Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Garrison Keillor comes to The Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD for an Evening of poetry, Sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $60
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet come to The Wayne Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:00PM
High Point, NC
Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet come to the High Point Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:30 PM
For the TSA Agent
by Barbara Crooker
who motioned me out of line
when I was en route to St. Louis,
took me aside, and asked, Are you
in pain? Several days before,
my back had spasmed, sending me
to the ER, where I got drugs
but no relief. So I winced and nodded;
she fixed me with her dark eyes, put
a solid arm around my shoulders,
and said, You’re going to be all right.
Then, swift as water flowing around rock,
she snapped back into her role, hitched up
her belt, motioned the next person in line
to come on through. And I was left wondering
what had just happened, and what was I supposed
to make of it? But I was in the terminal,
washed in the artificial light, and the moving
walkway pulled me forward, carried me away.
Barbara Crooker, “For the TSA Agent” from Some Glad Morning. Copyright © 2019 used with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of anthologist and writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (books by this author), born in Cornwall in 1863. Quiller-Couch published fiction and literary criticism under the pen name “Q” and was best known at the time for his publication of the Oxford Book of English Verse (1250–1900), a book that remained the most popular anthology of its kind for nearly 70 years.
He is remembered by writers today for one of the most enduring but non-attributed pieces of writing advice ever given. He wrote in his 1916 book On the Art of Writing, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press: Murder your darlings.” Now a popular catchphrase among editors especially, “murder your darlings” admonishes writers to refrain from being too precious about their prose and to trust in the values of simplicity and efficiency.
Today is the birthday of Voltaire (books by this author), born François-Marie Arouet in Paris (1694). He was one of history’s great thinkers and satirists — and he spent much of his time annoying people in power. His father wanted him to become a notary, but he refused, and the two quarreled about it into Voltaire’s adulthood. Sometimes he would pretend that he was serving as a notary’s assistant, but he was really writing. He was thrown out of Paris for the first time when he was only 21, for writing a poem critical of the king. After he returned, he wasted no time in insulting the royal family again, and this time they had him thrown in the Bastille for almost a year. It was there that he adopted his pen name. Voltaire made good use of his time behind bars; he wrote his first play, the tragedy Oedipe, which was a great success when it was staged in 1718. In 1733, his Philosophical Letters on the English — a critique of the French establishment — landed his publisher in the Bastille. He spent much of his life fleeing or being sent into exile, where he would manage to offend someone in his new home, forcing him to flee again. His work, and the work of other Enlightenment philosophers, influenced the American and French revolutions.
Voltaire finally returned to Paris just a few months before he died in 1778. He wrote a final farewell, saying, “I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.” Though he believed in a higher power, he had long been deeply critical of organized religion, so he was denied a church burial, but friends found an abbey in Champagne that would accept him. Thirteen years later, the revolutionary French National Assembly ordered his body moved to the Panthéon in Paris. It’s estimated that a million people turned out to watch his procession.
Today is the birthday of American playwright Tina Howe (1937) (books by this author). She was born to a very literary, upper-class family in New York City. Her grandfather, Mark Anthony de Wolfe Howe, won the Pulitzer for biography. Her father was a news writer, broadcaster, and historian. And her aunt, Helen Howe, was a monologist and novelist.
After her BA at Sarah Lawrence, she went to the Sorbonne to study philosophy, but got distracted by writing plays. While in Paris, she watched a performance of Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, which changed her life. She said: “It was as if I’d been hit in the head with a thunderbolt […] It made me realize that my goal in life was to bring the same sort of joy and anarchy and fizz and helium to female rituals that he was bringing to male rituals.”
When she came back to the Sates, she taught at a high school in Maine, where she agreed to take the job on condition that the drama department produce her plays. Her first play was panned by the critics (the ending had one of the characters dive naked into a wedding cake). Her second play, Museum, had 18 actors playing 44 characters and brought her attention as an avant-garde playwright. Howe’s plays have been called “surrealist comedies of manners”; she shows very proper, upper class people trying their best to follow social norms, even as circumstances become more and more ridiculous.
She uses the settings in her plays to make the story more surreal. For example, one character jumps on a trampoline until they almost go out of sight of the audience. In another play, giant vegetables grow inside of a house. Howe says: “I am a visual artist. I often start with a set because I believe a play should astonish and amuse the audience. The public must be shown something totally familiar, like a suburban home, and yet detect in it an element of strangeness, something threatening.”
Howe has won an Obie Award and grants from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. She’s written English translations of Ionesco’s plays and taught playwriting at Hunter College and NYU. She lives in New York and today she turns 84 years old.
Today is the birthday of American novelist Mary Johnston (books by this author), born in Buchanan, Virginia (1870). She was the first woman to top the best-seller list in the U.S. Her work was so popular that she supported herself throughout her life from her writing alone, and never married. Her book To Have and To Hold was the best-selling novel in the U.S. in 1900, and three of her novels were adapted to silent films.
Johnston wrote historical novels that often centered on love stories. Her novel on the Civil War, The Long Roll, told the story of Stonewall Jackson and the troops that fought under him. Although her characterization of General Jackson seems pretty sympathetic to modern readers, Stonewall Jackson’s widow published an editorial in the New York Times denouncing the book. She said that her late husband was presented as cold and eccentric, and took issue with Johnston’s claim that he liked “sucking lemons.” Although Johnston did speak out against lynching, her view of the confederacy was typical of other Southerners. Her father was a Civil War veteran and she was a friend of Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind. Mitchell once said, “I hesitate to write about the South after having read Mary Johnston.”
Her book Hagar is considered one of the first feminist novels, and a lot of people stopped reading her work after she published it. She supported the women’s suffrage movement and founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. She argued before state legislatures in Virginia and Tennessee as part of her activism.
Johnston died at 65 at her home in Warm Springs, Virginia, which is now recognized as a historic site. Johnston’s novels are not widely read or studied now, but she’s remembered for being a hugely popular woman writer at a time when women were much less likely to get published.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®