Saturday, August 11, 2007
Bill HolmBill Holm is an essayist and poet whose books include Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China Essays (for which he won a Minnesota Book Award); The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth; Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary; The Dead Get By with Everything; Box Elder Bug Variations, and his recent poetry collection, Playing the Black Piano. He teaches at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, and when the school year is over, he frequently spends his summers on the north coast of Iceland, about 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. The grandson of four Icelandic immigrants to Minnesota, Bill grew up listening to the old people speak their native tongue and tell stories of the stubborn stoicism and fierce independence of his ancestors. Bill calls his house in Iceland "The Windows of Brimnes," and he is currently writing a book and a collection of poems about his summers there. He is also working on a book about cabins for Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Frank McCourtAuthor Frank McCourt taught writing for 27 years at New York's Stuyvesant High School before leaving to write the book now known as Angela's Ashes. McCourt compares the life of an author with the life of a teacher by saying, "Twenty-seven years [of teaching] ... nobody paid me a scrap of atention. You write one book, boom, you're in the public eye." Angela's Ashes (Scribner), published in 1996, rapidly moved McCourt into the public eye. The memoir held a longtime slot on The New York Times bestseller list, received critical acclaim from critics across the globe, and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography. Angela's Ashes tells the story of McCourt's childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. A sequel, called 'Tis, is already in the works.
Calvin TrillinKansas City native Calvin Trillin, who has published solidly reported pieces in The New Yorker for 35 years, has been called "perhaps the finest reporter in America." Trillin, who now lives in New York, left Kansas City after high school, went to Yale, spent time in the Army, and then became a writer for Time magazine, later becoming a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. After 15 years of producing 3,000-word pieces every 3 weeks from somewhere in the U.S.—pieces about the murder of a farmer's wife in Iowa, or the definitive history of a Louisiana restaurant—he spent seven years as a columnist for The Nation, writing what USA Today called "simply the funniest regular column in journalism." The column was syndicated to newspapers for 9 years, and since 1990, Calvin has written a piece of comic verse weekly for The Nation. His many published books include collections of his columns, comic novels, short story collections, and antic books on eating. His latest book is called Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme, published last week.
Minnesota OperaA new opera, based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, made its world premiere on February 10th at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. It is a production of the Minnesota Opera. New York-based composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Michael Korie spent several years working on what the Minneapolis Star Tribune described as "a splendid, almost perfect production of an opera that is smart, funny, touching and harrowing, in all the right places." Cast members appearing on tonight's show are: Brian Leerhuber (Tom Joad), Deanne Meek (Ma Joad), Roger Honeywell (Casy, the "fallen" preacher), Peter Halverson (Pa Joad), Robert Orth (Uncle John), Jesse Blumberg (Connie), Andrew Wilkowske (Noah), Maeve Moynihan (Ruthie), Henry Bushnell (Winfield), Kelly Kaduce (Rosasharn Joad), and Joshua Kohn (Al Joad). The pianist is Bryan Lemke. "The Grapes of Wrath" is scheduled at the Utah Opera this spring and at Houston Grand Opera and Pittsburgh Opera in 2008.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).