November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
I worked at The Daily from ’62 to ’66, actually on the Ivory Tower, the literary magazine that came out in place of the paper on the first Monday of the month, which true Daily people generally loathed and despised. They were engaged in the manly pursuit of news and we wrote poetry and fiction, which was what girls did, they thought.
Our office was in the newsroom, at the east end of the basement of Murphy Hall, and when we walked in the door and through the reporters, they stopped yelling at each other and stared at us as if they had never seen us before in their lives. The word “degenerate” seemed to hang in the air.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I sent poems to the Tower, which were accepted, then a story. The poetry editor was Peter Stitt, who now edits the Gettysburg Review, a great magazine, and Beth Moller was editor. I became fiction editor, then editor and then I quit because I was about to flunk out of school. Most people at The Daily had bad grades. We spent most of our time there and skipped class with carefree abandon: it was our way of being an adult. To sit in Walter Library dredging through the silt and mud of the 19th century was dreary labor compared to the fun of sitting in the Daily offices, grimy, strewn with papers, loud, full of smoke, and write patiently on yellow copy paper in a battered Underwood typewriter a column or a story, especially one that sneered at the Administration, and the next morning, bright and early, pick up a Daily from a paperboy as you walked onto campus and see your work there, your name, your very words, in print, even now being read by all forty-two thousand students at the University.
Upstairs, the J-school was run by number crunchers, social scientists, dwarves. Downstairs we considered ourselves the tenders of the real journalists, writers like Sevareid and Salisbury and Max Shulman and Thomas Heggen, who came from The Daily. Most of us came from the sophomore journalism writing course taught by Mitchell Charnley, George Hage, and Robert Lindsay, the best writing course ever offered. I thought so then, I still think so. We wrote reams of every sort of writing — interviews, reviews, humor columns, features, and hard news, the anthracite of the business — we wrote every day and our stuff was read and marked up with red pencil and shot back. Lindsay had a firm policy of giving an F to any submission that contained a spelling error, a cruel blow to a sensitive writer, but it absolutely taught you to copyread. Charnley was an old newspaperman and a stickler for form, not fond of fancy or self-conscious writing (my favorite kind). Hage was a tall gentle man, a humanist and a true intellectual for whom the great writers of the genre — Thoreau, Twain, Mencken, Crane, Orwell, Liebling were always real and present. He was my mentor and I tried to write things to make him laugh. He had a wonderful loud laugh, like a horse laugh, if there is such a thing.
We worked late in the basement, drove downtown to Commercial Press and read proofs there in the old print shop that smelled of hot lead and ink and of hot potato chips from the Old Dutch factory downstairs. We drank beer at the Big 10 and the Mixer’s and learned to smoke. We felt absolutely superior, writing, doing real work compared to the student politicians who sat around debating, passing resolutions, playing silly games. At the Tower, an extraordinary bunch of talents gathered, including Patricia Hampl, Jonathan Sisson, Lewis Hyde, Jim Moore, Sam Heins, Franz Richter, Scott Wright. Of all of us, Patricia is the real shining star, the one who breaks through and who somehow vindicates her colleagues. Her work will outlast us all, I think.
We got a little vindication one spring, after finals, at the Daily staff party over in Crocus Hill. All the reporters and editors and the boys of the sports page were good and drunk by the time we Ivory Tower folks arrived in a lilac convertible. They were wandering around the yard, singing, putting their arms around trees. We saw our chance, which wasn’t hard to see. We offered them a guided tour of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s old haunts. Some of them had heard of him and knew that he wrote about romantic young people like themselves. “Follow us.” we said, “we’ll drive slow.” We led them through the streets, a gang of fifty or sixty young journalists floating on the stormy sea of beer and straight vodka, and we pointed out random houses to them: Scott’s birthplace, his grandma’s, Zelda’s home, his school, the church he attended, the bar where he beat up Hemingway, Gertrude Stein’s home. Some of the current luminaria of Twin Cities journalism and P.R. were in the crowd, and they were rapt pupils, though listing to starboard. We stopped at each site and gave an impromptu talk. “Here’s where the Ice Palace used to stand, next to that gas station. Here is where the Great Gatsby lived, whose real name was Finnegan.” We led them west, almost to Snelling Avenue, and then we waved goodbye and slowly sped away.