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+
Let Them Not Say
by Jane Hirshfield
Let them not say: we did not see it.
Let them not say: we did not hear it.
Let them not say: they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.
Let them not say: it was not spoken, not written.
we witnessed with voices and hands.
Let them not say: they did nothing.
We did not-enough.
Let them say, as they must say something:
A kerosene beauty.
Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.
From LEDGER: Poems by Jane Hirshfield, published on March 10, 2020 by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2020 by Jane Hirshfield. (buy now)
It was on this day in 1939 that John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath was published (books by this author). Between 1936 and 1938, Steinbeck drove an old bakery truck around California’s Central Valley, visiting migrant camps and writing articles about their terrible conditions for The San Francisco News. In his first article, he wrote: “They are never allowed to feel at home in the communities that demand their services.”
He decided that all this material was worthy of a longer book, so he furiously went to work. His new novel, titled The Great Pig Sticking and then L’Affaire Lettuceberg, was a satire — Steinbeck himself described it as mean and nasty. By May of 1938, he had finished a 70,000-word draft, but he realized that it was no good, and he decided to burn it. He wrote to his editor: “My father would have called it a smart-alec book. It was full of tricks to make people ridiculous.”
He began again. He wrote for six months, and toward the end he wrote to his agent: “I’m desperately tired but I want to finish. And meanwhile I feel as though shrapnel were bursting about my head. I only hope the book is some good. Can’t tell yet at all. And I can’t tell whether it is balanced. It is a slow, plodding book but I don’t think it is dull. […] Never have worked so hard and so long in my life.”
Steinbeck’s wife, Carol, suggested the title The Grapes of Wrath, a phrase from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe during the Civil War. Steinbeck thought the title was a perfect fit. He wanted the song’s lyrics and music printed at the front of the book.
Steinbeck wrote to his agent: “This will not be a popular book,” and he tried to convince his publisher to do a smaller print run than they intended. The Grapes of Wrath was the best-selling book of 1939 and won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
It’s the birthday of playwright Horton Foote (books by this author), born Albert Horton Foote Jr. in Wharton, Texas (1916). He’s the author of more than 60 plays and screenplays, including a series of nine one-act plays called Orphans’ Home Cycle. The cycle is loosely based on Foote’s father and other members of the Foote family tree, and the plays are set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, early in the 20th century. The plays’ protagonist is Horace Robedaux; at the beginning of the first play, Horace is 12 years old, and his alcoholic father has just died. His mother has remarried and her new husband doesn’t want Horace around, so the boy is, for all intents and purposes, an orphan. The cycle follows Horace’s search for a home, his growing up, and his becoming a husband and father himself; in the last play, a 38-year-old Horace finally confronts his mother with her lifetime of neglect.
It’s the birthday of the photographer Diane Arbus, born Diane Nemerov in New York City (1923). She took portraits of cross-dressers, giants and dwarfs, twins, triplets, carnival performers, and altogether ordinary people with troubling expressions or postures. She committed suicide in 1971, when she was 48 years old. She said: “I work from awkwardness. By that I mean if I stand in front of something instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.”
It’s the birthday of the humorist Max Shulman (books by this author), born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1919). He wrote several books, including Anyone Got a Match? (1964) and Potatoes Are Cheaper (1971). He grew up during the Great Depression, and he said, “I turned early to humor as my branch of writing … [because] life was bitter and I was not.”
It’s the birthday of the bookseller and publisher Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). She opened a bookstore and lending library on the Left Bank of Paris called Shakespeare and Company, which stocked English-language books. She handpicked her books, she had copies of all the new innovative literary magazines, and she sold contemporary literature that was banned in America and England.
Shakespeare and Company became known as “the unofficial living room” of the expatriate artists living in Paris, writers like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. Sylvia Beach met Joyce in 1920, just as he was finishing Ulysses. He couldn’t get it published because all the big presses thought it was obscene, so she offered to publish it for him, even though she’d never published a book before. To fund the project, she got people to buy advance copies. She had no editors, so she edited the huge manuscript herself, and she published it on Joyce’s birthday, February 2, 1922.
Today is the birthday of Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, Germany (1879). He was a good student, but he was generally disrespectful of his teachers, because he knew more than they did. He used to sit in the back of the room and smile at them. When he graduated, none of his instructors would give him the letters of recommendation he needed to get a job in academia, so he went to work for the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. He had to evaluate patent applications and determine whether they were likely to produce inventions that worked. He enjoyed the work and, more importantly, it gave him lots of free time at home to work out his own theories of physics.
In 1905 — a year he called his annus mirabilis — he earned his doctorate and published four important papers. One of these was on his Special Theory of Relativity, which states that absolute space and absolute time don’t exist; they are relative to each other, and should be represented as “space-time.” The only universal constant is the speed of light, which never changes under any circumstances. It was a revolutionary theory, but it still wasn’t enough to get him an academic job; he did get a promotion at the patent office, though. He was 26 years old. Four years later, in 1909, he got a job as an adjunct professor of theoretical physics in Zurich; five years after that, he moved to Berlin, and began work on his General Theory of Relativity, which he published in 1916.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®