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+
by Elizabeth Spires
A squat bottle,
two cups, and us
toasting an anniversary
although we know
the wind may blow
away these walls
of paper, wood, and rock;
and if they fall, we’ll rise
and quickly improvise
a journey down time’s
cold silvery musical stream,
slipping on dripping
to the bone until,
shades of our former selves,
we give up the ghost,
our ghastly smiles belying
the cold finality of lying
through centuries side
by side, cheated by time.
What is a marriage?
A promise, a vow never
to forsake the other,
and love a little realm
of light and shadow.
But here, while the sake’s
warm. Drink again.
For your sake. Mine.
“Sake” by Elizabeth Spires from A Memory of the Future. W.W. Norton & Co © 2019. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, (books by this author) born in Augsburg, Germany (1898). In 1922, he won a drama prize for his first two expressionist plays, Drums in the Night and Baal, and followed those with Man is Man (1926). Brecht was a Marxist, and he regarded his plays as social experiments, requiring detachment from his audience, not emotional involvement. His theory of “epic theatre” asks the audience to acknowledge the stage as a stage, the actors as actors, and not some make-believe world of real people.
With Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Brecht sought asylum in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, journeyed across Russia and Persia, and in 1941, settled in Hollywood. In Germany, his books were burned and his citizenship was withdrawn. It was during this period that he wrote most of his major essays, his poetry, and his great plays, including Mother Courage (1941), The Good Woman of Setzuan (1943), and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1948).
It’s the birthday of Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, (books by this author) born in Oslo (1970). She’s best known for her work The Bookseller of Kabul (2003), which was an international best-seller and the best-selling nonfiction Norwegian book of all time.
She’s the daughter of a feminist writer and leftist politician. After college in Norway she began a nomadic existence. She went to China to study Chinese and to Berlin to learn German, Moscow to work for a news agency, and to Belgrade to live in an artists’ colony. She also lived in Mexico, France, and Italy. She’s fluent in five languages, and is “okay,” as she puts it, in four more languages.
She said she got her start as a journalist by pretending to be one, so that she could interview an opposition leader in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia in the early 1990s. She continued with other freelance reporting as a war correspondent, covering Russia’s war on Chechnya by living with Chechen guerrilla fighters in the mountains. She was 24 at the time.
After September 11, 2001, she spent six weeks in rural parts of Afghanistan with the commandos of the Northern Alliance, traveling on the back of trucks and in military vehicles, and sleeping on stone floors and in mud huts. She rode into Kabul with the Northern Alliance in November 2001. She found a great bookstore, a place owned by an elegant, gray-haired, Afghan man who was well-educated and loved to talk about politics and writing.
So she stopped by that bookshop often to peruse the books and to chat with the owner, a man so passionate about books that he’d hid them from police to prevent them from being burned during different sieges — and had gone to prison.
The bookstore owner invited her to a meal with his family. She said, “The atmosphere was unrestrained, a huge contrast to the simple meals with the commandos in the mountains. … When I left I said to myself this is Afghanistan. How interesting it would be to write a book about this family.”
She visited him the next day to tell him about her idea of writing a book about his family. She asked if she could live with him and his family, and follow them around, in order to write this book. He agreed, and she moved in with his extended family in February 2002. She stayed for three months.
The book she wrote about his family, The Bookseller of Kabul, was a huge success. The New York Times called it “the most intimate description of an Afghan household every produced by a Western journalist.” It became an international best-seller, translated into 30 languages, the subject of rave reviews and a book club favorite.
But the thinly disguised bookseller of Kabul, Shah Mohammed Rais — “Sultan Khan” in the book — was not happy about the way he had been portrayed, and flew to Norway to launch his own publicity campaign. He wrote his own book, called Once Upon a Time There Was a Bookseller in Kabul (2007). It’s about how a Norwegian troll visits Afghanistan with preconceived notions, and then abuse his family’s hospitality in order to frame a colorful, detail-oriented portrait to fit those preconceived notions.
Åsne Seierstad’s most recent books are One of Us. The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway (2015) and Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad (2018).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®