The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, November 22, 2022

 TWA from Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rutabagas: A Love Poem” by James Silas Rogers, from Sundogs. © Parallel Press, 2006.

ORIGINAL TEXT AND AUDIO – 2011

It’s the birthday of writer André Gide, born in Paris (1869). Raised in Normandy by his mother and a retinue of female family members and maids, Gide was encouraged by these women to explore his interests with almost total freedom. He did so by roaming the countryside as a boy, picking flowers and indulging in his love of nature, but also by examining and analyzing what he saw and the emotions they conjured. This deep introspection and reflection were traits that later defined his writing.

In school, though, his curiosity won him few friends. He found the requirements of the classroom — monotonous and impersonal, completely unlike the natural world — insufferable, and he claimed to be unable to function within the structure. When a teacher called upon him to repeat a lesson and he remained silent, he was sent to the playground. When he returned and was asked to repeat the lesson, he remained mute, which set the other students laughing — was he really so stupid, or so bold? Eventually, recitation became the one thing at which he excelled in school; the talent made his classmates jealous and irritated, and they began bullying him. He was a good runner and often escaped, but the humiliations finally culminated in his tormentors rubbing a dead cat against his face.

Gide found a way out when he contracted smallpox. Realizing that illness could provide him with a good defense, he feigned dizzy spells at his convenience. Positioning himself in a safe place to fall, he’d fake an attack and collapse. This was, perhaps, the beginning of a dramatic tendency that he continued in adolescence, when he experienced a religious awakening — or at least pretended to. He began carrying a New Testament in his shirt pocket, sleeping on a board, and waking at night to pray and mortify his flesh with ice water. Gide later admitted that he likely enjoyed playing the part of a religious fanatic more than he’d actually believed in what he preached. In fact, Gide was raised a Protestant with a strong sense of discipline and morality, at odds with the sense of passion and sensuous indulgence he’d been allowed to cultivate at home.

It wasn’t long before Gide turned the tensions in his life — this sense of moral obligation versus his strong individuality, a highly analytical mind combined with a wild imagination, and a need to be liked despite being a social outcast — to his writing. He published numerous semi-autobiographical narratives and memoirs, as well as book-length essays on everything from a defense of homosexuality to atheism to anti-colonialism. Initially known only within avant-garde circles, Gide became an influential literary critic and widely known for his controversial personal life and beliefs.

Gide said: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”


It’s the birthday of graphic artist, author, and film director Marjane Satrapi, born in Rasht, Iran (1969). Satrapi was a young girl during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, before her parents sent her to Vienna to escape the resulting fundamentalism and the devastation of the Iran-Iraq war when she was 14. Her graphic memoir, Persepolis, documents this period, telling the story of what it was like to be an Iranian girl growing up in this historic time, suddenly segregated from boys in school and forced to wear a hijab, or head scarf. Originally published in 2000 in French — Satrapi’s second of six languages — Persepolis was frequently held up as the next Maus, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel masterpiece. The claim was so prevalent, and so embarrassed Satrapi, that she called Spiegelman, a total stranger, to assure him that she had nothing to do with propagating this comparison. He was so charmed by her apology that he invited her to his studio and they became friends.

In 2007, Satrapi co-wrote and co-directed a movie adaptation of her book, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.

Her recent autobiographical comics include Embroideries (2006), the stories of Satrapi’s grandmother and aunts and the men they’ve loved, and Chicken with Plums (2009), a chronicle of her great-uncle’s last eight days of life — a musician, he took to bed and refused to eat or drink after his beloved lute was destroyed. Satrapi vows that when she dies, all her books together will tell a complete family saga.


It’s the birthday of novelist George Eliot, born Mary Anne Evans in Warwickshire, England (1819). She was born into a middle-class family, the daughter of an estate manager and his second wife — his first had died in childbirth. When childbirth took twin sons too — Mary Anne’s little brothers — her mother fell into a depression from which she never recovered; Mary Anne was sent to boarding school when she was only five years old. She returned 12 years later, after her mother’s death required her to tend to the household and help care for her father. Although Mary Anne’s personal writings mentioned her mother only briefly, and her fiction lacks many substantial mother characters, it was her mother’s early rejection that many have speculated contributed toward her lifelong bouts of depression and insecurity.

