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+
The Beautiful Sandwich
by Brad Ricca
She could always make
the most beautiful sandwich.
Laced swiss cheese: sliced
crossways, folded once.
Ham in rolls like sleeping bags.
Turkey piled like shirts.
Tarragon. Oregano. Pepper.
Herb dill mayonnaise the color of
skin. On top: the thin, wandering line of
like a contour on a map
in a thin, flat drawer.
Or a single, lost vein.
The poppyseeds hold on,
Placed on a plate like isolated
or a large, solemn head.
The spilled chips in yellow piles
are like the strange coins
of tall, awkward islanders.
The thin dill pickle: their boat
the green-sour sea.
Brad Ricca, “The Beautiful Sandwich” from American Mastodon, © Black Lawrence Press. Used by permission. (buy now)
On this date in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in Geneva, Switzerland. At that time, it was called the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded.
In 1859 a Swiss man named Henri Dunant was in northern Italy on a business trip. While he was there he witnessed the Battle of Solferino, the last battle of the Italian war for independence. Nearly 40,000 people were killed or wounded in the battle, and Dunant was appalled that no one was offering them any aid. He dropped what he was doing and began organizing the locals to help all the victims, regardless of their partisan affiliation.
It became Dunant’s obsession. He abandoned his business and eventually went bankrupt, but in 1901 he was awarded the very first Nobel Peace Prize.
It was on this day in 1904 that Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly had its premiere at La Scala Theater in Milan, Italy. The audience hated it so much they hissed and booed. Puccini closed it after one night, revised it, and opened it later the same year. The second time around it was such a hit that there were five encores, and Puccini had to come out in front of the curtain 10 times.
It’s the birthday of novelist Mo Yan (books by this author), born in Gaomi, China (1955). He is the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize in literature (2012). Yan was born Guan Moye, but his parents were always warning him not to speak his mind outside the home, which he ignored. He says, “I was lazy. I had a greedy mouth, and I could not stop talking. There really wasn’t much about me worth loving, and that often drew a sigh from my mother.”
Yan is best known for his novel Red Sorghum: A Novel of China (1986), which spans more than 50 years of the Shandong family, who own a sorghum distillery and join the resistance during the Second Sino-Japanese War. “Mo Yan” means “don’t speak” in Chinese.
Mo Yan was born into a peasant family. They were the largest clan in the village and even had two trees, an apricot and a pear. He was eleven when the Cultural Revolution began and left school to work on a farm as a cattle herder. Later, he worked in a cotton factory before enlisting in the People’s Liberation Army (1976). He began writing as a soldier, completing his first novel, titled A Transparent Radish, in 1984. He followed that with The Garlic Ballads (1988).
When he was awarded the Nobel Prize, Mo Yan said: “For a writer, the best way to speak is by writing. You will find everything I need to say in my works. Speech is carried off by the wind; the written word can never be obliterated.”
Today is the birthday of British crime novelist Ruth Rendell (books by this author), born in South Woodford, England (1930). Her parents were teachers, but after she graduated from high school she was determined not to become a teacher herself, so she went to work for the local paper. She covered local news, but she wasn’t the best journalist. Once she visited a house and invented a story about the ghost of an old lady who lived there, and the homeowners threatened to sue her for lowering the value of their property. Another time she wrote a story on the local tennis club’s annual banquet, but she didn’t actually attend the dinner so she didn’t realize that the speaker had died in the middle of his speech. She handed in her resignation the next day before she could be fired.
She had met her husband working on the newspaper, and for the next 10 years she stayed at home raising their son and writing in secret. She tried out various genres and worked on six different novels while she was in her 20s. She sent short stories to various magazines but was rejected over and over. She said, “People were nicer then about turning you down, and so I didn’t lose heart.” Then a publisher gave her £75 for her crime novel From Doon with Death (1964), and she began a career as a crime novelist.
Rendell, who lived in London, was a Labour Party member of the House of Lords and was known more formally as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. She died in 2015.
She wrote, “Some say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”
It’s the birthday of French physician René Laennec, born in Quimper, Brittany (1781). During his medical studies he was trained to use sound to help him make a diagnosis. He used the method of percussion — tapping on the chest to determine whether fluid is present, for example — but this wasn’t always fully successful. His invention to solve the problem was the stethoscope.
His early stethoscope didn’t resemble the form we are familiar with today. After experimenting with various materials, Laennec settled on a hollow stick of wood. But it enabled him to hear the workings of the human body with much greater clarity. Laennec was able to prove his invention’s worth by following his patients as their diseases progressed, and confirming his diagnoses through autopsy after they died. In spite of the evidence, his stethoscope didn’t catch on right away. The New England Journal of Medicine didn’t bother to report its invention for two years. The founder of the American Heart Association wouldn’t use one. As late as 1885 one medical professor said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him use his ears and not a stethoscope.” Laennec was able to use his invention, which he considered his greatest legacy, to diagnose his own tuberculosis. He died at the age of 45.
On this date in 1897 the National Congress of Mothers, the forerunner of the National Parent-Teacher Association, or PTA, held its first convocation, in Washington, D.C. Founders Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst expected 200 people to attend the event; instead, they were greeted by more than 2,000 mothers, educators, fathers, laborers, and legislators from across the United States.
It’s the birthday of Chaim Potok (books by this author), born in New York City (1929). His parents were immigrants from Poland, and he grew up in a strict Orthodox Jewish culture. When he was about 14 years old, he happened to pick up a copy of “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh, and it changed his life. He said, “I lived more deeply inside the world in that book than I lived inside my own world.” Over the years, he read as much as he could, and he moved away from his parents’ strict beliefs. But when he started to write fiction, he went back to his childhood, and he wrote The Chosen (1967), a best-selling novel about two boys growing up together in Brooklyn in the 1940s which was made into a major motion picture. Potok died in 2002 after publishing a long list of books.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®