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 Margaret Atwood
All those times I was bored
out of my mind. Holding the log
while he sawed it. Holding
the string while he measured, boards,
distances between things, or pounded
stakes into the ground for rows and rows
of lettuces and beets, which I then (bored)
weeded. Or sat in the back
of the car, or sat still in boats,
sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel
he drove, steered, paddled. It
wasn’t even boredom, it was looking,
looking hard and up close at the small
details. Myopia. The worn gunwales,
the intricate twill of the seat
cover. The acid crumbs of loam, the granular
pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans
of dry moss, the blackish and then the greying
bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes
I would. The boring rhythm of doing
things over and over, carrying
the wood, drying
the dishes. Such minutiae. It’s what
the animals spend most of their time at,
ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels,
shuffling the leaves in their burrows. He pointed
such things out, and I would look
at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under
the nail. Why do I remember it as sunnier
all the time then, although it more often
rained, and more birdsong?
I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn’t be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.
“Bored” by Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House. © Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of Ben Hecht (books by this author), born in New York City (1894). He wrote many books, including the novels Erik Dorn (1921) and Fantazius Mallare (1922), but made his fame as a writer for stage and screen. He ran away from home at 16 to Chicago, where he became a reporter. He later recalled his early days in Chicago, “I ran everywhere in the city like a fly buzzing in the works of a clock, tasted more than any fit belly could hold, learned not to sleep, and buried myself in a tick-tock of whirling hours that still echo in me.”
He used his inside knowledge of the newspaper business as fodder for his play The Front Page (1928), which he co-wrote with Charles MacArthur. The play was later made into a movie by the same name (1931), and adapted again for the screen in His Girl Friday (1940). He was one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood history. He wrote or co-wrote a number of box office hits that went on to become cinema classics, including Nothing Sacred (1931), Wuthering Heights (1939), Spellbound (1945), and Notorious (1946). He earned a reputation as a talented screenwriter who could turn out a script quickly — he claimed in his autobiography, A Child of the Century (1954), that he never spent more than eight weeks on a screenplay. He would divide his time between coasts, working in Hollywood for a month or two and making enough money to live on for a year, then returning to New York to do his “serious” writing. Producers sometimes hired him as a script doctor, which meant he would take a few days or weeks to fix the problems in someone else’s screenplay. Hecht was hired to doctor the script for Gone With the Wind, which was much too long. He rewrote the whole thing in five days, was paid $10,000 and didn’t receive screen credit. The script went on to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay, beating out Wuthering Heights — which Hecht also wrote, and received credit for.
It’s the birthday of essayist Michel de Montaigne (books by this author), born in Périgord, in Bordeaux, France (1533). He is considered by many to be the creator of the personal essay, in which he used self-portrayal as a mirror of humanity in general. Writers up to the present time have imitated his informal, conversational style. He said, “The highest of wisdom is continual cheerfulness: such a state, like the region above the moon, is always clear and serene.”
It’s the birthday of Colum McCann (books by this author). He was born in Dublin (1965) into a middle-class home full of books. His father was features editor at The Irish Press. He went to journalism school at 17, then went to work at The Irish Press himself.
When he was 19 he spent a summer in New York City. He loved it and vowed to return to America, which he did when he was 21. He went up to Cape Cod, bought a typewriter, and spent a summer trying to write profound things. But at the end of the summer, he had not written an entire single page, and he couldn’t even comprehend the few sentences that he’d tried to write. He decided he needed to go out and explore America, to add a different set of experiences to his young life.
So he hopped on a bicycle and pedaled across the country for a year and a half, winding through 40 states and traversing 12,000 miles on two wheels. In Texas, he went to college and he met Allison Hawke, who would become his wife.
In 2009 he published Let the Great World Spin, and it was a huge success. The book is set in the 1970s and weaves together the stories of a dozen New York protagonists, including prostitutes, a young radical Irish monk, and a Park Avenue mother in mourning for her son killed in Vietnam. It also won the National Book Award for fiction in 2009.
On this date in 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA. They were working in a lab at Cambridge University, but they didn’t even have the right equipment to examine DNA. They were devastated when the world-renowned scientist Linus Pauling published a paper proposing a structure for DNA. But they immediately realized that his structure was wrong, and they vowed to figure it out before he did. Meanwhile, Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist working at Kings College in London, had taken some X-ray pictures of a DNA molecule. She gave a lecture on her findings in 1951. Watson attended the lecture and thought he had a vague idea of what she was talking about, but when he and Crick tried to build a model based on what he remembered, it was a failure. The head of their department told them to stop their research.
But Rosalind Franklin kept working, and she was pretty sure she had figured out DNA’s helical structure. She didn’t want to announce it until she was sure, and wanted to gather more evidence. Maurice Wilkins, one of Franklin’s colleagues at Kings College, was frustrated with her cautious attitude. He showed Crick and Watson one of Franklin’s X-ray photographs without her knowledge, and Watson copied the structure on a bit of newspaper. Crick later admitted that they didn’t show much respect to Franklin, criticizing her appearance and her lecture style: “I’m afraid we always used to adopt — let’s say — a patronizing attitude toward her.”
Watson and Crick worked for several days building models based on the X-rays. They finally hit on the correct structure on this day in 1953. Crick and Watson — along with Franklin’s colleague, Maurice Wilkins — would go on to win the Nobel Prize for their discovery; Franklin would also have gotten credit, but she had died of cancer by the time the prize was awarded.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®