Mary Anne’s appearance was another factor in her lack of self-confidence. Not many pictures exist of her; the one most relied upon in biographies depicts her with delicate features and sandy waves. Its popularity derives from the same reason that there are so few representations of Eliot: She was in fact notoriously unattractive, having inherited her father’s bulbous nose and prominent chin, with dark, straight hair her mother had often criticized. Henry James wrote that Eliot was “magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous,” but claimed that “in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind.”

She was a clever child and had done well at school, but it was when she was 21 and moved with her father to a nearby town that her more radical education began. Already doubting her religious faith, Mary Anne began visiting the home of her neighbors Charles and Clara Bray, rich and progressive philanthropists who hosted an irreverent salon of sorts. The environment enlivened and emboldened Mary Anne, who declared a year after their move that she would no longer attend church with her father. He threatened to throw her out, but eventually agreed to allow her to believe whatever she liked, as long as she maintained appearances by accompanying him on Sundays. She continued to do so until he died seven years later, despite her anonymous translation from the German of the book The Life of Jesus Critically Examined in the meantime.

Mary Anne was 30 years old when she found herself in possession of a modest annual inheritance and no one to dutifully take care of. She went abroad for the winter, stayed for a time with her friends the Brays, changed her name to Marian, and then moved to London with the plan to become a freelance writer. She boarded at the home of the man who’d published her translation, John Chapman; less than three months later she was back at the Brays, run out by Chapman’s wife and mistress, both jealous to have more competition.

A few months later, she returned to London, chastened, and began a successful career at a literary magazine, writing and editing essays and criticism. It was then that she met a fellow journalist, George Henry Lewes, who was to become the great love of her life. He was not, however, to become her legal husband; he was already married. Although he’d essentially had an open marriage, when Lewes filed for divorce, so that he might marry Marian, he was denied — his wife had borne a son by another man but had given the child her husband’s last name, which constituted his acceptance of her adultery.

Unable to marry legally, Marian and George Lewes lived as a married couple and considered themselves such for 23 years, a scandal that generated controversy across the city — and back home, where her brother cut her off completely. But Marian was resolute that she had made the right choice. “Women who are content with light and easily broken ties do not act as I have done,” she told her friend Clara Bray. “They obtain what they desire and are still invited to dinner.”

Marian took Lewes’ last name for everyday matters, and when he encouraged her to try writing fiction, she took his first name for her pseudonym: George Eliot. She was nearly 40 years old when she published her first short story, and already had a reputation for a very sharp wit and critical eye from the reviews she’d written; choosing a pen name would help prevent her previous work from coloring readers’ perceptions of her fiction. She also, of course, had a personal, social reputation — for openly carrying on an adulterous affair — and she didn’t relish the thought of offering another morsel for the gossip mill to grind. Choosing a man’s name would help cover her tracks, she thought, and distance herself from the “silly novels,” as she characterized them, that women wrote.

Her first novel, Adam Bede, published in 1859, was a huge, surprising success; when the speculation about its true authorship reached a fevered pitch and con artists tried to claim credit, Marian — now George Eliot — revealed herself. Her scandalous private life didn’t seem to dampen her writings’ approval, but she continued to use the pen name. Although she was herself a highly unconventional woman, having abandoned religion, publicly dedicated herself to a married man, and supported herself as a writer, her characters were less nonconformist than their author. Part of her success owed to the fact that, while her books like Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda explored the conflicts and hypocrisies of contemporary English life, they did not first offend the sensibilities of Victorian readers.

Indeed, after the death of Thackeray and Dickens, a popular literary magazine proclaimed Mary Anne Evans/ Marian Lewes/ George Eliot “the greatest living writer of English fiction … probably … the greatest woman who ever won literary fame, and one of the very few writers of our day to whom the name ‘great’ could be conceded with any plausibility.”

She said: “I’m proof against that word failure. I’ve seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure of cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best.”

 

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

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Sing Along at the Ryman 2022
BOOM TOWN by Garrison Keillor!

In Garrison Keillor’s 2022 novel, Boom Town, we return to Lake Wobegon, famous from decades of monologues on the classic radio show A Prairie Home Companion.

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Lake Wobegon is having a boom year thanks to millennial entrepreneurship—AuntMildred’s.com Gourmet Meatloaf, for example, or Universal Fire, makers of artisanal firewood seasoned with sea salt. Meanwhile, the author flies in to give eulogies at the funerals of five classmates, including a couple whom he disliked, and he finds a wave of narcissism crashing on the rocks of Lutheran stoicism. He is restored by the humor and grace of his old girlfriend Arlene and a visit from his wife, Giselle, who arrives from New York for a big love scene in an old lake cabin.

