A Keillor home companion
By STEVE PERSALL
Published May 18, 2006
Garrison Keillor speaks as he composes prose, a bit cockeyed yet firmly focused on heartland principles and life's tiniest pleasures, as you can hear on his radio show, which airs Saturdays and Sundays on WUSF-FM (89.7), and read in his column, which appears frequently on the St. Petersburg Times op-ed pages. These examples culled from the Web site for A Prairie Home Companion (www.prairiehome. publicradio.org) suggest the wit his Tampa audience will hear tonight.
- STEVE PERSALL
"The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.
"The biggest whiners are the writers who get prizes and fellowships for writing stuff that's painful to read, and so they accumulate long resumes and few readers and wind up teaching in universities where they inflict their gloomy pretensions on the young. Writers who write for a living don't complain about the difficulty of it. It does nothing for the reader to know you went through 14 drafts of a book, so why mention it?"
On Midwestern upward mobility:
"Here in the Midwest, we're brought up to act older and to be solemn little children, and serious young people. Many of us don't indulge in extravagances (vacations, impractical cars, haircuts that cost more than $10) until our late thirties and early forties. Having been middle-aged for most of the first half of our life, we start thinking about maybe sowing some of the wild oats we've kept in the granary.
"Of course, it's hard to be wholly foolish knowing as much Scripture as we do, but sometimes in a particularly warm spring, we achieve a breakthrough and trade in the van on a red MG convertible, have our hair bleached and our foreheads botoxed, take dancing lessons, buy the powder-blue tuxedo, look at beachfront property on Antigua, and switch from beer to Campari. Our friends are embarrassed for us. We disappear for six months and return, chastened, and take a back pew in church."
On President Bush:
"These are troubling times for all of us who love this country, as surely we all do, even the satirists. You may poke fun at your mother, but if she is belittled by others it burns your bacon. A blowhard French journalist writes a book about America that is full of arrogant stupidity, and you want to let the air out of him and mail him home flat.
"You hear young people talk about America as if it's all over, and you trust that this is only them talking tough. And then you read the paper and realize the country is led by a man who isn't paying attention, and you hope that somebody will poke him. Or put a sign on his desk that says, 'Try Much Harder.' "
On losing weight:
"How shall I find the strength? Through the power of self-righteousness, that's how. I will sit with my celery consomme and undressed salad of bitter greens and look across the table at your gazelle au jus and think, 'I used to be a helpless glutton like these pitiful idiots and thank you, Lord, for lifting my feet from the miry clay and pointing me to the heights that I currently occupy.'
"Pure, airtight self-righteousness is a powerful engine. There is a bony, blue-nosed, bullet-eyed Puritan inside each one of us, and I intend to find mine and put him to work."
On the occasional pleasure of cellular telephones:
"I woke up this morning with the blues and felt like laying my head on some lonesome railroad line and let that 8:19 ease my troubled mind. But the 8:19 doesn't run anymore, so instead I lay my head against a cell phone and talked to Mona, and we chatted about the old days, back when there were cabooses and hitchhikers and front porches and cars had engines you could tinker with and the songs on the radio were songs we loved to sing and men wore hats and looked classy in them and people were less snobby because they'd been through the Depression and gradually I felt reassured about my place in the natural order, like a goose in the left wing of a V hearing my fellows honking fore and aft as we skim over the treetops, flapping with one wing, holding a cell phone with the other.''