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+
Excerpt from “The Raven”
by Edgar Allan Poe
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”
Excerpt from “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Public Domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of James Watt, born in Greenock, Scotland (1736). There were steam engines before Watt became interested in them, but they couldn’t do much real work; too much steam was lost when it condensed inside the chamber as it cooled, and the engines used too much coal to be worthwhile. Watt became obsessed with the problem, and spent two years making little model steam engines, one after another. He went through all his money, and his wife died; finally, he had to give up the project and go back to work to recover his fortune. “Of all things in life,” he wrote, “there is nothing more foolish than inventing.” Soon a mine owner who hoped to pump water out of his mines offered to buy out Watt’s partner. Watt advised his partner to accept the cash: “Consider my uncertain health, my irresolute and inactive disposition, my inability to bargain and struggle for my own with mankind: all which disqualify me for any great undertaking.” His sponsor did sell, but the mine owner asked Watt to work on the engine again; six years later he had solved the condensation problem, and by the time he died, his name was known all over the country.
Today is the birthday of Dolly Parton (books by this author), born in Sevier County, Tennessee (1946). She was one of 12 kids, born and raised in a little cabin in the Smoky Mountains. She grew up “dirt poor,” in her words, and her father paid the doctor who delivered Dolly with a bag of oatmeal. One day, when she was about eight or nine years old, her ambition kicked in. “I didn’t hear a voice, but it was a knowing that came to me,” she remembered, “and it said, ‘Run. Run until I tell you to stop.’” She first started performing professionally when she was 10, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry when she was 13. The day after she graduated from high school, she went off to Nashville. She had her first number one hit with “Joshua” in 1971.
Parton has written several books, in addition to her innumerable songs. A children’s book, Coat of Many Colors (2016), and in 2020 Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics.
It’s the birthday of American novelist Patricia Highsmith (books by this author) born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1921. She is best known for having created the iconic character of Tom Ripley, a charming psychopath. Ripley first appeared in 1955 in Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Highsmith devoted four more novels to Ripley, including Ripley Under Ground (1970) and Ripley Under Water (1991).
Highsmith was already well-known when she created Ripley. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, had been modestly successful until it was adapted into a hit film by Alfred Hitchcock. Then it flew off the shelves. In the book, as in the movie, two men with shady secrets share a train and discover they each want someone dead. The novel was rejected by six publishers before finding a home. Highsmith’s prose was too literary to be a detective novel and not procedural enough to be a crime novel. She felt she was closer to Kafka than dime-store novels. She said, “Solving a murder case leaves me completely indifferent. Is there anything more artificial and boring than justice? It is not my aim to morally redeem the reader. I want to entertain.”
Highsmith’s second novel, The Price of Salt (1952), was inspired by her obsession with a woman she met while clerking in a department store. It’s the story of two women who fall in love. It featured a happy ending, which was unusual for literature of the time–about lesbians–and the book surprised everyone by selling around a million copies. It was billed as “the novel of a love society forbids.” The book was adapted into an acclaimed film, Carol, starring Cate Blanchett (2015).
He made friends with a social philosopher who insisted that the goal of philosophy should be improved social welfare, and Comte used this as a guiding principle for the rest of his life’s work. His most famous work was Système de Politique Positive, published in four volumes between 1851 and 1854. It established a basis for sociology.
He said, “Everything is relative, and only that is absolute.”
It’s the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (books by this author), born in Boston in 1809. When he was two both his parents died from tuberculosis, and Edgar was taken in by a wealthy tobacco merchant named John Allan, and Edgar Poe became Edgar Allan Poe. He went to the University of Virginia, and for years he was in and out of the Army and West Point, publishing several books of poems, including Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829).
He first made his name writing some of the most brutal book reviews ever published at the time. He was called the “tomahawk man from the South.” He described one poem as “an illimitable gilded swill trough,” and he said, “[Most] of those who hold high places in our poetical literature are absolute nincompoops.” He particularly disliked the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier.
Poe also began to publish fiction, and he specialized in humorous and satirical stories because that was the style of fiction most in demand. But soon after he married his 14-year-old cousin, Virginia, he learned that she had tuberculosis, just like his parents, and he began to write darker stories. One of his editors complained that his work was growing too grotesque, but Poe replied that the grotesque would sell magazines. And he was right. His work helped launch magazines as the major new venue for literary fiction.
But even though his stories sold magazines, he still didn’t make much money. He made about $4 per article and $15 per story, and the magazines were notoriously late with their paychecks. There was no international copyright law at the time, and so his stories were printed without his permission throughout Europe.
It was under these conditions, suffering from alcoholism, and watching his wife grow slowly worse in health, that he wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” considered some of the greatest Gothic horror stories in English literature.
Near the end of his wife’s illness, he published his most famous poem, “The Raven,” about a young man visited by a raven in the middle of the night, and who comes to believe that the bird is possessed by the spirit of his dead lover, Lenore. It begins,
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —”
For many years after his death, Poe was considered by critics in this country to be a mere sensationalist writer of Gothic tales. But much of his work was translated into French, where he inspired a generation of surrealist poets and fiction writers, including Charles Baudelaire, who said that he prayed every morning to God, to his father, and to Poe. Today Poe is credited with having invented the psychological horror story and the detective story.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®