A Portrait of Garrison Keillor

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It is so hard to imagine life without Lake Wobegone or all the

assundry characters that Garrison Keillor created with his wild

and interesting imagination. He was born in August, 1942, in

Anoka, Minnesota. His dream was to be a ‘poet and a genius.’

Garrison Keillor is best known for his radio show and many

books written.

In Garrison’s plainly written words in the book, “The Keillor

Reader,” (2014, Viking Books, part of Penguin Group) you find

yourself looking up to him. You feel that he has wisdom to

impart. I think that Garrison could be considered a ‘feel good’

author! Listening to his stories can make you wish for the

‘good old days,’ where life was simpler.

While he describes the townspeople of Lake Wobegon,

“I invented a town where the women are strong, the men are

good-looking and the children are all above-average.”

In July, 2014, “A Prairie Home Companion” will celebrate its Forty

Years’ Anniversary!

This iconic Minnesota Public Radio Show caught my attention a long

time ago, when I heard it playing on our local public broadcasting

channel.

His program has been syndicated and listened to by people, around

the world!

Have you ever sat, with possibly your eyes closed, as I happen to

choose to do, and listened to Garrison Keillor?

I like to picture the various places in his town, with their clever

names like “Bertha’s Kitty Boutique,” “The Chatterbox Café,”

“The Sidetrack Tap (the local tavern), “Skoglund’s Five & Dime,”

and “Bunsen Motors.”

Garrison’s fine voice, with its unusual dialect, distinguished

in his readings to us. His words kept my interest, about the

people in the town that once had only been a figment of his

imagination. They must have been rolling around, among his other

young, diverse thoughts, just waiting to escape and come to life!

When Garrison applied for the early morning shift, he had been

one of only a handful willing to get up daily at 4 a.m.

His wry, ascerbic wit and sometimes darker version of the world

were not acceptable to those who were on their way to work, ones

who may have needed a second cup of java to get them going.

So, out of this understanding of his audience, Garrison became

“Old Scout,” the narrator and observer of a small town.

I liked the movie, “A Prairie Home Companion,” (2006) which believe

it or not, included Lindsay Lohan, amongst a wonderful, comedic

ensemble group! The list of actors and actresses alone, made it

worth watching this “B+” movie! I cannot help listing the ones

who were part of Robert Altman’s cast of dreams. (By the way,

this was Altman’s last film that he directed. His list of many

accomplishments is incredible! He died later in November, 2006.)

Here’s the list of “Who’s Who” in the movie: Lily Tomlin, Meryl

Streep, Woody Harrelson, Maya Rudolph, John C. Reilly, Kevin

Kline, Garrison (himself) Keillor, Tommy Lee Jones and Robin

Williams with his wife, Linda. There is an interesting “angel”

character, played by Virginia Madsen. At the end, when the play

is closed down and the theater no longer exists, there is a

special scene… (I won’t “spoil” this, if you choose to rent

this from your local library.) I just want to say, the scene

in a diner, was rather “fortuitous.”

I love Garrison Keillor’s book, I recommend it and it would

be considered a memoir, with some facts about his life and

the phases he went through, growing old while being the one

who told the world about the town that had once lived in his

mind.

I like to make lists so here are some of the things I learned

from his autobiography, including some quotations from his 2014

book.

“Life Lessons I learned While Reading Garrison Keillor’s Most

Recent Book”~

1. Incorporate a sense of humor in your day!

Garrison mentions the contrast of his own morning persona

compared to what was acceptable to his listeners.

“Irony and a dark world-view are not useful in radio early

in the morning…”

2. Be cheerful and it will help others to be happy.

Garrison explains why he created his character,

“Old Scout, who rallied listeners to rise and shine and face the

day with a smile.”

He goes on, “It was a good persona and in time I came to believe

it myself.”

3. Be nice in your town to friends and neighbors.

The town he invented has pleasantries, helpful and kind people.

Garrison’s people are respectful, despite their quirky natures.

4. Work hard, ‘make up for lack of talent.’ and forge ahead.

Garrison tells his readers,

“Soon I was forty, which is too old to die young, so I forgot about

immortality and headed down the long dirt road of longevity.”

5. Parents are important. Remember to thank them!

Garrison realizes,

“It dawned on me that the cheerful radio host I invented was derived

from my parents’ example.”

6. It is good to enjoy what you have and realize things could be

worse.

Garrison describes his parents,

“They were children of the Great Depression, John and Grace. They

knew how to savor their life and not complain.”

