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 Missing Thing
By Joel Brouwer
He rose before her every morning
to walk three rainy February blocks
to the best and cheapest boulangerie.
Our secret, they said, and didn’t tell friends.
Bonjour Madame, bonjour Monsieur,
une baguette s’il vous plaît, oui Monsieur,
merci Madame, merci Monsieur.
The spell had to be pronounced perfectly
to accomplish the magic. By the time
he returned, she had everything ready,
the jam pots and butter, bowls of coffee.
Her skin still lustrous with sleep as she turned
toward him. He kissed her with his coat on, she
gleaming with heat, he with cold. I’m only
missing one thing, she said. Indicating
the black plastic basket on the table.
Joel Brouwer, “The Missing Thing” from And So. Copyright © 2009 by Joel Brouwer. Used by permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com. (buy now)
On this date in 1793, the playwright, abolitionist, and feminist Olympe de Gouges (books by this author) mounted a Paris scaffold to the guillotine. She was pretty and also intelligent, in spite of the fact that she received almost no formal education as a child. She moved to Paris in the 1770s and began writing — plays, at first, but later political pamphlets in support of the French Revolution. She hoped it would lead to a more just system of government. But when she realized that women were gaining nothing from the revolution, not even citizenship, she spoke out against it. In 1791, she published Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen. In it, she wrote, “A woman has the right to be guillotined; she should also have the right to debate.” She argued for the equal sharing of property, and for laws protecting the rights of women and their children from men who lied to them and abandoned them.
It was her paper “The Three Urns or the Welfare of the Fatherland” that finally led to her arrest. She laid out three possible forms of government and argued that French citizens should be allowed to choose for themselves. She also defended the king — mostly for humanitarian, rather than political, reasons — and both of these things were interpreted as a desire to bring back the monarchy. So, in 1793, de Gouges was arrested for sedition, denied legal counsel, and sent to the guillotine. As she mounted the scaffold, she said to the crowd, “Children of the fatherland, you will avenge my death.”
It’s the birthday of William Cullen Bryant (books by this author), born in Cummington, Massachusetts (1794), who worked as a lawyer, hated it, wrote a history of world civilization in verse while still working as a lawyer in his 20s, quit his attorney job, became a journalist, and edited the New York Evening Post for 50 years, during which time he promoted unions, condemned slavery, and advocated for a Central Park in nascent New York City. Bryant Park next to the New York Public Library is named for him.
His most famous poem is “Thanatopsis,” a poem about death — he wrote most of it when he was 17. He wrote:
[…] When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart; —
Go forth under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around —
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air —
Comes a still voice […]
It’s the birthday of the photographer Walker Evans (works by this artist), born in St. Louis, Missouri (1903). His father was a wealthy advertising executive, and Evans spent most of his childhood in boarding schools. He dropped out of college after one year and went off to Paris to become a writer. He spent a lot of his time at Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, and one day he saw James Joyce there, but he was too shy to introduce himself. He didn’t meet any other important writers, and his own writing didn’t amount to much. He said, “I wanted so much to write that I couldn’t write a word.”
He went back to the United States, feeling like a failure, but one day he picked up a camera and started taking pictures. One of the first pictures he took in America was of the parade honoring Lindbergh’s flight in 1927. Instead of focusing on the parade itself, he focused on the street the parade had just passed through, littered with crumpled handbills and confetti.
He had felt so reverential toward literature that it blocked him up, but with a camera he could point and capture anything he wanted. The popular photography of the day was highly stylized, so Evans decided to go in the opposite direction, to take pictures of ordinary, unpretentious things. He said, “If the thing is there, why, there it is.”He photographed storefronts and signs with marquee lights, blurred views from speeding trains, old office furniture, and common tools. He took pictures of people in the New York City subways with a camera hidden in his winter coat.
Evans especially loved photographing bedrooms: farmers’ bedrooms, bohemian bedrooms, middle-class bedrooms. He’d photograph what people had on their mantles, on their dressers, and in their dresser drawers. By the early 1930s, he was one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States. In 1933, he was given the first one-man photographic exhibition by the new Museum of Modern Art.
In the summer of 1936, he went down to Greensboro, Alabama, to photograph tenant farmers struggling through the Great Depression. He spent weeks there, with the journalist James Agee, photographing the Burroughs family, the Fieldses, and the Tingle family at work on their farms and in their ramshackle homes.
At first, he was uncomfortable with the idea of taking pictures of such desperate people, but James Agee persuaded him that their job was show how noble these people were despite their circumstances. When Evans and Agee said goodbye at the end of their work, the farmers wept. The photographs, with Agee’s text, were published in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). They are among the most famous images of the Great Depression.
Walker Evans said, “Fine photography is literature, and it should be.”
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