the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du printemps” caused a riot at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, May 28, 2020

“When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really.” –Maeve Binchy, born this day in 1940

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, May 27, 2020

On this day in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened. The idea of the bridge was first broached in 1869 by a man who called himself the “Emperor of the United States.”

Read More
Writing

How we live in these troubled times

The world is falling apart but my niece has sent me pictures of her, her friends, people from her church, cleaning up along Lake Street in Minneapolis, something that distinguishes a Minneapolis riot from one in Chicago or Philadelphia: when the arsonists leave, the brigades of nice people come in to tidy up.

Say what you will, but this is our neighborhood and we don’t accept trashiness, we believe that clean streets, nice lawns, well-kept houses, bring out the goodness inherent in humanity. My aunts believed that, my mother, my grandma. Men with incendiary devices come through and torch businesses, a library, a police station, but the women will have the last word, count on it.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Friday, May 29, 2020

The city I love is burning, people living in dread, as the result of having tolerated a police force that has its own code and doesn’t live by our ideals.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Thursday, May 28, 2020

So much is strange in this lockdown but the overriding fact, to a Minnesotan, is that it’s summer at last, we’re eating outdoors, and we’re all in this together.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A blissful day in isolation, part of it on the terrace snoozing in the sun, mostly indoors working on the novel.

Read More

A modest proposal for a day of forgiveness

Memorial Day gives us a long weekend and marks the beginning of summer, but I remember back in my Boy Scout youth attending a service at a military cemetery and listening to a chaplain talk about men who willingly gave their lives for their country, and heard Taps played by a bugler in the distance. It was moving. Since then, however, we became aware of men who didn’t give their lives — their lives were taken from them by their country fighting a misbegotten war it didn’t know how to stop.

Even in the Good War, WWII, in 1945, preparing for the invasion of Japan, men had no enthusiasm for giving their lives. A friend of mine was in the invasion force, stationed on Okinawa, and was glad when the A-bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “We were cannon fodder and we knew it,” he told me. “The death toll in an American invasion would’ve been in the millions. It took a nuclear horror to break their will. What a relief not to have to do it by hand-to-hand combat.”

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Monday, May 25, 2020

I draw no conclusions except that in isolation, one still needs social life and here it is in a dream. I haven’t been shopping since January and last night I enjoyed looking for pens in a drugstore in Dublin.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Sunday, May 24, 2020

For the first time in a long time, I have a great deal of time, and I am truly grateful. Up at 6 a.m. and the day stretches ahead. The pandemic has given me something new — the 45-minute phone call.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Saturday, May 23, 2020

Taciturnity is a privilege and I cling to it, as a writer. I need to think. For me, thinking and talking don’t go well together.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Friday, May 22, 2020

I used to fly around the country doing shows and staying in nice hotels and now, thanks to the plague, I get to observe my true love close up.

Read More

The News from Manhattan: Thursday, May 21, 2020

We have dinner and hold hands and say table grace, something we never did regularly before but quarantine needs rituals and prayer is a good one.

Read More

Email sign-up:

Sign up for the weekly Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion email newsletter here >>>

Sign up for the daily The Writer’s Almanac email newsletter here >>>

If you’d like to sign up for BOTH newsletters, you may do so here >>>


Submit to The Writer’s Almanac:

We are not accepting new poetry at this time. For questions, please contact twa@garrisonkeillor.com


ShopGarrisonKeillor.com Questions 

For questions related to items you have ordered from our store, please contact Katharine at kseggerman@garrisonkeillor.com


Get In Touch
Send Message

Press Kit

If you are hosting a show with Garrison, please feel free to use the below press photos for marketing, as well as the below short biography. Promo video for purpose of booking is available here.

Garrison Keillor did “A Prairie Home Companion” for forty years, wrote fiction and comedy, invented a town called Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, even though he himself grew up evangelical in a small separatist flock where all the children expected the imminent end of the world. He’s busy in retirement, having written a memoir and a book of limericks and is at work on a musical and a Lake Wobegon screenplay, and he continues to do “The Writers Almanac” sent out daily to Internet subscribers (free). 

He and his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson live in Minneapolis, not far from the YMCA where he was sent for swimming lessons at age 12 after his cousin drowned, and he skipped the lessons and went to the public library instead and to a radio studio to watch a noontime show with singers and a band. Thus, our course in life is set. 

Recent reviews:

“Fans laughed, applauded and sang along throughout Sunday night’s two-hour show” -Jeff Baenen, AP News

“His shows can, for a couple of hours, transform an audience of even so-called coastal elites into a small-town community with an intimacy only radio and its podcast descendants can achieve” -Chris Barton, LA Times

“[Keillor is] an expert at making you feel at home with his low-key, familiar style. Comfortable is his specialty.” -Betsie Freeman, Omaha-World Herald

To shop merchandise related to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Writer’s Almanac, visit our new online store >>>