- RADIO -

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Today is the birthday of poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) who said, "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

- Radio -

A Prairie Home Companion: October 31, 1998
This week's Halloween broadcast is from 1998 at the Fitzgerald with special guests Kate MacKenzie, Butch Thompson and The Chenille Sisters.

- WRITING -

That Time of Year: Chapter One
The story of how a shy Minnesota farm boy invented A Prairie Home Companion.

Read the first chapter of Garrison's memoir here

- PRESS -

Fall/Wtr 2021 performances
Carrollton, GA; Waynesboro, VA;High Point, NC; Ottumwa, IA; Joliet, IL; Holland, MI;Kent, OH

Click here for details
sign up for Garrison's newsletter here

The amazing grace of charismatic Piskies

I’ve been skipping the news about Senator Colon Gas of West Virginia lately and his objections to reducing greenhouse gases and I’ve been focused on the pleasures of being an old man, which includes the occasional steak-and-eggs breakfast. An old man must choose his vices carefully and I gave up smoking and drinking when the thrill was gone but if I were offered a Last Meal the night before I swing from the gallows, steak and eggs would be it and possibly (why not?) a glass of Pinot Noir, robust but subtle, moderate tannins, floral aroma, notes of cherry and plum with a slight rhubarb accent, otherwise a bottle of Grain Belt.

I am 79, and this year is a fine year and I’m not just whistling past the graveyard. I feel loose and free and jazzy and Sunday morning in church I fell apart, which is unusual for an old stoic, but the choir sang, “We shall walk through the valley in peace. We shall meet our loved ones there.” And then a jazzy “Amazing Grace” with Hammond organ, and at the end, our sins forgiven, we sang “I Am the Bread of Life” with Anglicans raising their arms up high like Pentecostals on the chorus (“And I shall raise them up”) and I got completely choked up and couldn’t sing, then “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and people clapping to it like Baptists. I come from fundamentalists who avoided rhythmic singing lest it lead to dancing but there was Mother Julie dancing like a cheerleader in the aisle, and I walked home, a pile of emotional rubble.

Someone had emailed me a newspaper article about me and I opened it and scrolled down to the Comments that followed. The old print newspapers had Letters To The Editor, which were signed and polite and the online Comments is a whole new venture of journalism, anonymous and open to malice. It’s like walking into a bar at 11 p.m. when the guys are well-liquored-up and you get to see human darkness up close. I read some real abuse about me, which people would never say face-to-face about my lifelong lechery and cruelty to coworkers and my fake amiability and how much they always hated my radio show, and I wasn’t offended, I was fascinated. I thought, “Why not? I’m only a name to them and a cliché. I went onstage willingly and offered myself to interpretation and fabrication, and these folks are having a good time despising a caricature and maybe they’ll work off their cruelty here and then treat their children with kindness. Leave them be.” People walk up to me and talk about the bond they feel between us and the Comments people deserve to have their say.

We don’t see much outright anger in everyday life, a little honking and silent cursing, otherwise formality prevails, which makes right-wing talk radio so shocking, and there’s the reason my friends and I are so out of touch in our native land. Senator Colon Gas and Leader Kevin McCarthy represent those people who believe they’ve been cheated and put down and their rights stolen. They don’t live in my neighborhood so we’re not in contact. I live in New York, near Central Park, a little paradise where parents of small children have laid claim to large tracts of lawn and hills and dales and playgrounds and families promenade along walkways, pushing a stroller, a toddler or two hanging on, and no cruelty or vulgarity, no threatening behavior is tolerated.

You can blame the anger on a poor upbringing or listening to too much heavy metal or angry theology — over on the other side of town, preachers are telling the faithful that a secular liberal socialist cult is conspiring to steal their country, but I think the problem is simply separation. There is a serious lack of intermingling.

I do believe that if the angry Comments people and the dystopianites had joined us in church this morning and sung “Amazing Grace” and held their arms up to “And I shall raise them up” and clapped their hands to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” it would’ve warmed their hearts and we would’ve shaken hands afterward, maybe even embraced. If I get choked up, then the hardest heart would be moved. He will raise us up. We sang it and I believe it. We need to let our light shine.

How long, o Lord, how long? Just asking.

I am still processing the news that a pig’s kidney was successfully attached to a human and that an animal whose bacon Americans have been using to kill themselves may now be an instrument of healing. Pigs have provided heart valves for people and now kidneys are a possibility and who knows? Maybe knees and hearts and brain tissue.

