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+
by Maxine Kumin
Before he died
Archduke Franz Ferdinand,
gunned down in Sarajevo
to jump-start World War I,
bragged he had shot three
thousand stags and a miscellany
of foxes, geese, wolves, and boars
driven toward him by beaters,
stout men he ordered to flush
creatures from their cover
into his sights, a tradition
the British aristocracy
carried on, further aped
by rich Americans
from Teddy R. to Ernest H.,
Court Justice Antonin
Scalia, pudgy son of Sicilian
immigrants, indulged in
when, years later, he had
scores of farm-raised birds
beaten from their cages and scared
up for him to shoot down
which brought him an inner joy.
to him when he was a boy?
“Game” by Maxine Kumin from Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. © W. W. Norton and Company. Reprinted with permission of Maxine W. Kumin Literary Trust. (buy now)
On this date in 1940, Polish soldier Witold Pilecki allowed himself to be captured by the Nazis. He was a captain in the Polish resistance, and he wanted to find out what was going on near the town of Auschwitz. His superior officers believed it was just a German camp for prisoners of war, but Pilecki suspected that something else was happening there. He hounded his commanders until they finally gave him the go-ahead to join a crowd of Polish citizens who were being rounded up by Nazi soldiers. Pilecki, who left behind a wife and two young children, was taken to Auschwitz along with the others, just as he’d planned. He was given a number — 4859 — and soon realized the true purpose of the camp.
Pilecki remained there for nearly three years, during which time he smuggled out detailed reports of the atrocities with the camp’s dirty laundry. His reports of gas chambers and ovens to dispose of human remains were so horrific that no one in the Polish underground believed him. And even though his reports made their way to the British and the Americans, suggesting ways to liberate the camp, still nothing was done. Meanwhile, he did what he could to arrange escapes for his fellow inmates.
Finally, in 1943, frustrated with the lack of action, Pilecki faked a case of typhus and escaped from the hospital. After the war, the Polish underground recruited him to spy on the country’s new occupiers, the Soviets. But he was captured by the Polish Communist regime and executed for espionage, in 1948. His story was suppressed until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
He grew up with The New Yorker: when he was five years old, his mother became the magazine’s very first fiction editor, and when she eventually left her husband and children a few years later, it was to marry the magazine’s now legendary essayist, E. B. White.
Angell stayed with his father, Ernest, a lawyer who later became head of the American Civil Liberties Union, but the boy followed the literary, rather than the legal, path. He published some stories and some personal narrative essays, and went to work for The New Yorker himself: first as a contributing writer in 1944 and later as fiction editor (1956). He’s still a senior editor at the magazine, and over the course of his career, he has edited the stories of John Updike, Donald Barthelme, and Vladimir Nabokov. He also contributes essays from time to time.
In 1962, he told editor William Shawn about baseball spring training; Shawn had never heard of it. He sent Angell to Florida on assignment, and Angell wrote about the young players on the field and the old folks in the stands. He said, “I wasn’t sure enough of myself to go into the press box or talk to the players.” It was the first time Angell wrote about baseball in a professional capacity, and it was the start of a lifelong association with the sport. “Sports writers weren’t supposed to be fans,” Angell later said. “I would write in the first person, about my own emotions, which you were not supposed to do.” But that suited Shawn just fine. Angell told New York Magazine: “People used to laugh at me because my World Series pieces came so late, sometimes after Thanksgiving. Shawn didn’t have a sense of deadline … Shawn thought, Everybody knows what the news is; now tell us something else about it.”
Roger Angell said about baseball: “It’s a great game for writers because it’s just the right pace. You can watch the game and keep score and look around and take notes. Now and then you even have time to have an idea, which in many sports you don’t have room for.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®