 

Praise for Boom Town:

“Wonderfully over-the-top. Blisteringly funny, acute, and true. Keillor’s speaking to us with encouragement and empathy about the American life. But at the same time, he’s got our number that way he’s always had it. This book is a tonic.” —Richard Ford

 

“You can’t go home again unless you’re Garrison Keillor and home is Lake Wobegon. Then, of course, it is imperative that you do so—and we are fortunate indeed to tag along and share in the final chapter of the most fascinating and compelling characters ever conjured from the most vivid imagination of America’s greatest storyteller!

In Boom Town, we are invited to catch up as Garrison gets caught up with all of those beautifully flawed human beings that populate and promulgate their mythical town where all the women are finally accounted for, all the men are self-realized or died trying, and all the children are still way above average.” —Martin Sheen

 

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Even old people need to explore new realms

I’m an American, I like to believe that nobody but nobody is beyond the reach of friendship and understanding, not even North Koreans or former felons or the creators of complex security systems that have driven me to the brink of madness, trying to remember the password for my computer and then having to replace the password and confirm my identity by typing in a six-numeral code sent to me on my cellphone whose password I now can’t remember either.

I don’t have top-secret documents stored in the phone or in the laptop. I have a lot of appeals for donations from Democratic politicians and lefty organizations such as Citizens United for Diversity & Inclusivity In American Humor (CUDIAH), none of which needs to be kept from prying eyes. I’m a Democrat. So what? I wish I had a friend in the password biz who could say, “Oh, passwords went out of usage long ago, nobody does that anymore, you just need a simple voice-recognition system that eliminates the need for passwords.” My current friends are all liberal-arts grads who know nothing about this stuff. Do you get my drift?

I need to broaden my social circle. All of my friends are aging liberals, and they’re perfectly nice people but our conversation is the same old same old stuff repeated, reiterated, recycled, re-repeated, et cetera. We talk about the cold, about our grandkids, about bad books we’ve read recently. We’re still talking about the guy who uses bronzer and combs little squiggles in his hair. Which is so over. I mean, really.

I do not have a single friend who was looking forward to hearing Taylor Swift and who was furious at Ticketmaster for messing up her tour and watched carefully the congressional hearings into the whole Swiftian crisis. Nobody.

I wish I knew some Swift fans and I’ve tried to make connections but I am not good at texting because I use just one finger and they text at 60 w.p.m. with both thumbs and even when I’m sitting next to them they still prefer texting to talking, and I fall behind, which marks me as untextworthy, and they go like “C.U.” or “BRB” and they’re gone. I’m trying to like Taylor’s songs but it’s not easy.

You were so awful to me
And I sat there and took it
You had me in your pocket
So you could just reach in
Like grabbing a keychain,
I was a handkerchief to blow your nose on
But now I’m gone.
I’ll never be in love with you again.

All I can say is if a girlfriend of mine wrote a break-up song as bad as that, she never would’ve been my girlfriend to begin with so there never would’ve been anything to break up.

My friends tend to be overeducated, quasi-vegan, animal-rights types, though they whack flies and poison cockroaches and set vicious traps for rodents as if Mickey and Minnie have no right to exist — but hey, inconsistency is the spice of life — and just once I’d like to have a personal friend who’d invite me to sit in his den unmasked and look at his Mannlicher-Schönauer bolt-action 30-06 and admire the heads of water buffalo and jaguar and giraffe mounted on the walls and show me videos from his latest safari to Uganda, which by accident segues into scenes from Nancy Pelosi’s office on January 6, 2021.

America is awash in firearms and I don’t have a single close friend who owns even a .22. I don’t personally know a single Proud Boy or Minuteman or Viking Avenger.

I’m not saying I approve of these people — au contraire, mon cher — I’d simply like to know somebody over on the dark side who is up on all the latest conspiracies, rather than the folks in my book club or the people I meet at coffee hour after church or at meetings of my ACLU chapter.

I feel a little smothered by good intentions and I’d like to see more of the world before I start the long grim slide. I’m not looking for an illicit romance or anything dangerous, I’m considering becoming a Republican realtor in Wabash, Indiana, and say bad things about Biden, just to see what it feels like, maybe go to a target range, do some bowling. My wife loves New York but I talked her into marrying me and how much harder could Wabash be than that? Six months is all I ask, darling. Just for the experience.

