Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on YouTube!

Pre-Plague London

The Bed

Kierkegaard, Potter, Keillor, and Frost

If I Could Fly on TWA

When I Was Broke

GK Reads JP

https://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-march-30-2021/

Tulips for Elsie

Source: The Writer’s Almanac, 2/1/21

See Also: Dappled Things, Pentecost 2012

“Self-Portrait with Wife” on YouTube

The Keillor Treatment

Reruns

Rerun of a poem from House of Words and Mary Karrs birthday featured today on the rehabilitated Writer’s Almanac.

The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, January 16, 2021

Status report

So much for Alphonse. First time as tragedy, second time as farce.

So. What’s everybody working on?

Uncle Walt Wrote a Novel!

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Who knew the multitudinous poet had it in him?

Apparently a grad student named Turpin did.

And apparently everyone does…now.

As noted in the New York Times, Whitman once wrote in 1882, “My serious wish were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp’d in oblivion.” Later, when he heard someone was interested in publishing his past fiction, he said, “I should almost be tempted to shoot him if I had an opportunity.”

Clearly, Whitman hadn’t expected Turpin…

“I have no talent.”

greene

It’s the birthday of novelist Graham Greene (books by this author), born in Berkhamsted, England (1904). He described the citizens of his hometown as “slitty eyed and devious,” and he had an unhappy childhood. He came from a prominent local family, and his father was the headmaster of his school, where Greene was bullied and attempted suicide several times. At the age of 16, he tried running away. His parents sent him to London to be treated by a psychoanalyst, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed. He decided that his biggest problem was boredom, and he began playing Russian roulette.

He went on to Oxford, where he published his first book, a book of poetry called Babbling April (1925). It was a flop. He got a job as a copywriter for The Times of London and spent years working as a journalist. He said, “A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.”

Greene was an obsessive traveler. At Oxford, he offered his services to the German government as a propagandist if they would pay his expenses to travel in France. During World War II, he joined MI6, the British Intelligence Service, and was posted to Sierra Leone. He visited Prague during the Communist takeover, Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising, Haiti under the reign of brutal dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and covered the Vietnam War and the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He wrote 24 novels, many of them set in the places he had visited. He said: “I travel because I have to see the scene. I can’t imagine it.”

His first big success was Stamboul Train (1932), published as Orient Express in America. It is set onboard the Orient Express headed to Istanbul, and follows the fate of the passengers, including a Jewish businessman, an exiled Socialist doctor, a lesbian journalist, a chorus girl, and a murderer. Greene said: “In Stamboul Train for the first and last time in my life I deliberately set out to write a book to please, one which with luck might be made into a film. The devil looks after his own and I succeeded in both aims.”

Greene wrote The Heart of the Matter (1948) about an English colonial policeman stationed in Sierra Leone. He is passed over for a promotion, his marriage is failing, his love affair makes him feel guilty for betraying his Catholicism, and a local diamond smuggler constantly manipulates him. Greene described his main character, Scobie, as “a weak man with good intentions doomed by his big sense of pity.”

The Comedians (1966) was set in Haiti under Papa Doc’s rule, narrated by a hotel owner named Brown. The novel upset Papa Doc so much that he published a pamphlet accusing Greene of being “a liar, a cretin, a stool-pigeon … unbalanced, sadistic, perverted … a perfect ignoramus … lying to his heart’s content … the shame of proud and noble England.”

A Burnt-Out Case (1960) was the story of a depressed architect who traveled to a Congolese leper colony.

Greene said, “I have no talent; it’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.”

From The Writer’s Almanac

It’s also the birthday of Wallace Stevens.

Hermeneutics of Hygiene: A Squeeze of the Hand-sanitizer

moby dick wash

My Email to Garrison Keillor re. Walker Percy

Dear Mr. Keillor,

You and Walker Percy both occupy honored places in my personal constellation of literary stars.

That’s why I was shocked and disappointed by your treatment of Dr. Percy in the May 28, 2014 edition of The Writer’s Almanac. Percy never worked as a psychiatrist. In fact, although he was an M.D., he never really practiced medicine. He contracted tuberculosis while conducting autopsies during a residency in pathology at the end of medical school.

