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
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
THE HOT DOG FACTORY (1937)
By Grace Cavalieri
Of course now children take it for granted but once
we watched boxes on a conveyor belt, sliding by,
magically filled and closed, packed and wrapped.
We couldn’t get enough of it, running alongside the machine.
In kindergarten Miss Haynes walked our class down
Stuyvesant Avenue, then up Prospect Street
to the hot dog factory the girls got to go
as the boys were too wild.
We stood in line, wiggling with excitement as the man
talked about how they made hot dogs, then he handed us
one, and Jan dropped hers, so I broke mine in half.
This was the happiest day of our lives,
children whose mothers didn’t drive, and had nowhere
to go but school and home, to be taken to that street
to watch the glittering steel and shining rubber belts moving,
moving meats, readymade. I wish I could talk with Jan,
recalling the miracle and thrill of the hot dog factory,
when she was alive, before it all stopped—
bright lights, glistening motors, spinning wheels.
Today is the birthday of American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (books by this author) (1896), best known for novels like The Great Gatsby (1925) and Tender is the Night (1934), which came to epitomize the Jazz Age and “The Lost Generation.” He was only 44 years old when died, and no longer writing. He’d fallen sway to alcoholism and despair, and in one of his final interviews, he lamented:
“A writer like me must have an utter confidence, an utter faith in his star. It’s an almost mystical feeling, a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me. Thomas Wolfe has it. Ernest Hemingway has it. I once had it. But through a series of blows, many of them my own fault, something happened to that sense of immunity and I lost my grip.”
He was born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald in St. Paul, Minnesota, named after the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a distant relative of his mother’s. He was good-looking and stocky and by the time he went to Princeton (1913), he’d already decided on a career as a writer of musical comedies, spending most of his first year writing an operetta and neglecting his studies. He dropped out of Princeton after three years to join the Army and, while stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, he met a tempestuous young woman named Zelda Sayre and fell madly in love. She wouldn’t marry him if he wasn’t successful, though, so every Saturday he went to the Officer’s Club and, he said, “in a room full of smoke, conversation, and rattling newspapers,” pounded out a 120,000-word novel he called The Romantic Egoist. One publisher said it was the best thing he’d seen in years but wouldn’t publish it.
In New York City he worked for advertising agencies, coining slogans like “We keep you clean in Muscatine,” for a steam laundry in Iowa. His boss told him, “It’s perhaps a bit imaginative, but still it’s plain that there’s a future for you in this business. Pretty soon this office won’t be big enough to hold you.”
He begged editors of the seven city newspapers to give him a job, but he was turned down by every one. He fled back to his home in St. Paul, disgusted with himself, and quickly rewrote The Romantic Egoist for a third time. This time, retitled This Side of Paradise, it was published to great acclaim and sales. At 23 years old he became the youngest person ever published by Scribner’s and he married Zelda a month after his book was published.
Fitzgerald was a constant reviser and fond of keeping notebooks in which he separated ideas under three headings, “Feelings and emotions,” “Conversations and things overheard,” and “Descriptions of girls.” He liked using charts to keep track of his characters and timelines and abhorred talking about his books while he was writing them. He said, “I think it’s a pretty good rule not to tell what a thing is about until it’s finished. If you do, you always seem to lose some of it. It never quite belongs to you so much again.”
When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 Fitzgerald was 29 years old. The book received mixed reviews and suffered poor sales. By the time he was 44 and dying of alcoholism, the U.S. military, in an effort to raise morale among troops through reading, ordered 150,000 copies of the book. The soldiers loved the story of a young war veteran tragically achieving the American Dream. The Great Gatsby is now considered a masterpiece, selling a half million copies every year.
When an aspiring writer once wrote him a letter asking for advice, F. Scott Fitzgerald responded:
“You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn […] Literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®