The beauty of a bitterly cold Sunday, 8 a.m.

I couldn’t sleep last Saturday night due to anxiety caused by rewinding various lowlights of my long life that hit me like a brick and I lay in bed and watched the hours go by as I contemplated my imminent demise leaving my dependents impoverished and homeless so when the day dawned I put on a suit and coat and I went around the block to the solemn 8 a.m. Mass rather than wait for the more festive 10:30 and walked through the bitter Minnesota cold into St. Mark’s Cathedral where a couple dozen souls sat, widely spaced apart, perhaps to guard against communicable disease, or maybe to avoid the Exchange of Peace after the absolution of our sins.

My sin was dread, anxiety, nameless unreasoning fear, but never mind. I remembered as I came into the cathedral that there is no music at the 8 a.m., no chipper Bach chorale to brighten the mood, no rousing opening hymn, just this scattering of folks in the vastness, like the Church in apostolic times, a few believers hiding out in the catacombs, hoping men in heavy armor don’t break in and bust our heads.

I knelt and prayed for my loved ones, that they be spared my anxiety. I could hear my own voice proclaiming the Nicene Creed, the whole megillah, including the unbelievable part about God coming to earth and becoming incarnate by the Virgin Mary, and it did nothing for the lead in my heart nor, as it turned out, did the homily.

What I found inspiring were two Scripture readings, one from the prophet Micah, where the reader faced the line, “O my people, remember what happened from Shittim to Gilgal that you may know the saving acts of the Lord,” and she slowed down when she saw “Shittim” and got traction and very carefully pronounced it “shi-team.” I was the only one in the sanctuary immature enough to enjoy this moment. There were no 13-year-old boys there, just me. I could tell from her voice that the reader had been dreading this for an hour, trying to decide between “shy-tim” and “shi-team” and fearing that she’d slip and pronounce it phonetically and a marble angel would fall and crash and red lights would flash and people would require treatment for post-traumatic stress.

And then moments later she read from First Corinthians that we do not find God through wisdom. No, God chose what is foolish to shame the wise, for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. The thought of God’s foolishness is a radical one, seldom mentioned in church, and near me were some highly educated people, including a man who got his Ph.D. in classic philosophy from Harvard and here I sat, a writer of limericks and a lover of juvenile jokes (Knock-knock. “Who’s there?” Eskimo Christians. “Eskimo Christians who?” Eskimo Christians, I’ll tell you no lies.) and when I went forward for Communion I felt foolishly happy. The wafer was not artisanal, the wine too sweet, but I received it with a good and grateful heart.

I went downstairs for coffee. People were gathering for the election of church officers and I joined them. It had been an austere service but it took a big load off my mind, the woman navigating her way around “Shittim” — it’s in the sixth chapter of Micah, look it up — and the words “God’s foolishness” — the playfulness of the Creator of the universe who 13 billion years ago, from a little speck of matter, suddenly produced an infinity of galaxies of which our Milky Way is a small specimen and the solar system turning around our sun is but a kiddie amusement park and our little planet is a jungle gym and hot dog stand.

I sat down and someone said, “Welcome home.” I live in New York but I used to be from here and that was nice. Two candidates for church warden stood and gave brief speeches and I wrote a limerick:

I am not running for warden:
It’s a job I know I’d be bored in,
Running a prison.
My calling is in
Enjoying the journey toward Jordan.

A dreadful night, a cold day, a juvenile joke, I’m a happy man. The Greeks and Romans loved poop jokes: go ahead and google it. The world is a mess but dread gets us nowhere so cheer up and then go do what you were put here to do. I was put here to cheer you up. So smile.

 

What I did when you were asleep

I just heard the story of the professor who refused to have “(he, him, his)” after his name on correspondence and his chairman who said, “You must. It’s policy.” And the professor said, “I don’t care. I won’t.” I understand that the policy police haven’t been called yet to haul him away for genderphobia and I salute him for resisting: the policy has no purpose, it’s about appearances.

Here is one more good reason to avoid a career in Academia. I write “(me/us/hers)” after my name and nobody can tell me otherwise. This is America, not Argentina. When I walk into the clinic and a sign says “Masks required,” I put one on, because there is science behind it. I go to the public library and turn my phone off out of simple consideration for the readers and writers at my table.