Donor pigs, of course, would need to be treated with deference. An animal who saves your life you don’t keep in a pigpen and feed slop out of a trough. Donor pigs would live in comfortable condos with clean mud baths and be served individual meals on plates and would be transported aboard buses, not in livestock trucks. This goes without saying. A pig whose kidney might wind up in your body, you wouldn’t feed it on garbage.

I wouldn’t feel odd about having a pig organ put in me, other than the snout or jowls; I’m okay with the idea that parts of us are interchangeable. I am an animal, I know it. Beneath our thin veneer of spirituality and intellect, we are beasts. I’ve been in crowds of humans that exhibited herd behavior not unlike pigs — I think of the crowd at the Metropolitan Opera, pushing through the turnstiles, shoving aside the elderly (me) in their eagerness to witness the heterophobic violence onstage. Nobody has pointed this out before but it’s always an opposite-sex lover who gets stabbed or poisoned, gay men seem to enjoy this, but never mind.

I, of course, know people who have close emotional relationships with dogs. They don’t talk to me about it because I’m not a dog person but I can see it. Some of them sleep with their dogs. I’m sure there are intimate conversations that take place in private. I also know people who imagine they have an emotional relationship with a cat but the cat knows better. I never formed those friendships because my dad was a farmboy and our dog Cappy was an outdoor dog whose job it was to keep foxes from eating the chickens and raccoons out of the sweet corn. He slept in the garage.

Dogs had jobs back then. Lassie rescued small children from quicksand. Rin Tin Tin was part of the war effort. My aunt had a little poodle, basically a pillow who pooped, and Dad knew that she slept with the dog and to him this was a shameful thing, not to be spoken of.

Cappy guarded the garden against raccoons, but now there are leash laws passed so kids won’t be scared of dogs. In my day, a kid learned to handle a strange dog by making eye contact and keeping a hand in your pocket as if you might be armed, but now, thanks to leash laws, raccoons feast on backyard gardens and we buy tomatoes from Yucatán for a dollar apiece that are two weeks old and we’ve lost the pleasure of the homegrown tomato, which, to me as a boy, was evidence of a loving God, but never mind.

The pig research, and other medical advances, are motivated by the urge toward longevity that my generation feels keenly, a desire to venture into the 90s. My grandfathers died at age 73, which probably seemed long enough to them, life being less of a picnic in the early 20th, but my confreres, whom I saw at a class reunion in September, seem rather immature compared to how old people used to be and are eager to see more of the world and if some pig parts would facilitate that, my friends would be agreeable. And the way they shoved into the food line makes me wonder if they’ve had some kidney work done.

To me, the 90s are foreign territory, like going to Eritrea. I never met an Eritrean, I know nothing about the place. My cousin Stanley has just turned 90 and he left a message on voice mail the other day and sounded cheerful and in possession of his faculties and said he and Gloria have been out and about, so I’m considering longevity but I don’t care to be a burden and if I get old and cranky and start repeating myself, I will take the Long Walk Across the Frozen Wastes to disappear in the Aurora Borealis if I should start repeating myself unlike my cousin Stanley. He has turned 90. He left me a voice mail message the other day. He and Gloria are fine.

Got the autumn blues, put on my walking shoes

I love October and I hate to see it pass so quickly. My love and I ate dinner outdoors last Friday and it felt like the Last Time and as an old man I find Lasts rather painful. I rode the Amtrak into New York from Boston, with that delicious flight in Queens as the train descends toward the tunnel to Manhattan and we’re skimming the housetops like Clark Kent in pursuit of evil gangsters, and I thought, “When will I get to do this again?” and it pained me.

It pains me to see the wave of puritanism in the arts, arts organizations competing to see who can write the most militant mission statements declaring their dedication to Equality and Inclusivity and Anti-Elitism, which tells me clearly that the end is near. Art is elitist because some people are better singers than almost anyone else and some plays astonish and others only fill the time, and if equality is now the goal, then where do we go to experience the extraordinary? Art then becomes ideology, and for astonishment we must wait for the next blizzard or thunderstorm. A Manhattan thunderstorm is worth waiting for, but still.

