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+
Don’t Look Back
by Kay Ryan
This is not
for the neckless.
swivel their heads
on their fry;
no one expects
this. They are
on the odds
the exact and modest
number of goslings
who if she
and if she does not
“Don’t Look Back” by Kay Ryan, from Say Uncle. © Grove Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of American nonfiction writer and novelist Annie Dillard (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). In 1970 she began keeping journals of her daily walks around Tinker Creek by her home outside the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. She’d write about everything she saw, like animals and birds, and even her reflections on theology and literature. Eventually she wrote so much she filled 20 volumes of journals. She decided she had enough for a book and at the very end she was writing for 15 to 16 hours a day. That book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), won the Pulitzer Prize, when Annie Dillard was just 29 years old.
Dillard was the daughter of an oil company executive and read voraciously as a child. She says, “I opened books like jars.” One of her very favorites was The Field Book of Ponds and Streams (1930) by Ann Haven Morgan. She wrote about growing up in Pittsburgh in her autobiography, An American Childhood (1987). It was so popular that it helped usher in the memoir craze.
Dillard went to college and ended up marrying her writing professor. She says, “In college I learned how to learn from other people. As far as I was concerned, writing in college didn’t consist of what little Annie had to say, but what Wallace Stevens had to say. I didn’t come to college to think my own thoughts; I came to learn what had been thought.” Annie Dillard’s books include Holy the Firm (1977), which is only 66 pages long but took 14 months to write, Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982), and The Maytrees (2007).
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek begins:
“I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. An anchorite’s hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle or a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there’s a lot to think about.”
It’s the birthday of the woman who is most famous for being Gertrude Stein’s lover: that’s Alice B. Toklas (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1877). She studied music at the University of Washington for a time, and was a gifted pianist. But when her mother died in 1897 she left college and her career aspirations behind and returned home to care for her father and brothers.
She and Stein met in Paris in 1907, and Stein hired Toklas as a secretary. Toklas typed Stein’s manuscripts, and they fell in love. They officially moved in together in 1910 and were together until Stein’s death in 1946. Stein left most of her estate, including their valuable shared art collection, to Toklas, but since their relationship was not legally recognized Stein’s relatives disputed her right to have — and sell — the art. The paintings ended up locked in a Paris bank vault at the insistence of the Steins. In need of an income, Toklas began writing, and published three books — one of which was The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). That was Gertrude Stein’s autobiography, which Stein wrote using Toklas as narrator. In the book, Stein writes as Alice, “I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author.” Toklas did eventually publish her own memoir, What is Remembered (1963). She spent her later years in financial difficulties and poor health.
On this day in 1939 the first live public television broadcast was aired to between 100 and 200 television sets in New York City. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at the opening ceremonies of the New York World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. Around 1,000 people watched.
Live broadcasts were carried via the NBC network, which began regular programming after the Fair debut. Mass-produced televisions did not enter the market until around seven years later, in 1946, when RCA introduced its black and white 10-inch screen for the equivalent of $4,500 in today’s market. By the end of its first year, around 10,000 units had been sold. By the early 1950s half of all Americans owned a television set.
It’s the birthday of poet and critic John Crowe Ransom (books by this author), born in Pulaski, Tennessee (1888). He was a member of the Fugitives — a group of Southern writers that also included Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and Donald Davidson; and he was the founder of The Kenyon Review, and one of the most influential American literature professors of the 20th century. He was one of the first people to argue that American schools should be teaching American literature, not just European, and that students should be reading modern poetry, not just the classics.
Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was first published in serial form on this date in 1859. It appeared in the first issue of a new weekly journal, All the Year Round. Dickens founded the journal himself. He used it as a place to showcase serial fiction by the leading authors of the day, including himself. The journal cost tuppence, and had plenty of competition from several other literary journals that cropped up around that time: over a hundred new journals appeared that year alone. The government had done away with many taxes and fees on publishing, making it much more affordable to produce a journal, especially one that had no illustrations.
A Tale of Two Cities begins:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”
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