If you take a look at me, you’ll see a guy with short hair, in a brown pinstripe suit, wearing shoes with low heels, no necklace, and from that you can deduce whatever you like, monarchist, Mormon missionary, male model, whatever amuses you. What matters more is that you say, “Good morning,” “good to see you,” “like your red socks,” the little mannerly murmurs of daily life.

That’s the end of today’s lecture. Let’s talk about morning instead.

I’ve been going to bed at 8 and rising at 4, due to a construction project going on across the hall, which begins around 9 and which sounds like the walls of Babylon being knocked down by Vandals using battering rams. I’m a writer by trade, even though I don’t put it in parentheses after my name, I let people think what they want, and we writers don’t do well in scenes of battle and wholesale destruction. So I move bedtime up a few hours. Ten years ago my family sailed to Southampton aboard the Queen Mary 2, an expensive cruise, but an excellent investment because every night I can put myself to sleep by imagining myself at the rail sailing past the Statue of Liberty and inching under the Verrazano Bridge and by the time we’re at sea, I’m asleep.

Four a.m. is a peaceful hour. A person is unaware of time. If what you’re writing is of interest, it wakes you up. If not, you’re in the wrong line of work. It’s the hour of freedom. Around six, if the work goes well, I reward myself with breakfast. My sweetheart is a somewhat-vegan but she is asleep and so I can roast up a sirloin with fried eggs and feel a kinship with Beowulf and Hrothgar.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I do not feed on roots or lettuce leaf
But microwave a bowl of frozen fries,
To eat with eggs and half a pound of beef.

Man is a hunter — women could thrive on a diet of nasturtiums and leaves of grass, but men cannot, and there are millions of cattle wandering around and what else are they for? They’re not going to work out new algorithms. My sweetheart thinks I eat too much red meat. Maybe so. So I’ll skip it this morning and make oatmeal instead and enjoy a sense of righteousness. Meanwhile I have three hours of peace until Armageddon resumes.

The owners of the apartment across the hall are going to feel a definite chill when finally they move into their luxurious quarters. When they invite us over for drinks, I’ll think up a communicable disease. And I may buy a couple speakers the size of VWs and turn up the volume on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and maybe leave town for a month and have a crew come in and tear down some walls.

But I have decided to give up anger in my old age. I decided this months ago and I am sticking to it. I gave up looking at the news, and now if wars had ceased and Martians had located us and a cure for cancer had been found and the Vikings had won the Super Bowl, I would be unaware of it.

And so in this new spirit I am writing a book about cheerfulness, which is due out in the spring. I’ve looked around bookstores and found hundreds of books about clueless parents and bad boyfriends and the imminent demise of civilization, and I could write one about noisy neighbors, but I choose to write about gratitude and lightheartedness. I think they/them/those might need something like that and if, like the Queen Mary, it puts them to sleep, that is useful too.

 

