A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Akron, OH with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Scranton, PA with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Spokane, WA for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
New Philadelphia, OH
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Kent State University. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon.
Our Prayers Break on God
by Luci Shaw
Our prayers break on God like waves,
and he an endless shore,
and when the seas evaporate
and oceans are no more
and cries are carried in the wind
God hears and answers every sound
as he has done before.
Our troubles eat at God like nails.
He feels the gnawing pain
on souls and bodies. He never fails
but reassures he’ll heal again,
again, again, again and yet again.
“Our Prayers Break On God” by Luci Shaw from Eye of the Beholder. Paraclete Press © 2018. Reprinted with permission of Paraclete Press in Brewster, Massachusetts. (buy now)
The 18-year-old Alexandrina Victoria became Queen of England on this date in 1837. “Drina,” as she was known to her family, had a fairly quiet childhood. She kept a diary, so we know a lot about her private life. She was a lively and sometimes mischievous child, with a romantic streak, and she was well educated in things like music, history, and foreign languages, but her mother was overprotective and kept her isolated at Kensington Palace in London. Victoria later remembered her childhood as “rather melancholy.” When she was born, she was fifth in line for the throne behind her uncles and her father, and no one expected her to become a monarch. But one by one, her uncles and their heirs died, and by 1830, she was heiress presumptive, next in line for the crown.
The dawn hours of June 20, 1837, brought the news that she was now a queen. She wrote in her diary: “I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen.”
For a long time, she was Britain’s longest-ruling monarch, having reigned for 63 years, seven months, and two days. The current queen, Elizabeth II, has ruled for 68 years.
On this date in 1840, Samuel Morse received a patent for his “Morse code” system. Morse was a painter, originally. He also studied photography with Louis Daguerre in France, and brought the new technology to America, where he opened a photographic studio in New York City. He became interested in telegraphy after he failed in his bid to become the mayor of New York. During a demonstration of one of his early telegraph machines, he met Alfred Vail, a young mechanical engineer. Vail was fascinated by the telegraph, and he convinced Morse to bring him aboard as an assistant. Vail helped Morse work out some problems with Morse’s original system, and it didn’t hurt that Vail’s father was a wealthy industrialist. Vail put up the money to pay the patent application fees in exchange for a share in whatever resulted.
The telegraph works by sending an electromagnetic signal over a wire. Morse had an idea that the current could be used to move a pencil along a moving strip of paper, but Vail simplified it by suggesting a cheaper and more practical alternative: an arm that would bounce up and down. The pair then had to devise a way to convert a tapping arm into a system of language. It was actually Vail, not Morse, who came up with the first dot-and-dash system, with each letter and number being made up of a different combination of long and short sounds or flashes. Vail’s first message using his code was, “A patient waiter is no loser.” But Morse was the better known of the two inventors, and it was his name on the patents, and that’s why we call it “Morse Code” and not “Vail Code.”
It’s the birthday of Charles Waddell Chesnutt (books by this author), born on this day in Cleveland (1858). His parents were free mixed-race Southerners who left Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Ohio. One of his grandfathers had been a slaveholder, and Chesnutt looked white, but he always identified as black. His family moved back to Fayetteville when Charles was eight, and the boy went to a Freedmen’s Bureau school for the children of freed slaves. He became a teacher, and then principal of the State Colored Normal School in Fayetteville, which trained black teachers.
He was an established and respected citizen in Fayetteville, but in 1883 he decided that he didn’t have much of a future as a black writer in the hostile post-Civil War South. So he moved back to Cleveland with his wife and children. He passed the state bar exams and set up a stenography business, and in his spare time he wrote stories. In 1887, he published his first short story, “The Goophered Grapevine,” in The Atlantic Monthly. He was the first black fiction writer to be published in The Atlantic — although the magazine assumed that he was white until he informed them several years, and many stories, later.
In 1891, Chesnutt sent a manuscript to Houghton Mifflin, who wrote back: “A writer must have acquired a good deal of vogue through magazine publication before the issue of a collection of his stories in book form is advisable.” Apparently he had not acquired enough vogue, because his manuscript was rejected. He continued to publish stories, and in 1899 Houghton Mifflin finally released his first book, The Conjure Woman. Most of the Conjure Woman stories described clever slaves outwitting their cruel masters, and they were written in dialect, filled with supernatural events. The Conjure Woman was incredibly successful, and Chesnutt was welcomed as a major new voice in American fiction.
Chesnutt switched gears for his next book, The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color-Line (1899), realistic stories of life in Ohio and North Carolina, featuring middle-class, light-skinned, mixed-race characters. The Wife of His Youth was also a big seller, and Chesnutt decided to quit his stenography business and become a full-time writer.
Chesnutt followed up these collections with three novels: The House Behind the Cedars (1900), The Marrow of Tradition (1901), and The Colonel’s Dream (1905). They sold poorly — readers considered them too angry and radical. So just six years after publishing his first book, Chesnutt’s literary career was finished. He went back to his stenography business, worked as an activist, and published an occasional essay or short story.
And, “Impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or we do not wish to happen.”
It’s the birthday of Lillian Hellman (books by this author), born in New Orleans (1905). At the age of 26 she wrote her first play, The Children’s Hour, which debuted when she was 29. It is the story of two teachers, Karen and Martha, who teach at an elite all-girls New England boarding school. A malicious student spreads a rumor that Karen and Martha are lesbian lovers, and their lives fall apart. Parents pull their students out of school, Karen breaks up with her fiancé out of fear that she has damaged his reputation, and Martha commits suicide. The Children’s Hour was a sensation. It was so controversial that it was banned in several cities, including Chicago, London, and Boston. But it opened to rave reviews on Broadway, and when it failed to win the Pulitzer Prize because of its content, critics objected so strongly that they formed the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as a way to honor it.
That was the beginning of Lillian Hellman’s celebrity.
In The Autumn Garden, she wrote: “So at any given moment you’re only the sum of your life up to then. There are no big moments you can reach unless you’ve a pile of smaller moments to stand on. That big hour of decision, the turning point in your life, the someday you’ve counted on when you’d suddenly wipe out your past mistakes, do the work you’d never done, think the way you’d never thought, have what you’d never had — it just doesn’t come suddenly. You’ve trained yourself for it while you waited — or you’ve let it all run past you and frittered yourself away. I’ve frittered myself away.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®