Fort Lauderdale, FL
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
West Bend, WI
Garrison Keillor brings his show to West Bend, WI for a performance of sing-a-longs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Peekskill NY. Be prepared to laugh and sing along as you celebrate all that unite us.
Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield, WI
Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Friends (Fred Newman, Heather Masse, Rich Dworsky, Richard Kriehn & Dan Magraw) bring their show to Big Top Chautauqua for a performance of night of laughter, song and The News from Lake Wobegon.
by Connie Wanek
Someone had to do the dirty work,
spading the garden, moving mountains,
keeping the darkness out of the light,
and she took every imperfection personally.
Mr. Big Ideas, sure,
but someone had to run the numbers.
Then talk about babies: he never imagined
That was part of his charm, of course,
his frank amazement at consequences.
The pretty songs he gave the finches:
those spoke to his
innocence, his ability to regard
every moment as fresh. “Let’s give them
free will and see what happens,”
he said, ever the optimist.
“Mrs. God” by Connie Wanek from Consider the Lilies: Mrs. God Poems. Will o’ the Wisp Books, 2018. Reprinted with permission of the author. (buy now)
The Italian writer Italo Svevo (books by this author) was born on this day in Trieste, Italy (1861). He was devoted to literature but went into business, working as a bank clerk and writing a theater column and stories under a pseudonym on the side. When he published his first two books, A Life (1893) and As a Man Grows Older (1898), they were ignored by readers and critics alike.
Svevo needed to improve his English for business reasons and hired a tutor who turned out to be aspiring writer James Joyce, who had come to Italy to teach. Svevo shared his books with Joyce, who felt the Italian was a neglected genius. With Joyce’s encouragement, Svevo wrote the book for which he is known, Confessions of Zeno(1923), a fictional memoir of a man undergoing psychoanalysis that today is considered one of the greatest Italian novels of the 20th century.
It’s the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Eleanor Hodgman Porter (books by this author), born in Littleton, New Hampshire (1868). Beginning with her first novel, Cross Currents (1907), Porter was popular with readers, who loved her sentimental tales of orphaned heiresses and lost little girls. But her novel Pollyanna (1913), about a young girl who looks for the good in even the most dire hardships, eclipsed them all, spending two years on the best-sellers list and ultimately leading to a play, a movie, a calendar, and a daily almanac of reasons to be glad. Within a decade, the word “Pollyanna” entered the American lexicon, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “an excessively or blindly optimistic person” and one who is cheerful to a fault.
After the publication of a best-selling sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up (1915), Porter became somewhat defensive about the character she’d created. She said: “You know I have been made to suffer from the Pollyanna books. … People have thought that Pollyanna chirped that she was ‘glad’ at everything. … I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil; I have merely thought that it is far better to ‘greet the unknown with a cheer.'”
Poor Richard’s Almanac was a hodgepodge of things: It had information about the movements of the moon and stars, weather reports, historical tidbits, poems, and those adages that Franklin became famous for, like “Fish and visitors stink in three days” and “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” and “A penny saved is twopence dear” (often misquoted as “A penny saved is a penny earned”). Some of the stuff was original and some was borrowed, drawing upon diverse sources like Native American folklore, common farmers’ superstitions, politicians’ speeches, and published authors’ writings.
Franklin published his wildly successful almanac for a quarter century, and its popularity increased by the year. At its height, the book sold 10,000 copies a year, making it a best-seller in colonial America. Books were expensive and hard to come by in the colonies, and Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac was the only book that many households owned besides the Bible. It made Franklin rich and famous.
Ben Franklin said, “God helps them that help themselves.”
It was on this day in 1843 that Charles Dickens‘ story “A Christmas Carol” was published (books by this author). Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in six intense weeks. He was struggling for money — he had a large mortgage payment, his parents and siblings were asking for money, his wife was expecting their fifth child, and sales from his most recent novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, were disappointing. He rushed through “A Christmas Carol” in time to get it printed for the holiday season, finished it in early December, wrote “The End” in huge letters and underlined it three times.
Dickens was angry with his publisher over how little money he had made from Martin Chuzzlewit, so he refused the lump-sum payment that his publisher offered for A Christmas Carol. Instead, he decided to publish it himself. He oversaw every detail of the publication, and he had a very specific vision for the book: he wanted a gold-stamped cover, woodcuts and four hand-colored etchings, a fancy binding, gilt-edged pages, title pages in red and green, and hand-colored green endpapers. He examined the first copies and decided that he didn’t like them after all — the green on the title pages was not bright enough, and the endpapers smudged. So he demanded a new version: red and blue title pages, and yellow endpapers. All the changes were made to Dickens’ satisfaction by December 17th, two days before the book was to go on sale.
Dickens wanted as many people as possible to purchase the book, so he charged five shillings, and sure enough, it was a huge best-seller — the first edition of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve. By the following spring, the book had run through seven editions.
Unfortunately, Dickens priced the book too low for the amount of cost that went into it — he had hoped to net £1,000 from the first edition, but he made just over £200. He wrote to a friend: “I had set my heart and soul upon a Thousand, clear. What a wonderful thing it is, that such a great success should occasion me such intolerable anxiety and disappointment! My year’s bills, unpaid, are so terrific, that all the energy and determination I can possibly exert will be required […] I am not afraid, if I reduce my expenses; but if I do not, I shall be ruined past all mortal hope of redemption.”
It’s the birthday of French singer Édith Piaf, born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Paris (1915). Her mother was a café singer and a drug addict, and her father was a street performer — an acrobat and contortionist. As a young girl, she was sent to her grandmother’s brothel, where she was raised by prostitutes. When she was a teenager, her father took her along with him to sing on street corners as part of his act. In 1935, she was discovered by a nightclub owner, Louis Leplée, who nicknamed her La Môme Piaf, or “the little sparrow” — she was not even 4′ 10″.
With the help of Leplée’s publicity, Piaf made her first record within the year; but in 1936, Leplée was murdered, and the police held Piaf for questioning. She was let go, but her reputation was damaged. The lyricist Raymond Asso, her lover, helped rebuild her image — he taught her how to dress and act on stage, and he wrote her songs about the tough life of the working class.
Piaf went on to become an international star, with songs like “La vie en rose” and “Non, je ne regrette rien.” She died at the age of 47, and 40,000 mourners joined her funeral procession in Paris.