I am giving up anger, so should you

The apartment across the hall from where we’re staying in Minneapolis is undergoing extensive renovation, walls being moved, floors torn up, and every day last week the noise from there was seismic, volcanic, like they were throwing pickup trucks into a giant grinder, and when I walked out of our place and saw a workman I asked him how long this racket would continue and I used, as a modifier to “racket,” a word not seen in your family newspaper, not yet, God help us, though I’ve heard it used by small children in New York attending schools named for saints. Kids grow up faster in New York. I felt bad about my cursing. I still do. I am trying to give up anger. It’s poisonous and it has no effect other than to make the angerer feel bad and perhaps do something truly stupid. You sit in a traffic jam yelling at other drivers and where does it get you? You read about Kevin McCarthy online and in your fury you hurl your laptop out the window and how does this change anything? (I didn’t do that, only considered it.) So I am skipping the front page and enjoying reading the angry comments on the editorial page and the obits and stories about minor crime. From this, I learn that (1) Americans aren’t adept at cutting people down, like whoever said of Endicott Peabody that he was the only Massachusetts politician to have four towns named for him –– Peabody, Marblehead, Athol, and Hyannis. We tend to mutter. (2) Good obits are few and far between. They’re over-the-top laudatory and they leave out the delicious details. Minor rock musicians die and you read that they “had a profound effect on music at the time” when what you want to know is exactly how many hotel rooms did he destroy. (3) There’s a great deal of outright stupidity in the world of crime. Last week I read about a bearded man wearing a mask and dark glasses, gloves and tan sweater, carrying a handgun, who walked into a bank in St. Paul and demanded money from three tellers in turn, his pistol aimed at them, and he followed them as they went to a safe for more. He wound up with $28,000, which he put into an Aldi grocery store bag and departed, unaware that a tracking device was included with the cash, which led police to find him a half mile away, on foot, carrying the Aldi bag with the money in it and also the mask, wearing the sunglasses. He claimed to have found the bag with the money in it and he declined to answer questions but they found a library card with his name on it, which corresponded with his fingerprints on the bag. He also carried an unloaded Ruger handgun. He was bearded. The reporter Nick Ferraro wrote the story beautifully, with all the fine details, the library card, the grocery bag, and also the perp saying to the tellers as he departed with the cash and tracker, “Have a nice day. Stay warm.” And his refusal to talk to police. You’re holding the Aldi bag with the dough in it and you fit the description and you walk away from the scene ¬¬— were you planning to wait for a bus? He is in jail now, with bail set at $500,000, charged with robbery and assault. A public defender will do her best to make a case for leniency — maybe he had a poor relationship with his father, maybe low self-esteem, poor reasoning skills, but how do you defend outright stupidity? The man is destroying the bank-robber mystique: John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde would be embarrassed to be associated with him. If you’re considering larceny, my dear reader, stop and think this through. Cellphone towers can track your whereabouts and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. Twenty-eight grand is poor compensation for three years in prison. You can do much better by setting yourself up as an advocate for the math challenged and bringing a lawsuit against Apple and Microsoft for writing instruction manuals that make you feel unwelcome and marginalized. They are practicing normaphobia and the letttter tt keeps repeattting on your laptop and itt’s causing you menttal disttress and you can’tt fix ittt. Ask for a million and hope for tttttttwo hundred grand. Have a nice day and keep warm.  
A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Humor Love & Comedy Tour Old Friends Poetry Prairie Home Christmas Show Solo Songs Stories The Gratitude Tour
Schedule

February 8, 2023

Wednesday

8:00 p.m.

Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO

Kansas City, MO

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Kansas City, MO for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 9, 2023

Thursday

7:30 p.m.

Gillioz Theatre, Springfield, MO

Springfield, MO

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Springfield, MO for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 10, 2023

Friday

8:00 p.m.

Orpheum Theatre, Wichita, KS

Wichita, KS

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Wichita, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 11, 2023

Saturday

7:00 p.m.

Bowlus Fine Arts Center, Iola, KS

Iola, KS

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Iola, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 22, 2023

Wednesday

8:00 p.m.

The Parker, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Fort Lauderdale, FL (rescheduled date from Dec 2022)

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 23, 2023

Thursday

7:30 p.m.

Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville, TN

Maryville, TN

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 24, 2023

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Grand Theatre, Frankfort, KY

Frankfort, KY

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

March 2, 2023

Thursday

8:00 p.m.

Fargo Theater, Fargo, ND

Fargo, ND

“Garrison Keillor at 80” with special guests Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky comes to Fargo, ND for a show filled with stories, music, sing-along all focusing on the topic of CHEERFULNESS.

March 3, 2023

Friday

8:00 p.m.

Orpheum Theater, Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, SD

“Garrison Keillor at 80” with special guests Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky comes to Sioux Falls, SD for a show filled with stories, music, sing-along all focusing on the topic of CHEERFULNESS.

March 4, 2023

Saturday

8:00 p.m.

Admiral Theater, Omaha, NE

Omaha, NE

“Garrison Keillor at 80” with special guests Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky comes to Omaha, NE for a show filled with stories, music, sing-along all focusing on the topic of CHEERFULNESS.

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A Prairie Home Companion: February 11, 2012

A Prairie Home Companion: February 11, 2012

A Fitzgerald Theater feature with special guests Ann Reed, My Brightest Diamond and Heather Masse.

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The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, February 5, 2023

The American novelist, poet, and painter William S. Burroughs was born on this day in 1914.Burroughs is best known for his third novel, “Naked Lunch.” On writing, he said: “The only way I can write narrative is to get right outside my body and experience it. This can be exhausting and at times dangerous. One cannot be sure of redemption.”

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The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, February 4, 2023

It’s the birthday of writer, activist, and feminist Betty Friedan (1921), who wrote the groundbreaking book “The Feminine Mystique”, which explored the unhappy lives of American housewives and spurred the second wave of feminism in the United States during the 1960s.

