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+
A Prayer in Spring
by Robert Frost
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
“A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost. Public domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of Gregory Corso, (books by this author) born in New York City (1930). He served three years for theft in a prison in upstate New York, and discovered poetry in the prison library. After he got out, he met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in New York City; Lawrence Ferlinghetti published his first collection, Gasoline.
It’s the birthday of Tennessee Williams (books by this author) born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi (1914). He’s the author of the plays The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). It was his sister, Rose, he was closest to; they were rarely apart, and the family cook called them “the couple.”
When Tom was seven and Rose was nine, the family moved from the Mississippi Delta to a tenement apartment in St. Louis. The filth and noise of the city shocked them. Their mother forced Rose out into society, where she suffered a series of exquisite humiliations; she had a breakdown, she was institutionalized, and her parents forced her to undergo a lobotomy. He said, “I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.”
It’s the birthday of the man who said, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Robert Frost, (books by this author) born in San Francisco (1874). He’s one of the most famous poets in American history, and the man who wrote “The Road Not Taken,” “Mending Wall,” “The Death of the Hired Man,” “After Apple-Picking,” and “Home Burial.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four different times. He drew large crowds to his immensely popular poetry readings, which he preferred to call “sayings.” He suffered from dark depressions. He once said, “Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”
When John F. Kennedy was elected president, he asked Frost to read at his inauguration, and hinted that Frost might compose a new poem for the occasion. Frost did write one, called “Dedication,” but on inauguration day the sun shone brightly, making a glare on the page, which made it difficult for the nearly 87-year-old Frost to see the poem he’d recently composed. He started and stumbled; LBJ tried to shield the page with his hat, but Frost gave up and instead recited a poem that he knew by heart, “The Gift Outright,” which ends:
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
He died a couple of years later, the same year as the much younger President Kennedy.
It’s the birthday of poet Alfred Edward Housman — A.E. Housman — (books by this author) in Worcestershire, England, in 1859, who worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in London for 10 years as he wrote the poems for which we know him today, including “When I was one-and-twenty / I heard a wise man say, ‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas / But not your heart away.'” And, “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now / Is hung with bloom along the bough.”
He said: “Good literature continually read for pleasure must, let us hope, do some good to the reader: must quicken his perception though dull, and sharpen his discrimination though blunt, and mellow the rawness of his personal opinions.”
It’s the birthday of Joseph Campbell (books by this author), born in New York City (1904). He saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Riders as a child and decided to learn everything there was to know about Indians. He read his way through the children’s room at his local library by the time he was 11, and started right in on reports from the Bureau of Ethnology.
In college, he turned to studying Arthurian legend. He abandoned a Ph.D. dissertation about Holy Grail stories and went to live in a shack, where for five years he continued to read. In 1949, he published a monumental study of mythology called The Hero with a Thousand Faces; it traced the common theme of the spiritual quest in myth. All sorts of writers found it a treasure trove for their own work, from the poet Robert Bly to the filmmaker George Lucas, who said that without it, he would never have been able to write Star Wars.
He wrote, “[For] the latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.”
It was on this day in 1920 that This Side of Paradise was published, launching 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald (books by this author) to fame and fortune. It’s the story of a young man named Amory Blaine who falls in love with a beautiful blond debutant named Rosalind Connage and then loses her because she doesn’t want to marry someone with so little money. He goes on a drinking spree and has a series of bohemian adventures, only to wind up taking the blame for a crime committed by Rosalind’s brother. An account of the crime appears in the newspaper alongside the announcement of Rosalind’s engagement to another man.
The first version of the book was called “The Romantic Egotist,” and Fitzgerald had started writing it in the fall of 1917 while awaiting commission as an Army officer. He wrote most of the manuscript at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and sent chapters as he wrote them to a typist at Princeton, where he had been a student. In March 1918, he submitted the novel to Charles Scribner’s Sons. Scribner’s rejected the novel but encouraged Fitzgerald to revise it. He submitted a new version titled The Education of a Personage to Scribner’s in September 1918, but that second version was also rejected.
In July 1919, after his discharge from the Army, Fitzgerald returned to his family’s home at 599 Summit Avenue in St. Paul, which he called “a house below the average in a street above the average.”
Fitzgerald was at the end of a series of failures and frustrations. He’d dropped out of Princeton in 1917 because of poor grades, spent time in the Army during WWI and never saw combat or went overseas, had a New York advertising job that he hated, and his novel had been rejected. When southern belle Zelda Sayre broke off their engagement because she was afraid he couldn’t support her, he spent a week drowning his sorrows. He said, “I was in love with a whirlwind, so when the girl threw me over, I went home and finished my novel.”
Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, though rejecting The Romantic Egotist, had given Fitzgerald hope that it could be salvaged. Fitzgerald worked hard at revision for the next three months. He pinned revision notes to his curtains and used a speaking tube outside his room to order meals to be sent up. Fitzgerald rewrote much of the novel, using material he had published while a student at Princeton, including the short story “Eleanor” and the play “The Debutante.” Fitzgerald also placed typescript pages from earlier versions, with handwritten corrections, into his new draft, producing discrepancies that eventually found their way into print.
Fitzgerald took a walk now and then for a break. He’d walk over to Selby Avenue to meet his friend Tubby Washington for cigarettes and Cokes at W.A. Frost’s drugstore.
He was known to wander over to Mrs. Charles Porterfield’s Boardinghouse on Summit, where he sat on the porch discussing literature with local teachers and writers.
In August 1919, Fitzgerald finished a new draft of the novel, now titled This Side of Paradise. He gave it to a friend from St. Paul for a final edit and sent the new typescript to Scribner’s on September 4, 1919. Two weeks after he mailed the manuscript, Fitzgerald received Maxwell Perkins’ letter accepting the book. Fitzgerald was so excited that he ran outside and stopped cars on the street to announce the news. He later wrote, “That week the postman rang and rang, and I paid off my terrible small debts, bought a suit, and woke up every morning into a world of ineffable topflightiness and promise.”
The publication of This Side of Paradise on this day in 1920, made Fitzgerald famous almost overnight, and a week later he married Zelda Sayre in New York.
Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It’s like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying — only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.”