7. Don’t complain about how your children lead their lives.

Garrison reveals,

“They (his parents) never complained about me though I know they

hoped I’d go into a more distinguished line of work.”

8. Find what you like to do and continue doing it!

Garrison likes his life and his stories with comedy relief.

“I like it, (his choice of profession) though. Comedy does

give good value. There are so many discouraging facts around

for example, half of all people are below average, and jokes

relieve some of the misery.”

9. Sometimes making up parables can be amusing.

Garrison’s humor shows in this example:

“The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor

riches to men of understanding, but time and chance happeneth

to them all.”

10. As you grow older, you truly believe ‘age is wisdom.’

Garrison says this example is the ‘essence of comedy’ in

25 words or less:

“You’re fast, you trip and fall down: you’re strong and you

poke your sword in your left foot; you’re smart and you go

broke.”

At age 72 this year, Garrison Keillor has reached an age that

his words ring with truth and wisdom, leading us on in our

creativity and encouraging us to keep trying to find our way.

When he came up with the town’s name of Lake Wobegon, I wonder

if he was thinking that it was “woe-be-gone.” Telling us to

leave our burdens and turmoils behind us.

These are the lessons I received from reading his book, “The

Keillor Reader.”

I felt so blessed to have had a chance to ‘visit’ for awhile

and ‘listen’ one more time to Garrison Keillor.

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18 responses »

  1. and what a wonderful and lighthearted approach to life he has, robin. i think this is why so many enjoy and can identify with him. thanks for the upbeat post about a man who brings joy to many )

  2. You know how to share your wonder and joy about life and people, Robin. Thank you as always. I have to admit, though, that I am not that clued in to the works of Mr. Garrison Keilor. I know I am missing something special …

    • It is rather iconic and ironic. I think you would find his stories a little too tame and yet, I like that he made this a way of life to many who listened to his stories. Reminders of times gone by… Thanks, Mark!

  3. I agree with Mark above!! Robin, I have a secret to confess. Shhh. Don’t let anybody know. I’ve never read Garrison Keillor!! I will have to make up for this defiiciency!

  4. I love Garrison Keillor, his writing and his Prairie Home Companion show. I love the continuing saga of Guy Noir, Private Eye, the latest folk tales from Lake Wobegon, the wonderful musicians on the live broadcast, and even the catchy commercials from The Catchup Advisory Board (“Catchup: for the good times”), Bee Boppa Ree Bop Rhubarb Pie, The American Duct Tape Council, and others. My favorite is “Powdermilk Biscuits”, whose slogan is: “Made from whole wheat raised in the rich bottomlands of the Lake Wobegon river valley by Norwegian bachelor farmers, so you know they’re not only good for you, but also pure, mostly, which give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Heavens, they’re tasty and expeditious.” (cracking myself up)

    This is one of the great pieces of Americana that will be so missed when Keillor can no longer take his show on the road. Here is to a long life lived well in which Garrison Keillor has brought much laughter and happiness to untold millions. He is the latter-day Will Rogers, and hopefully will always be appreciated as such. Great story, Robin! I love it. 🙂 – Mike

    • I love that you have also featured the wonderful advertisements during the broadcast, Mike! Wow! This really added another dimension to the post! I absolutely love the “Powdermilk Biscuits” slogan! It is so clever and I bet it made people think there was such a company that existed! That long ‘expeditious’ really must have made Garrison himself, ‘crack up,’ while he wrote and then, later read it!
      “He was the latter day Will Rogers,” that is a fine tribute to Garrison Keillor, Mike! Thank you so much for this whole comments section!

  5. This is a great post, Robin! I saw Garrison Keillor live probably 20+ years ago, he was incredible. I don’t know how his autobiography slipped past me, but after reading your takeaways, it’s certainly going on my list.
    Happy Friday!

    • I am so glad you had an opportunity to see Garrison K. live! Thank you for telling us about it and labeling it “incredible!” I bet that was very entertaining and am so interested in him, even more now. I think as we get older, we appreciate the wisdom given us by our ‘elders’ and am amazed he is still ‘working’ after age 70! Those years I would just be ‘basking in my glory’ if I were famous as he! Smiles, Robin

  6. One of the things we miss about not living in the US is not being able to stream Garrison’s show every week. It was a highlight for us. Tried to get tickets to one of his tapings some years ago and it was sold out so fast there was no chance. Maybe when we return I will give it another try. Thanks for the memories.

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