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The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, February 3, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, February 3, 2023

Today is the birthday of the first woman to graduate from medical school, Elizabeth Blackwell, born on this day in Bristol, England, in 1821. She wanted to become a doctor because she knew that many women would rather discuss their health problems with another woman. After becoming a doctor, she opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

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The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, February 2, 2023

“The artist, like the God of the Creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” — James Joyce, born on this day in Dublin, 1882.

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The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Today is the birthday of Langston Hughes, born in 1902 on this day in Missouri under the name James Mercer Langston Hughes. Hughes became a prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance, a group of African-American artists and writers in Harlem, New York. His books include “Fine Clothes to the Jew”, “Not Without Laughter”, and “The Ways of White Folks.”

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The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Today is the birthday of Norman Mailer (1923). His first novel, “The Naked and the Dead”, it became the definitive literary novel about World War II, and made Norman Mailer famous at the age of 25. He went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes: for “The Armies of the Night” and for his nonfiction novel “The Executioner’s Song”.

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The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, January 30, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, January 30, 2023

It is the birthday of historian Barbara Tuchman, born in New York City on this day in 1912. She wrote “The Guns of August”, a study of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I. She said, “War is the unfolding of miscalculations.”

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Writing

Even old people need to explore new realms

I’m an American, I like to believe that nobody but nobody is beyond the reach of friendship and understanding, not even North Koreans or former felons or the creators of complex security systems that have driven me to the brink of madness, trying to remember the password for my computer and then having to replace the password and confirm my identity by typing in a six-numeral code sent to me on my cellphone whose password I now can’t remember either.

I don’t have top-secret documents stored in the phone or in the laptop. I have a lot of appeals for donations from Democratic politicians and lefty organizations such as Citizens United for Diversity & Inclusivity In American Humor (CUDIAH), none of which needs to be kept from prying eyes. I’m a Democrat. So what? I wish I had a friend in the password biz who could say, “Oh, passwords went out of usage long ago, nobody does that anymore, you just need a simple voice-recognition system that eliminates the need for passwords.” My current friends are all liberal-arts grads who know nothing about this stuff. Do you get my drift?

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The beauty of a bitterly cold Sunday, 8 a. m.

I couldn’t sleep last Saturday night due to anxiety caused by rewinding various lowlights of my long life that hit me like a brick and I lay in bed and watched the hours go by as I contemplated my imminent demise leaving my dependents impoverished and homeless so when the day dawned I put on a suit and coat and I went around the block to the solemn 8 a.m. Mass rather than wait for the more festive 10:30 and walked through the bitter Minnesota cold into St. Mark’s Cathedral where a couple dozen souls sat, widely spaced apart, perhaps to guard against communicable disease, or maybe to avoid the Exchange of Peace after the absolution of our sins.

My sin was dread, anxiety, nameless unreasoning fear, but never mind. I remembered as I came into the cathedral that there is no music at the 8 a.m., no chipper Bach chorale to brighten the mood, no rousing opening hymn, just this scattering of folks in the vastness, like the Church in apostolic times, a few believers hiding out in the catacombs, hoping men in heavy armor don’t break in and bust our heads.

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Picture in a Frame (July 2022)

The sun come up, it was blue and gold
The sun come up, it was blue and gold
The sun come up, it was blue and gold
Ever since I put your picture in a frame

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What I did when you were asleep

I just heard the story of the professor who refused to have “(he, him, his)” after his name on correspondence and his chairman who said, “You must. It’s policy.” And the professor said, “I don’t care. I won’t.” I understand that the policy police haven’t been called yet to haul him away for genderphobia and I salute him for resisting: the policy has no purpose, it’s about appearances.

Here is one more good reason to avoid a career in Academia. I write “(me/us/hers)” after my name and nobody can tell me otherwise. This is America, not Argentina. When I walk into the clinic and a sign says “Masks required,” I put one on, because there is science behind it. I go to the public library and turn my phone off out of simple consideration for the readers and writers at my table.

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I am giving up anger, so should you

The apartment across the hall from where we’re staying in Minneapolis is undergoing extensive renovation, walls being moved, floors torn up, and every day last week the noise from there was seismic, volcanic, like they were throwing pickup trucks into a giant grinder, and when I walked out of our place and saw a workman I asked him how long this racket would continue and I used, as a modifier to “racket,” a word not seen in your family newspaper, not yet, God help us, though I’ve heard it used by small children in New York attending schools named for saints. Kids grow up faster in New York.

