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 Gary Johnson
Here we sit as evening falls
Like old horses in their stalls.
Thank you, Father, that you bless
Us with food and an address
And the comfort of your hand
In this great and blessed land.
Look around at each dear face,
Keep each one in your good grace.
We think of those who went before,
And wish we could have loved them more.
Grant to us a cheerful heart,
Knowing we must soon depart
To that far land to be with them.
And now let’s eat. Praise God. Amen.
“Table Grace” by Gary Johnson. Used with permission of the poet.
It’s the birthday of poet May Swenson (books by this author), born in Logan, Utah (1913). Her parents were Swedish immigrants who came to the United States as converts to Mormonism. She was the first of ten children, and she became the black sheep of the family when she started questioning the Mormon faith at the age of thirteen.
She began keeping a diary and composing poems, later saying that writing was the one place she felt free to express herself: “I’m two eyes looking out of a suit of armor. I write because I can’t talk.”
She moved to New York City in her 20s and had a string of low-paying jobs. At one low point, she shoplifted a dress so she’d look respectable when she went to seek help in the welfare office. Humiliated, she wrote her father: “If I ever find a way, acceptable to myself, to solve the bread-and-butter question, I will be a writer.” It’s likely that she also saw New York as her only chance to live her life as a lesbian.
Swenson’s reputation and success grew slowly; by the time her first book, Another Animal, was accepted for publication in 1954, she was 41 and had been in New York for nearly 20 years. With the help of her editor, Swenson won a two-month residency at Yaddo, where she met the poet Elizabeth Bishop. The two became friends, possibly lovers, and although Bishop lived in Brazil, they exchanged 260 letters over the next 29 years. She once wrote to Bishop: “Not to need illusion—to dare to see and say how things really are, is the emancipation I would like to attain.”
Her collections include Dear Elizabeth: Five Poems and Three Letters to Elizabeth Bishop (2000), and The Complete Love Poems of May Swenson (2003).
It’s the birthday of Southern writer Walker Percy (books by this author), born in Birmingham, Alabama (1916). Percy’s early life was marked by tragedy: his grandfather and father both committed suicide with shotguns, and his mother drowned when her car ran off the road into a stream. When his uncle in Greenville, Mississippi, adopted Percy and his little brothers, things took a turn for the better; it was there that he met his lifelong best friend, the neighbor boy Shelby Foote. As teenagers they took a trip to Oxford to meet their hero, William Faulkner — Percy was so overwhelmed that he stayed in the car as Foote and Faulkner talked on the porch.
Percy went off to college in Chapel Hill, and later to New York for medical school. He contracted tuberculosis and spent the next two years at a sanitarium. It was, he later said, “the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me a chance to quit medicine. I had a respectable excuse.”
Instead, Percy decided to be a full-time writer. He finished two novels—one was based on his experience at the sanitarium—neither of which he could get published. But he kept at it, and his novel The Moviegoer (1961) came out when he was 45. A year later it won the National Book Award. Percy published five more novels and many essays.
In 1976 Percy was a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans when a woman called him, asking him to read her son’s manuscript. He felt guilty turning her down—the woman’s son had committed suicide in part because of his despair over not being able to find a publisher for his novel—so Percy agreed, and was so impressed that he conspired to get it published. The Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, went on to win a Pulitzer.
It’s the birthday of Irish novelist Maeve Binchy (books by this author), born in Dalkey, Ireland (1940). Binchy’s mother hoped that she’d grow up and meet a nice doctor or lawyer — but the daughter preferred instead to “holiday on the decks of cheap boats, or work in kibbutzim in Israel, or mind children as [a] camp counselor in the United States.” The young Binchy would send colorful letters back home describing her travels and adventures, and her father began forwarding them to newspapers in hopes that they’d be published. It led to a career as a newspaper reporter and editor.
About her work, Binchy said: “We’re nothing if we’re not loved. When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really. And I think we are all striving for it in different ways.”
Binchy is the best-selling author of dozens of novels and story collections, including her most recent, Minding Frankie (2010).
It’s the birthday of author Ian Fleming (books by this author), born in London in 1908. His family enjoyed wealth and social standing; his father Valentine was a Member of Parliament and when he died in World War I, Winston Churchill wrote his obituary. All doors were open to young Ian, and he worked as a foreign journalist, a banker, a stockbroker, a high-ranking officer and assistant to the director of British naval intelligence, and foreign manager of London’s Sunday Times before he took up the career, and the character, that would make him famous. Casino Royale (1953) was the first of his many “James Bond” novels, which featured the playboy spy — code name “007” — and a host of fast cars, nifty gadgets, and hot women.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®