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+
Kindness to Animals
Little children, never give
Pain to things that feel and live:
Let the gentle robin come
For the crumbs you save at home,—
As his meat you throw along
He’ll repay you with a song;
Never hurt the timid hare
Peeping from her green grass lair,
Let her come and sport and play
On the lawn at close of day;
The little lark goes soaring high.
To the bright windows of the sky,
Singing as if ’twere always spring,
And fluttering on an untired wing,—
Oh! let him sing his happy song,
Nor do these gentle creatures wrong.
“Kindness to Animals” by Anonymous.
It’s the birthday of novelist Harper Lee (books by this author), born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama (1926). Childhood friends described Lee as the “Queen of the Tomboys,” unafraid to get in playground fights with boys. Sometimes she beat up the boys who were bullying Truman Capote, who spent summers with relatives in Monroeville, and became one of Lee’s closest friends. Capote’s aunt later wrote, “A dress on the young Nelle would have been as out of place as a silk hat on a hog.”
At Monroe County High School Lee had a wonderful English teacher named Miss Gladys Watson. Miss Watson demanded that her students abide by the “three Cs” in their writing: clarity, coherence, and cadence. To emphasize these three points she asked them to read all their work aloud to the class; and they were expected to rewrite their essays to her complete satisfaction. Miss Watson introduced her students to 19th-century British literature, which Lee loved — she especially adored Jane Austen. Years later she told an interviewer, “All I want to be is the Jane Austen of south Alabama.” She went on to the University of Alabama but felt like a misfit. She began a law program, encouraged by her father, a successful lawyer. But she didn’t like law and quit after a year. Instead, in 1949, 23-year-old Lee followed her old friend Truman Capote to New York City, where she hoped to become a writer.
She got a job as an airline reservations agent. She rented a small, cold-water-only apartment on the Upper East Side where she wrote every night at a makeshift desk made from a door set across sawhorses. When she moved to New York Capote asked his friend Michael Brown, a composer, if he would look after Lee, whom he described as “a shy friend from Alabama.” Lee became close friends with Brown and his wife, Joy, and they helped her find an agent, Maurice Crain.
In November of 1956, Lee brought her agent five short stories. They liked one of them, called “Snow-on-the-Mountain,” but dismissed the other four. They thought she had potential, though, and suggested that she try writing a novel, which would have more commercial promise. After meeting her one of the agents wrote in an office memo, “The author is a nice little Suth’n gal — from Alabama — who says ‘Yes, Ma’am’ and ‘No, Ma’am.’”
A few weeks later, for Christmas of 1956, Michael and Joy Brown gave Lee a huge gift: enough money to quit her job and spend the year writing. She wrote to a friend, “Aside from the et ceteras of gratefulness and astonishment I feel about this proposition, I have a horrible feeling that this will be the making of me, that it will be goodbye to the joys of messing about.” In mid-January she delivered her agent the first 50 pages of a novel called Go Set a Watchman. She delivered another 50 pages each week until the first draft was finished. Her editors helped Lee focus the novel more on the character of the lawyer father, retitled the manuscript Atticus, then sent it off to an interested publisher, the J.B. Lippincott publishing house. Lippincott published mostly textbooks, but their one female editor saw potential in Lee’s novel. That editor encouraged Lee to rewrite the novel to focus on the childhood of the main character, Scout. Lee spent two years rewriting the book under her editor’s scrutiny, and finally produced a final version, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). She did not publish another piece of writing until 2015 when she published the novel Go Set a Watchman . Lee passed away in 2016 at the age 89.
Today is the birthday of geologist and astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, born in Los Angeles in 1928. He graduated from the California Institute of Technology at the age of 19, and he earned his master’s degree a year later. He went to work for the United States Geological Survey, and studying the Earth sparked in him an interest in the moon. He tried to convince the USGS that he should do a geological map of its surface, and would have loved to go there himself, but he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in 1963, which put an end to his astronaut aspirations.
He was particularly interested in the formation of meteor impact craters and so, with the help of his wife, Carolyn, he studied asteroids that had the potential to crash into planets or moons. He discovered 32 comets, which now bear his name, and was thrilled when, in 1994, one of those comets, Shoemaker-Levy 9, crashed into Jupiter — the first collision of two solar system bodies ever observed.
Shoemaker was killed in a car accident in 1997 and, at the suggestion of one of his students, his cremated remains were placed aboard the Lunar Prospector, an orbiter on a mission to map the moon. When its battery ran out at the end of its mission, the orbiter crashed onto the surface of the moon, and there his ashes remain in a capsule engraved with a quote from Romeo and Juliet:
And, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
It’s the birthday of Lois Duncan (1934) (books by this author), an author known chiefly for her suspense novels for teen readers. She was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and submitted her first story to a magazine at the age of 10. By 13 she had made her first sale, and she wrote magazine articles for publications like Seventeen throughout high school. She’s best known for the books that were made into movies: Hotel for Dogs (1971) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973).
In 1992, she wrote a true crime book about the unsolved murder of her youngest child, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette, in Albuquerque. Police called it a random shooting, but Kaitlyn’s boyfriend was involved in organized crime and Duncan believes the gang killed her daughter to keep her quiet. She told an interviewer, “My dream is to write a sequel to Who Killed My Daughter? to give our family’s true-life horror story a closure. Of course, for that to be possible, Kait’s case must be solved.”
Lois Duncan died in 2016.
And today is the birthday of poet Carolyn Forché (books by this author), born in Detroit in 1950. A human rights activist as well as a poet, she’s committed to what she calls “the poetry of witness” and this has opened her up to criticism, especially in the United States, from those who believe poetry and politics should be separate concerns. She says that, in other countries:
“The poets are more expected to be intellectuals and to have an active interest in history and politics and everything going on. They’re not expected to be sequestered in a literary culture. They’re not expected to have no opinions about events in the world. They’re expected to have more seriously considered opinions because they’re poets — and not necessarily predictable opinions.”
Her anthology, Against Forgetting (1993), collects the work of international poets who had suffered imprisonment, torture, and exile.
Her most recent book is In The Lateness of The World: Poems (2020).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®