I felt bad about my cursing. I still do. I am trying to give up anger. It’s poisonous and it has no effect other than to make the angerer feel bad and perhaps do something truly stupid. You sit in a traffic jam yelling at other drivers and where does it get you? You read about Kevin McCarthy online and in your fury you hurl your laptop out the window and how does this change anything? (I didn’t do that, only considered it.)

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The Band Played On (Nov 26, 2022)

I’ll always remember the day I planned
Thanksgiving with the Coffee Club Band
Heather was there, Rich, Christine and Rob
The horns and reeds signed up for the job
They ate the turkey down to the bone
Drank every bottle of Cote du Rhone
They stayed for pie and wouldn’t go away
Got out their instruments and started to play
I cleared my throat, I said, “Well, it’s late,”
I said, “Thanks for coming, it sure was great.”
I cleared the table and I swept the floor
I turned out the lights and I opened the door
And I pointed to the sidewalk and the lawn
And the band played on.

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Why I am in Minnesota, if you wish to know

We came back to Minneapolis to see snow on the ground, there being none in Manhattan yet, and to drive around the old neighborhood where I lived when I was broke. It was 1969, I’d quit a comfy job at the U so I could write a novel and become famous. I had an infant son and he and my wife and I lived there for several months, then the money ran out. She suggested we live in her parents’ basement and instead I applied for an early-morning shift at KSJR at St. John’s University and Mr. Kling hired me. I was the only applicant, I discovered later. That shift led to “A Prairie Home Companion” and forty-two years of amusing myself on radio. So when I drive by that house, I see an enormous canyon between what might have happened and what actually did, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

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A night at the opera, she and I

My sweetie and I went to the opera “Fedora” at the Met last Saturday — she loves opera and I love her so it was a deal, though she blanched at the price of tickets — “We could fly back to Minnesota for the price of two seats on the main floor,” she exclaimed. “But the flight attendants wouldn’t be singing,” I said. “And if they did, we’d want them to stop. Hang the expense.”

So we went. I was proud of ordering the seats on my cellphone and saving them in email, a first for me. I’ve always used paper ducats. I am 80. I am one of the 2 percent of Americans who know what the word “ducat” means. (It’s pronounced “duck it,” my children, in case you’re curious.) So it was exciting crossing the plaza of Lincoln Center, cellphone in hand, wondering as we entered the opera house if, when I clicked on my email, the ticket code would appear or would we be thrown bodily out onto the street.

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GUY NOIR – St. Louis

HM (SING): The winter solstice is one week away
And here he sits in Jimmy’s bar,
Wondering where he should spend Christmas Day,
It’s him……Guy Noir.

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Father Time advises a brown-eyed girl

I had a good conversation Saturday with a college student named Emily, a rare pleasure for an old man like me, most of my social life is spent with geriatrics eager to talk about their most recent hip replacement, but Emily talked about her ambition to go to law school and to devote herself to the issue of prison reform.

A bright articulate idealist from a good family who entertains noble ambitions that nobody in my age group would consider for two minutes; we’re done with nobility ¬¬¬— when we were her age we sang that deep in our hearts we believed that we would overcome, but instead we got good jobs and hung out with cool people and were overcome by piles of stuff we couldn’t bear to part with and now we just hope not to fall down in the street and bang our noggin against a curb and lie there gaga and be hauled away by EMTs who’ll never realize what an illustrious person we used to be and not this gibbering mess on the gurney. And we’re hoping to get a decent obit even though our illustriousness ended when most obit writers were in the third grade. The surest way to get a great obit is to be in the arts and die before 40 and it’s too late for that.

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If you are hosting a show with Garrison, please feel free to use the below press photos for marketing, as well as the below short biography. Promo video for purpose of booking is available here.

Garrison Keillor did “A Prairie Home Companion” for forty years, wrote fiction and comedy, invented a town called Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, even though he himself grew up evangelical in a small separatist flock where all the children expected the imminent end of the world. He’s busy in retirement, having written a memoir and a book of limericks and is at work on a musical and a Lake Wobegon screenplay, and he continues to do “The Writers Almanac” sent out daily to Internet subscribers (free). 

He and his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson live in Minneapolis, not far from the YMCA where he was sent for swimming lessons at age 12 after his cousin drowned, and he skipped the lessons and went to the public library instead and to a radio studio to watch a noontime show with singers and a band. Thus, our course in life is set. 

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