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+
“Faith” is a fine invention…
“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentleman can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
I like a look of Agony…
I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it’s true—
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe—
The Eyes glaze once—and that is Death—
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.
“‘Faith’ is a fine invention…” and “I like a look of agony…” by Emily Dickinson. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote: “My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun — / In Corners — till a Day / The Owner passed — identified — / And carried Me away.” That’s the poet Emily Dickinson, (books by this author) born in Amherst (1830).
Emily Dickinson is one of the most-speculated-about writers in history — in popular myth, she was a virginal recluse who dressed all in white and then wrote passionate poems that were so unlike anything being written at the time. Relatively little is known about her life, and biographers often try to use clues in her poems to guess about her habits, personality, and sexuality. The Oxford professor Lyndall Gordon published a biography called Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds (2010).
In her biography, Gordon has one major theory that is impossible to prove: She thinks that Emily Dickinson was epileptic, and that this explains the strange jolts and bursts of her language. Gordon says that the drugs Dickinson was prescribed could have been used to treat epilepsy, and thinks that if Dickinson was epileptic, it would also explain her reclusiveness — she was scared that she would have a spell of a disease that was still very stigmatized in the 19th century.
Most of Gordon’s biography, though, is about the Dickinson family, one of the most prominent families in Amherst. Emily’s father was severe, with a strict moral code. She later wrote in a letter to a friend: “His Heart was pure and terrible and I think no other like it exists.” Emily didn’t learn to tell time until she was 15 because she was afraid to tell her father that she hadn’t understood his explanation of clocks. Her mother took good care of everyone but was not particularly warm, and she was more interested in cooking, keeping a clean house, and gardening than in the intellectual debates that the rest of the Dickinsons loved.
Emily had two siblings, Austin and Lavinia. Austin was the a handsome and accomplished man. Like his father, and unlike Emily, he was a very public person — he served on countless committees, oversaw civic projects and business ventures, and was deeply involved in his church.
Austin had a 13-year love affair with Mabel Loomis Todd, the wife of an Amherst astronomy professor, a talented and charismatic young woman. Austin and Mabel met in the Homestead several afternoons a week for sexual trysts in the living room, during which Emily was confined upstairs. Mabel’s husband knew about their relationship and was fine with it. Austin’s wife, Susan, knew about their relationship and was miserable because of it, but she had children and a reputation to uphold.
To make things even more complicated, Emily and Susan were very close. Susan was also a writer, and a good listener, and Emily gave her more than 250 poems over the years. Sue shared her library with Emily, and passed along her favorite books. Emily wrote more than 300 letters to Susan. But it was Mabel, Austin’s mistress, whom Emily never once met face-to-face, who ended up editing and publishing her poems and making her famous. The poet had only published a handful of poems during her life. After Emily’s death in 1886 at the age of 55, her sister Lavinia found nearly 1,800 poems in Emily’s desk.
When Mabel and Lavinia published the first book of Emily Dickinson’s poems in 1890, it went through 11 editions in a year and sold 11,000 copies.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in Canada and England on this date in 1884 (books by this author). Twain had the idea to write a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, one that would follow Tom’s friend Huck all the way into adulthood. He toyed with the idea for a long time, starting and stopping, and eventually setting it aside for years. When he took up the project again, Twain changed his approach, and instead of writing in a formal literary style, Huck narrated his story in a dialect. The book opens with the line, “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.”
Ernest Hemingway was a big fan of the book, famously stating: “All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain.”
Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize on this date in 1906. He was awarded the prize because he had helped to broker a peace agreement between Russia and Japan the previous year.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®