We have a long haul ahead of us, people. Children dressed up as malevolent beings for Halloween: is this a good thing? I doubt it. November is a miserable month, with elections at which old people will outvote the young and timid school boards will be elected who’ll cut out any remaining art or music education and require history teachers to offer opposing points of view as to the legitimacy of the 2020 election. November ushers us into a season of colorlessness and Thanksgiving, an awkward day when people who don’t like each other anymore sit down and practice politeness, a day that reminds us why “turkey” is a synonym for Flop. Anything you do to turkey is an improvement: stuff it with jellybeans, pour brandy on it and light it on fire — better yet, put some cherry bombs in it and blow it up.

November is a hard month, and then comes the typhoon of commercial Christmas joy that makes the day itself such a letdown, after all the ecstatic families in Best Buy commercials you have to face your own grumpy brood. And then New Year’s Eve and the champagne doesn’t sparkle as it used to, and everyone’s older and the talk at the party is all about health insurance, and then a flood of football games, after which everyone feels concussed, then it’s January and February comes along, which is more or less like moving to Nebraska.

This is why we need to enjoy what little is left of this gorgeous month of October. The cure for the blues, as we all know, is to get outdoors and walk around and pay attention to the world. I prefer city scenes since I flunked biology and don’t know the names of trees or birds or rock formations, but I can read signs and sense the stories of people passing by. I walk along a busy street through the surge of pedestrianism and if a bus pulls up to a bus stop as I approach, I board it, no matter where it’s going, and it feels like destiny — everything I did today was perfectly timed so I’d be there when the bus stopped — and this makes everything magical when I get off — everything was meant to be seen by me — the street preacher shouting something from First Corinthians — the boys weaving around in skateboards — the string quartet playing Mozart on the corner by the coffeeshop — and a dog runs barking and a flock of pigeons rises up, the whooshing of wings.

And one day, unintentionally, simply because it was there, I walked up the steps into a library and a room of long tables with green study lamps and young people studying math and writing term papers on their laptops, no chatter, no video games, all business, the children of cabdrivers and cleaning ladies and the ladies at the nail salon. It was a sacred place, the children redeeming the loving sacrifices of the saints, climbing the steep slope to be lawyers and doctors, and in that room, I felt I’d come to the very heart of the city, what it’s all about. Look no further. The future is in this room, studying. There is hope, plenty of it.

Don't know what's wrong, but it's okay

I am enjoying being an old man and I wonder why I didn’t get here sooner. There are benefits to being 79 that I would’ve appreciated in my late thirties. I look at the stories on the front page of the paper and I think, “Not My Problem” and the latest NMP is the shortage of goods due to shipping backlogs, freighters lined up for miles waiting to unload, docks piled high with containers, factory production slowed due to lack of parts coming from China, building projects halted, dire situations, workers idle, confusion, dismay — and here we sit, Madame and I, with the opposite problem, too much stuff, need to give it away.

We have about twenty big dinner plates and twenty small plates and when was the last time we sat eighteen guests down to dinner in this little apartment? Not since Jesus was in the third grade. I have eight suits in my closet: when did I last get dressed up? The number of unread books on our shelves would sink a pontoon boat. And why the whiskey glasses? Nobody in this household drinks whiskey. Neither do our guests, they’re all left-wing liberals and whiskey, in case you didn’t know it, has become politicized and is now reserved for patriots who are out to Stop The Steal. I wish they’d steal our whiskey glasses.

Two trillionaires, Bezos and Musk, are trying to fly into outer space but you can get away from Earth quite cheaply simply by heading for 80 and 85 when a person starts to feel himself floating in the clouds, unconcerned with so much of what’s going on, such as those hundreds of cars moving at 5 mph down the distant freeway at 7:30 a.m., honking, angry — what is going on with those people? What’s all the fuss about?

The controversy in Nashville over the need for country music to create spaces of healing and equity for people of all identities and to fight oppression of minority points of view, which sprang up after the first nonbinary musicians were featured on the Grand Ole Opry, was interesting but Not My Problem. I love the songs I love and for me country music hit a peak with Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin On Your Mind),” which was Loretta’s statement of empowerment and anti-oppression in hopes of changing lives and challenging patterns of discrimination so as to bring about evolution of behavior and clearly stating a moral imperative in order to liberate herself from systems of oppression to bring about a sense of authentic belonging and promoting values of mutual respect as an effective tool for social justice rather than perpetuate a structure of male privilege in daily life and mitigate its effects.

