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+
You and I
by Jonathan Potter
You are a warm front
that moved in from the north,
a blind spot bearing beautiful gifts,
a garden in the air, a golden filament
inscribed with the name of God’s hunting dog,
a magic heirloom mistaken for a feather duster,
a fountain in a cow pasture, an anachronistic anagram
annoyed by anonymity, a dollar in the pocket
of a winter coat in summer.
And I am the discoverer of you.
“You and I” by Jonathan Potter, from House of Words. © Korrektiv Press, 2010. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of novelist, essayist, and cultural critic Susan Sontag (books by this author), born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City (1933). She grew up in Tucson and Los Angeles. She attended the University of Chicago, and eventually moved to New York with “$70, two suitcases, and a seven year old.”
When she was 26, she met William Phillips, one of the founding editors of Partisan Review, at a cocktail party. She asked him how she might write for the journal, and he said, “All you have to do is ask.” She replied, “I’m asking.” She began to write provocative essays on culture, both high and low. She made her first mark as a cultural critic with an essay she wrote for Partisan Review in 1964. It was called “Notes on Camp,” and she dedicated it to Oscar Wilde. It was a direct challenge to the cultural establishment. From the essay: “Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style — but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not.” She discussed what made something “campy,” why camp is a phenomenon, what separates camp from just plain bad, and why camp should be taken seriously. She wrote: “The experiences of Camp are based on the great discovery that the sensibility of high culture has no monopoly upon refinement. Camp asserts that good taste is not simply good taste; that there exists, indeed, a good taste of bad taste.”
It’s the birthday of American poet and memoirist Mary Karr (books by this author), born in Groves, Texas (1955). When she was a little girl, Karr wrote in her journal, “I am not very successful as a little girl. I will probably be a mess.” After barely making it through high school, she hitchhiked to California with stoned surfers and then traveled with punk bands, eventually landing in Minnesota and attending Macalester College. She won a grant for her poetry and used the money to go to England, where she discovered Chaucer and Wordsworth, and bought Seamus Heaney a beer. He liked her spunk and encouraged her to keep writing.
Karr published two collections, Abacus (1987) and The Devil’s Tour (1993), before writing her first memoir, The Liars’ Club (1995), which hit the New York Times best-seller list. She’d decided, on a whim, to write about her tumultuous childhood: she was teaching, but newly divorced, and without much money, scavenging discarded furniture to sell at garage sales. It took her two years of writing on the weekends, when her son was away with his father, but she finally finished the book, though not without some emotional toll. She says:
“It’s difficult to accept what your psyche or history dooms you to write, what Faulkner would call your ‘postage stamp of reality.’ Young writers often mistakenly choose a certain vein or style based on who they want to be, unconsciously trying to blot out who they actually are.”
Five years after The Liars’ Club, she published another memoir, Cherry, (2000), which detailed her sexual and intellectual awakenings as a young woman. Karr was never worried about not having enough material for a second memoir, saying, “I’m just somebody who scratches and picks and worries the bone of things over and over.”
Her third memoir, Lit (2009), is about her descent into alcoholism and the conversion to Catholicism that helped her get sober. It was her most difficult book to write. She rewrote it twice and threw out 1,200 finished pages before starting over. She wore out the “delete” button on her computer and sobbed in frustration, calling her friend, the writer Don DeLillo, for advice. He sent a postcard that said, “Write or Die.” Karr responded with her own postcard. It said, “Write and Die.” She worried that writing about her spiritual conversion would turn off her ardent fans, who’d grown used to her raucous tales and bawdy style. She said, “Talking about spiritual activity to a secular audience is like doing card tricks on the radio.” Lit was her third best-seller in a row.
On writing memoir, she says: “Each great memoir lives or dies based 100 percent on voice. It’s the person who wonders who makes the best memoirist. The person who isn’t a good memoirist is the person who’s very confident.”
It’s the birthday of the man who didn’t give up his shot: Broadway composer, actor, and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda (books by this author) was born on this day (1980) in Washington Heights, New York City. He grew up in the mostly Latino neighborhood of Inwood.
Miranda’s father was a political advisor to New York City mayor Ed Koch. He grew up listening to Broadway cast albums, but also soaking up rap music by Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. At Wesleyan University, he co-founded a hip-hop comedy troupe called “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After graduation, he worked as an English teacher at his former high school, wrote campaign jingles for his father’s clients, and acted on the television shows House and The Sopranos.
It was after seeing the musical Rent that Manuel became serious about trying his hand at composing. He wrote early drafts of a musical called In the Heights while still in college. It featured a character named “Usnavi,” whose parents named him after the first thing they saw when they came to America: a U.S. Navy ship. Miranda played the lead when the play premiered on Broadway in 2008. It ended up winning a Tony for Best Musical and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Miranda got an idea for a musical about Alexander Hamilton when he picked up Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton (2004) in an airport bookstore. He was so intrigued by the possibilities that he began writing songs while on his honeymoon. Miranda would write at the piano until he found a melody he liked, then loop it into his headphones and go for a walk. “I kind of need to be ambulatory to write lyrics,” he says. Miranda’s musical style is a combination of hip-hop, rap, salsa, rock and roll, and propulsive couplets and triplets. He says, “It’s 12 art forms smashed together.”
The resulting musical, Hamilton (2015), was a Broadway blockbuster. A filmed version with the original cast is available now for viewing on Disney Plus.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®