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+
The Right Words
by Geraldine Connolly
I need to find them,
But everywhere I look,
in yellowed newspapers
and the blue-black dictionary,
under the glossy magazine photos
and tattered envelopes,
they evade me.
I peek under my old stove
and inside my new gloves.
I want to twirl them, swallow them,
send them on errands.
I want to get as close
as I can to the right words,
I want to gulp their wisdom
and eat their sadness,
want to forget the thorny bushes
and dreary blizzards,
from the mute times.
“The Right Words” by Geraldine Connolly from Aileron. © Terrapin Books, 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of novelist and poet Russell Banks (books by this author), born to a working-class family in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1940. His father, a plumber and an abusive alcoholic, left when Russell was 12. He was the first of his family to go to college, and won a full scholarship to Colgate University, but he dropped out after a couple of months, actually snuck out in the middle of the night, with the intention to fight with Castro’s army in Cuba. He made it as far south as Lakeland, Florida, where he worked in a department store for a while. Eventually, he went back to college, this time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he co-founded Lillabulero, a literary magazine and small press.
In 1967, while he was still in Chapel Hill, a friend called him from a bar to tell him that Jack Kerouac was passing through town and wanted to throw a party. Since Banks was the only one of their circle with a house, he offered it as a venue. Kerouac and his companions stayed for the weekend, and, as Banks told The Paris Review: “He brought with him a disruptiveness and wild disorder, and moments of brilliance too … It was a very strange and strenuous weekend. And very moving. It was the first time I had seen one of my literary heroes seem fragile and vulnerable.”
True to his roots, much of Russell’s work focuses on the harsh realities of the working-class experience, and his books feature struggles of race, class, religion, economic hardship, and violence. He also finds the school bus a powerful image, and he has returned to it again and again in much the same way a poet would: The Sweet Hereafter tells the story of a school bus accident that devastates a town, and the same bus, now abandoned, turns up in Rule of the Bone to provide shelter for the main character, a homeless teenaged boy. Banks has a collection of toy school buses from around the world, and explains his obsession: “It is associated, at least for me, with the first time you give your children over to the state. From the child’s point of view, it is the first time he leaves home and goes out into the larger world. It is the connecting cord between the family and the outside world and has both positive and negative implications.”
It’s the birthday of journalist Iris Chang, (books by this author) born in Princeton, New Jersey (1968), to a physicist father and a microbiologist mother, and raised in the Midwest. She’s best known for her second nonfiction book, The Rape of Nanking, published when she was 29, which spent 10 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and has sold half a million copies. It’s subtitled “The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,” and it documents the murder, rape, and torture of Chinese civilians during the second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s, when Japanese troops invaded the city of Nanking (now Nanjing). Her account was the first full-length book in English on the Nanking Massacre.
She first got the idea for the book after attending a conference in Cupertino, California, which talked about the Nanking Massacre. It struck a chord, especially because her grandparents had fled that part of China during this time and would not speak of what they left behind. In the course of two months there, 300,000 civilians were murdered and 80,000 women were raped. Chang said that after the conference, she was “suddenly in a panic that this terrifying disrespect for death and dying … would be reduced to a footnote of history, treated like a harmless glitch in a computer program that might or might not again cause a problem, unless someone forced the world to remember it.” She began to research the massacre, traveled to China to interview survivors, and insisted that the U.S. government declassify documents about the event.
The book she wrote about it, published in 1997, received widespread critical acclaim and sold 125,000 copies within a few months of its publication. Iris Chang became a celebrity, called “the best young historian we’ve got” by Steven Ambrose, and featured on the cover of Reader’s Digest magazine and on television shows like Good Morning America, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and Nightline. Hillary Clinton invited her to the White House to talk about human rights. At the same time, she received hate mail from Japanese ultranationalists and anonymous violent threats.
Chang began work on another book where she investigated brutal atrocities that no one else seemed to speak of, this time about the Bataan Death March during World War II, where U.S. soldiers were starved and tortured by their Japanese captors in the Philippines. She interviewed elderly American veterans who’d been prisoners of war there. Many of them had not spoken about their horrific experiences during the Bataan Death March for decades or at all, and the interviews were intense and painful.
The research, the grisly details and photographs, and the interviews with survivors made her increasingly depressed. Friends said that she became unable to “filter” out the brutal atrocities that she was learning about and writing about, that these historical events shadowed her own daily life. She became paranoid and suffered from psychosis. She quit sleeping, had a nervous breakdown, and was hospitalized in the summer of 2004; doctors thought she was bipolar. Later that year, at age 36, she committed suicide near her home in California.
It’s the birthday of novelist Lauren Weisberger, (books by this author) born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1977. Weisberger majored in English, spent a summer backpacking around Europe and Asia after graduation, then moved back to the U.S. and landed a job as assistant to the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. After she left Vogue, she worked as an assistant editor at Departures magazine, then took some writing classes and started to work on a book. It became The Devil Wears Prada, which contains a pretty straightforward autobiographical narrative about Weisberger’s experiences as a personal assistant at Vogue magazine: The main character Andy Sachs aspires to be a writer, moves to New York City, and gets a job at a fashion magazine working as the personal assistant to the despotic and domineering editor. The Devil Wears Prada spent six months on the New York Times best-seller list when it came out in 2003.
Her advice to young unpublished writers is this: “It’s all about setting aside just a little time to write each week. … Figure out what works and make it completely non-negotiable.”
She has since published more novels, including Everyone Worth Knowing (2005), Chasing Harry Winston (2008), Revenge Wears Prada (2013), and When Life Gives You Lululemons (2018).