The two nonbinary singers, Morgan Newton and Oliver Penn, are demanding that Nashville issue a mission statement pledging to engage in anti-oppressive and inclusivistic musical storytelling that fights intolerance and cultural appropriation, but the way to change the world isn’t to demand change, it’s to write a terrific song as Loretta did. They say that Waylon Jennings’s “Rainy Day Woman” tolerates a structure of male privilege, and maybe it does, but it’s a great song. You disagree, then go write a better one. The Beatles’ first big hit, “Please Please Me,” was exclusionary and disempowering and built on a structure of exploitation, but their harmonies on the line “Come on, come on, come on, come on” made the song irresistible. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” never considered whether the hand, which presumably belonged to a woman, wanted to be held and the line “And when I touch you I feel happy inside” doesn’t consider whether she (or them or it) feels happy inside. You might be offended by the male privilege that’s made all too clear but the song kept running through your head, including the falsetto “OOOOO” and that’s the power of it.

Anyway, it’s an unjust and inequal and often oppressive world out there, and mission statements come flying like autumn leaves, and nonbinary and non-triplicate and quasi-quadrennials struggle for their share of the sunlight, and in Norway people are killing each other with bow and arrow, and the anger of those drivers on the freeway is almost palpable, and I feel some sympathy for all of the troubled, but only some, not a vast amount. I’m 79 and it’s Not My Problem, people. My problem is this computer, which has a bad habit of suddenly going blank and I’ve taken it to be fixed and they told me confiden

A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Humor Love & Comedy Tour Old Friends Poetry Prairie Home Christmas Show Solo Songs Stories The Gratitude Tour
Schedule

November 4, 2021

Thursday

12:00 p.m.

Carrollton Cultural Arts Center (Lobby), Carrollton, GA

Carrollton, GA Luncheon

Garrison Keillor will join guests for a casual Luncheon in the Lobby of the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center, where he will talk about how it all began and where he thinks he is going. Tickets: $45

November 5, 2021

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Carrollton Cultural Arts Center, Carrollton, GA

Carrollton, GA

Garrison Keillor and the Hopefuls (Robin and Linda Williams) comes to the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $30 reserved/ $10 children

buy tickets

November 11, 2021

Thursday

7:00 PM

The Wayne Theatre, Waynesboro, VA

Waynesboro, VA

Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Robin & Linda Williams, Prudence Johnson with Dan Chouinard) comes to the Waynes Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. 7:00PM $55 reserved

buy tickets

November 12, 2021

Friday

7:30 p.m.

High Point Theatre, High Point, NC

High Point, NC

Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Robin & Linda Williams, Prudence Johnson with Dan Chouinard) comes to the High Point Theatre for an Evening of poetry, gospel, sing-alongs and the News from Lake Wobegon. Tickets $60-$40

buy tickets

December 10, 2021

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Bridge View Center, Ottumwa, IA

Ottumwa, IA

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.

December 11, 2021

Saturday

8:00 p.m.

Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet, IL

Joliet, IL

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.

December 12, 2021

Sunday

7:30 p.m.

Holland Civic Center, Holland, MI

Holland, MI

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.

March 4, 2022

Friday

8:00 p.m.

The Kent Stage, Kent, OH

Kent, OH

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

March 6, 2022

Sunday

7:30 p.m.

Virginia Theatre, Champaign, IL

Champaign, IL

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

Radio

To make a donation to support ongoing production of The Writer’s Almanac, please click here.

To sign up for the daily Writer’s Almanac e-newsletter, please click here.

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Today is the birthday of poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) who said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, October 26, 2021

On this day in 1900 Henry James gave writing advice to Edith Wharton, then a young novelist. “Be tethered in native pastures, even if it reduces [you] to a back-yard in New York.”

Read More
A Prairie Home Companion: October 31, 1998

A Prairie Home Companion: October 31, 1998

This week’s Halloween broadcast is from 1998 at the Fitzgerald with special guests Kate MacKenzie, Butch Thompson and The Chenille Sisters.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, October 25, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, October 25, 2021

Novelist Anne Tyler celebrates her 80th year today. She is author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “Breathing Lessons,” and “Longlist,” winner of the Man Booker Prize.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, October 24, 2021

“I’m not very good at praying, but what I experience when I’m writing a poem is close to prayer.” –Poet Denise Levertov, born this day in 1923.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, October 23, 2021

Today is the 60th birthday of author Laurie Halse Anderson who writes books for children and young adults on challenging topics. Books such as “Speak” and “Chains”.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, October 22, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, October 22, 2021

Today is the birthday of Doris Lessing, 1919. Lessing said “A writer falls in love with an idea and gets carried away…If you can imagine the sheer bloody pleasure of having an idea and taking it! It’s one of the great pleasures in my life.”

