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+
Sightseeing in the Capital
by Charles Simic
These grand old buildings
With their spacious conference rooms,
Where they weigh life and death
Without a moment of fear
Of ever being held accountable,
And then withdraw to dine in style
And drink to each other’s health
In private clubs and country estates,
While we linger on the sidewalk
Admiring the rows of windows
The evening sun has struck blind.
“Sightseeing in the Capital” by Charles Simic from Master of Disguises. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
The first national Women’s Rights Convention opened in Worcester, Massachusetts, on this date in 1850.
The first morning session of the national convention drew 900 delegates, mostly men. By that afternoon, the ranks had swelled to more than a thousand. The hall was packed and many more waited outside. People came from 11 states, including California, which had only been a state for a few weeks. The president and keynote speaker, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, called for “the emancipation of a class, the redemption of half the world, and a conforming reorganization of all social, political, and industrial interests and institutions.” Other speakers followed, including Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth. The convention closed with a speech by Lucy Stone that moved Horace Greeley to take up the cause in the New York Tribune, which in turn inspired Susan B. Anthony to join the women’s movement. Stone said: “We want to be something more than the appendages of Society; we want that Woman should be the coequal and help-meet of Man in all the interest and perils and enjoyments of human life.”
The Tribune was a rare exception, however; most newspapers were scornful at best and openly hostile at worst. The New York Herald published what it called “the actual designs of that piebald assemblage called the Women’s Rights Convention,” a list that included abolishing the Bible, the Constitution, the laws of the land, and the gallows; encouraging the “free and miscellaneous amalgamation of sexes and colors”; and “cut[ting] throats ad libitum.”
And on this day in 1920, the novel Main Street by Sinclair Lewis was published (books by this author). Lewis had first envisioned a novel about small-town life 15 years earlier. He planned to call his novel The Village Virus, and to make the main character a misfit lawyer. He wrote 20,000 words, but he didn’t like it and threw it out.
Then in 1916, he brought his new wife, Gracie, on a visit to Sauk Centre. They stayed with his parents, and he cringed to see some of the interactions between his parents and his modern, well-educated, New York City wife. He decided to rethink the novel so that it centered on a sophisticated young city woman who comes to town as the bride of the local doctor.
In November of 1919, he wrote his first draft — 221,000 words — in just 14 weeks. He revised endlessly, and he wasn’t shy about chopping out entire scenes or sections — he cut out all but a few pages of the first 30,000 words of this new novel. By early summer, he felt ready to send it to a publisher, his friend Alfred Harcourt, who had just started the new publishing house of Harcourt, Brace and Howe. Harcourt and Lewis did a final edit together, and the manuscript was finished by July 1920, just eight months after Lewis had started writing it. The Village Virus was retitled Main Street.
Lewis’s previous books hadn’t sold very well, but he was optimistic that he could sell 25,000 copies of Main Street. Lewis’s total sales goal of 25,000 was met by November, and within a few years, Main Street had sold 2 million copies.
In 1921, the Pulitzer committee unanimously recommended Main Street, but the trustees of Columbia University vetoed it and instead chose Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence (1922). Lewis was annoyed, but he admired Wharton and sent her a sincere congratulatory letter. Two years later, the same thing happened with Lewis’s next novel, Babbitt (1922); it was recommended for the Pulitzer, but again it was overruled by the trustees, this time losing to Willa Cather’s One of Ours (1922). When he was offered the 1926 Pulitzer for Arrowsmith (1925), he refused it. But in 1930, Lewis became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature, an honor that he accepted.
It’s the birthday of the satirist Alfred Matthew Yankovic, better known as “Weird Al” Yankovic, born in Downey, California (1959). Weird Al has made more than 10 studio albums, featuring original songs and parodies of hit singles, such as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” which he turned into “Like A Surgeon”:
I finally made it through med school
Somehow I made it through
I’m just an intern
I still make a mistake or two
I was last in my class
Barely passed at the institute
Now I’m trying to avoid, yah I’m trying to avoid
A malpractice suit
Hey, like a surgeon
Cuttin’ for the very first time
Like a surgeon
Organ transplants are my line
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®