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+
The New Song
by W. S. Merwin
For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song
“The New Song” from The Moon Before Morning by W. S. Merwin. Copyright © 2015 by W.S. Merwin, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of one of the great American journalists of the 20th century, A.J. [Abbott Joseph] Liebling, (books by this author) born in New York City (1904), a staff writer for The New Yorker who first made his name covering World War II. He ignored politics and combat strategy and just wrote about day-to-day life among the soldiers and the civilians. He later wrote of the war years: “The times were full of certainties: we could be certain we were right — and we were — and that certainty made us certain that anything we did was right, too. I have seldom been sure I was right since. … I know that it is socially acceptable to write about war as an unmitigated horror, but subjectively at least, it was not true, and you can feel its pull on men’s memories at the maudlin reunions of war divisions. They mourn for their dead, but also for war.”
Libeling went on to write about all kinds of things, but his three favorite subjects were food, journalism, and boxing. His co-workers said that they heard him laughing every day as he read over drafts of his own articles. He was known to stay up all night at the office, pounding away at the typewriter, and in the morning he’d give himself a half-shower in the office bathroom sink.
Many Liebling fans consider his masterpiece to be his book Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (1959). A.J. Liebling said, “Cynicism is often the shamefaced product of inexperience.”
It’s the birthday of Terry McMillan, (books by this author) born in Port Huron, Michigan (1951), who published her first novel, Mama, in 1987. And when the publisher declined to promote the book, McMillan set up her own nationwide reading tour at bookstores and colleges all across the country. She managed to sell out the entire first printing of her book before it was officially published. She’s since become one of the best-selling African American authors in history. Her novel Waiting to Exhale (1992) was one of the first novels to portray affluent African-Americans who don’t have to struggle against racism or poverty. It was turned into a movie in 1995. When asked why she’s so successful, McMillan said: “I don’t write about victims. They just bore me to death. I prefer to write about somebody who can pick themselves back up and get on with their lives.” Other works of hers include the bestselling novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996), which was adapted into a film in 1998, and Who Asked You? (2013).
Today is the birthday of playwright Wendy Wasserstein (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1950. She fell in love with theater at a young age, and used to go to Broadway plays every Saturday when she was growing up. She also got out of gym class by volunteering to write the musical revue for the high school mother-daughter luncheon, but she didn’t consider theater a serious career option. She went on to write a lot of successful off-Broadway plays while most of her friends and siblings got married and had children. She began to think a lot about what she’d sacrificed by devoting herself to theater instead of to family life, so she wrote a play about it: The Heidi Chronicles (1988), about a woman who has clung to her all her feminist ideals while all of her friends have given them up. It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. She became a single mother in 1999; her daughter, Lucy, who was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” was born three months premature, and Wasserstein chronicled her struggle in her collection of essays, Shiksa Goddess (2001). She died of lymphoma in 2006, and the lights on Broadway were dimmed in her honor.
She said, “The marriages come and go but your friendships stay, which is the opposite of what it used to be, so that there will be people in our lives for 30 years and often it is not your husband, it’s your women friends, male friends with whom you come of age.”
It’s the birthday of novelist Rick Moody (books by this author), born in New York City (1961). He had a privileged childhood in the Connecticut suburbs. He traces his passion for writing to his first experience with Hemingway: reading The Old Man and the Sea in sixth grade. “I probably liked the Hemingway novel because I was very interested in sharks. That was enough back then, the mere appearance in the story of sharks. Maybe I started writing just because I liked sharks. The really grisly ones. The kind that could bite a man in half.”
He went to an elite boarding school in New Hampshire, where he became enamored with short stories by John Cheever. But then his parents got divorced, and he started doing drugs, pretty much anything he could get his hands on. He rebelled against everything that he associated with his middle-class suburban upbringing, including John Cheever. He said, “The mention of Cheever and any of his ilk was enough to provoke in me tirades about conformism and hypocrisy and oppression.” Eventually, he changed his mind again about the famous short-story writer and decided that he admired him after all.
He had a breakdown when he was 25 years old, working on his first novel. He had too much cocaine and alcohol in his system and was experiencing frightening hallucinations, so he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. After he left, it took him six months before he could write again because he was so used to drinking while he wrote. He eventually finished his novel, which he published in 1992 as Garden State, a story of lost 20-somethings in suburban New Jersey. He said that his breakdown is visible in the novel: “You can see that like a big fault line running through the book — the before and the after. I think it’s a truly dreadful book but it’s emotionally accessible and vulnerable and I admire that.” It was turned into a cult-favorite movie starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in 2004.
Some critics complained that Moody didn’t know enough about New Jersey or about working-class 20-somethings to write Garden State. So he wrote The Ice Storm (1994), about one Thanksgiving weekend in the life of two dysfunctional, privileged, suburban Connecticut families in 1973. His most recent book is Hotels of North America (2015).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®