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 Luci Shaw
So the town grew and they built
us a new bridge over the stream, and later
diverted the flow to an underground tunnel
like a long worm into which
the city shoveled its leaves and garbage,
slowing the current and turning it rank
with mud and rats. Murky. Invisible.
People forgot the old brook
with its little fish, and tadpoles and
green reeds, and its ripples conversing
with the sun. Until last week a great storm
of rain and wind blew open
our windows and our memories and
the water burst through and spread itself
across the city in a great sheet and said,
“Emergence” by Luci Shaw from Eye of the Beholder. Paraclete Press © 2018. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
On this day in 1626, Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians. He paid them in useful goods like cloth, kettles, axe heads, and drilling awls — not trinkets, as the legend goes — worth 60 silver Dutch guilders. Was it the deal of a lifetime? It depends on how you calculate the value of a guilder by today’s standards. In the 19th century, a historian reckoned the purchase price to be about $24, and that’s the story that school kids still receive. If you calculate according to the actual weight of the silver, it worked out to around $72 in 1992 dollars. According to the Institute for Social History of Amsterdam, 60 guilders in 1626 was equivalent to about $1,000 today. Given the price of New York real estate nowadays, that’s about a 17-billion-percent increase.
The book New York City: a Short History (George Lankevich, 1998) maintains that Minuit bought the island from the Canarsie, not the Lenape, Indians. Like millions today, the Canarsies didn’t live in Manhattan; they just worked there, commuting from their Long Island home. Because they sold territory that wasn’t really theirs to sell, the island had to be purchased again later from its rightful owners.
It’s the birthday of novelist and short-story writer William Trevor, (books by this author) born in Mitchelstown, Ireland (1928). He taught in Northern Ireland until the school went bankrupt, he created sculptures for churches, and he worked at an ad agency in London, which he hated. He had written some short stories, and he finally became so desperate for money that he decided to try writing a novel, so he wrote a satire of the school system called A Standard of Behaviour (1958). He didn’t think it was very good, but it was successful and won a major award, and so he continued to write. His novels include The Boarding House (1965) and The Story of Lucy Gault (2002), and his books of short stories include The Day We Got Drunk on Cake (1967) and Beyond the Pale (1981). He said, “The Irish delight in stories, of whatever kind, because their telling and their reception are by now instinctive.”
William Trevor died on November 20th, 2016.
It’s the birthday of the novelist Michael Chabon, (books by this author) who was born in Washington, D.C. (1963), and grew up with his mom in Columbia, Maryland, a planned suburban community with utopian ideals. He was in his mid-20s, a graduate student in creative writing at the University of California Irvine, when he submitted his master’s thesis, a novel about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality. His professor was so impressed that he sent the manuscript off to an agent as soon as he finished reading it, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988) was published to rave reviews.
Then Chabon spent five years working on an enormous manuscript, trying to pack everything that interested him into one novel. But it wasn’t coming together, and one night an entirely new plot came into his head, and he wrote 15 pages of this new story in one sitting. He saved the file under the name “X,” and didn’t tell his editor, agent, or even his wife that he had started a new project. He said, “I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing … or what the critics would think of it, and sweetest of all, I didn’t give a single thought to what I was trying to say. I just wrote.” Almost two months later, he gave his wife more than 100 pages to read, and she started laughing out loud while she was reading, so he knew that it was good. He finished it in seven months, and it was The Wonder Boys (1995). He went on to write The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000),which won the Pulitzer Prize.
He said: “There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they’re big, and they have a lot of words in them…. The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life.”
It’s the birthday of poet Joseph Brodsky, (books by this author) born in St. Petersburg, Russia (1940). His father was a naval officer who got kicked out of the service for being Jewish, so the family lived in poverty. Joseph started writing poetry when he was 15, but in 1963 — when he was 23 — a Russian newspaper declared that his poetry was “pornographic and anti-Soviet.” The authorities were worried because he was becoming so popular and his readings were attracting large, enthusiastic crowds. He was interrogated, he was put in a mental institution, and then he was arrested. He was sentenced to five years in a labor camp in Siberia, but there was so much protest that his sentence was commuted after a year and a half. For the next few years, he continued to write, but he was harassed and finally expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972.
He went to Austria, where the poet W.H. Auden took Brodsky under his wing and helped set him up with a teaching position at the University of Michigan. From there, he went on to teach at Queens College and Mount Holyoke.
He published poems, plays, and essays, including A Part of Speech (1977), Less Than One (1986), and To Urania (1988). In 1987, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature — his response was, “A big step for me, a small step for mankind.” Four years later, he became the poet laureate of the United States. He died in 1996 at age 55.
He said, “After all, it is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are bound to fake one of them, it had better be life.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®