And that synopsis of The Moviegoer (which thankfully only appears in the printed version of TWA) is just as horribly askew. Binx Bolling is a stockbroker who goes to the movies but “in an attempt to get over a nervous breakdown” reeks of having been pulled out of someone’s ass who never read the book and doesn’t really care.

I’m not sure I can trust what you say on TWA anymore.

Maybe what you need is a crusty old librarian who cares about real facts and knows how to dig into reliable sources. Coincidentally, I am just such a librarian (and poor starving poet to boot, having earned $100 from TWA, thank you very much, and about $3.95 in royalties since publishing my book). I would be interested in supplementing my meager poet-librarian’s salary, if you’re hiring.

I didn’t start off this email thinking it would turn into a job application, but the spirit surprises us sometimes.

Let me know what you think. In any case, I’m looking forward to what you come up with for Walker Percy the next time his birthday comes round.

All the best,
Jonathan Potter
Spokane WA

When You’re a Poet, You’ve Got to Not Know It

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It’s the birthday of Israeli poet and novelist Yehuda Amichai (books by this author), born Ludwig Pfeuffer in Würzburg, Germany, in 1924. He moved to Palestine in 1936 and later became an Israeli citizen. He had a childhood friend in Germany, Ruth Hanover, who died in a concentration camp in 1944. She sometimes appears in his poems as “Little Ruth,” and he calls her his “Anne Frank.”

He was one of the first poets to write in colloquial Hebrew, and he sometimes used an archaic word rather than its modern equivalent, and this gave another, biblical layer of meaning to his poems that is unfortunately lost in translation. He told the Paris Review in 1989: “I’d been raised in a very Orthodox home and the language of the prayers and the Bible were part of my natural language. I juxtaposed this language against the modern Hebrew language, which suddenly had to become an everyday language after having been a language of prayers and synagogue for two thousand years.”

He said: “I think when you’re a poet you have to forget you’re a poet — a real poet doesn’t draw attention to the fact he’s a poet. The reason a poet is a poet is to write poems, not to advertise himself as a poet.”

From today’s Writer’s Almanac.

See also.

“Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it …”

heller-1961

It’s the birthday of the man who asked, “What does a sane man do in an insane society?”: American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright Joseph Heller (books by this author), born in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. He didn’t begin any story until he had the first and last lines in his head, and the idea for Catch-22 came about after he thought of an opening: “It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, ‘Someone’ fell madly in love with him.” He didn’t have the character’s name — Yossarian — yet, but the story began to unspool from that first line. “It got me so excited,” Heller wrote in the Paris Review, “that I did what the cliché says you’re supposed to do: I jumped out of bed and paced the floor. That morning I went to my job at the advertising agency and wrote out the first chapter in longhand. … One year later, after much planning, I began chapter two.”

His agent started sending Catch-22 — called Catch-18 at the time — to publishers in 1953, when Heller was about a third of the way through with it. Simon and Schuster paid him $750 up front, with another $750 to be paid upon completion. Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it in 1961. They changed Catch-18 to Catch-22 to avoid confusion with Leon Uris’s new book Mila 18, and the title has entered the lexicon as a description of an unsolvable logical dilemma, a vicious circle.

Heller published six other novels, three plays, a collection of short stories, and three screen adaptations. He died in 1999, shortly after finishing his last novel, Portrait of the Artist, as an Old Man.

From today’s Writer’s Almanac.

Fun fact: Catch-22 was a finalist for the 1962 National Book Award—along with The Moviegoer, which won it.

(“Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it….” Rally Korrektiv, rally!)

See also

Spokane’s Resident Poet

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the poet Vachel Lindsay (books by this author), born in Springfield, Illinois (1879). His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but he dropped out of medical school after three years and tried to make a living drawing pictures and writing poetry. After struggling for several years and working for a time in the toy department of Marshall Field’s, he decided to walk across the United States, trading his poems and pictures for food and shelter along the way. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as he thought it would be. He said, “No one cared for my pictures, no one cared for my verse, and I turned beggar in sheer desperation … [but] I was entirely prepared to die for my work, if necessary, by the side of the road, and was almost at the point of it at times.” In 1913, Poetry magazine published Lindsay’s poem “General William Booth Enters into Heaven,” and it was a big hit. He went on to write many collections of poetry for adults and children, including The Tree of the Laughing Bells (1905) and Every Soul Is a Circus (1929).

Vachel Lindsay lived in Spokane from 1924 to 1929.