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, October 21, 2021

Today is the birthday of the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel (1833). Nobel, to prevent his legacy from being one of death, established the Nobel Prizes to celebrate humankind’s greatest achievements.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, October 20, 2021

“Reading a poem silently instead of saying a poem is like the difference between staring at sheet music and actually humming or playing the music on an instrument.” –Robert Pinsky (1940)

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, October 19, 2021

“I have always written what I wanted to write. I have never considered the audience for one second. … Before publication, I am a despot.”—Philip Pullman (1946)

Read More
Writing

The amazing grace of charismatic Piskies

I’ve been skipping the news about Senator Colon Gas of West Virginia lately and his objections to reducing greenhouse gases and I’ve been focused on the pleasures of being an old man, which includes the occasional steak-and-eggs breakfast. An old man must choose his vices carefully and I gave up smoking and drinking when the thrill was gone but if I were offered a Last Meal the night before I swing from the gallows, steak and eggs would be it and possibly (why not?) a glass of Pinot Noir, robust but subtle, moderate tannins, floral aroma, notes of cherry and plum with a slight rhubarb accent, otherwise a bottle of Grain Belt.

I am 79, and this year is a fine year and I’m not just whistling past the graveyard. I feel loose and free and jazzy and Sunday morning in church I fell apart, which is unusual for an old stoic, but the choir sang, “We shall walk through the valley in peace. We shall meet our loved ones there.” And then a jazzy “Amazing Grace” with Hammond organ, and at the end, our sins forgiven, we sang “I Am the Bread of Life” with Anglicans raising their arms up high like Pentecostals on the chorus (“And I shall raise them up”) and I got completely choked up and couldn’t sing, then “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and people clapping to it like Baptists. I come from fundamentalists who avoided rhythmic singing lest it lead to dancing but there was Mother Julie dancing like a cheerleader in the aisle, and I walked home, a pile of emotional rubble.

Read More

How long, o Lord, how long? Just asking

I am still processing the news that a pig’s kidney was successfully attached to a human and that an animal whose bacon Americans have been using to kill themselves may now be an instrument of healing. Pigs have provided heart valves for people and now kidneys are a possibility and who knows? Maybe knees and hearts and brain tissue.

Donor pigs, of course, would need to be treated with deference. An animal who saves your life you don’t keep in a pigpen and feed slop out of a trough. Donor pigs would live in comfortable condos with clean mud baths and be served individual meals on plates and would be transported aboard buses, not in livestock trucks. This goes without saying. A pig whose kidney might wind up in your body, you wouldn’t feed it on garbage.

Read More

Got the autumn blues, put on my walking shoes

 I love October and I hate to see it pass so quickly. My love and I ate dinner outdoors last Friday and it felt like the Last Time and as an old man I find Lasts rather painful. I rode the Amtrak into New York from Boston, with that delicious flight in Queens as the train descends toward the tunnel to Manhattan and we’re skimming the housetops like Clark Kent in pursuit of evil gangsters, and I thought, “When will I get to do this again?” and it pained me.

It pains me to see the wave of puritanism in the arts, arts organizations competing to see who can write the most militant mission statements declaring their dedication to Equality and Inclusivity and Anti-Elitism, which tells me clearly that the end is near. Art is elitist because some people are better singers than almost anyone else and some plays astonish and others only fill the time, and if equality is now the goal, then where do we go to experience the extraordinary? Art then becomes ideology, and for astonishment we must wait for the next blizzard or thunderstorm. A Manhattan thunderstorm is worth waiting for, but still.

Read More

Don’t know what’s wrong, but it’s okay

I am enjoying being an old man and I wonder why I didn’t get here sooner. There are benefits to being 79 that I would’ve appreciated in my late thirties. I look at the stories on the front page of the paper and I think, “Not My Problem” and the latest NMP is the shortage of goods due to shipping backlogs, freighters lined up for miles waiting to unload, docks piled high with containers, factory production slowed due to lack of parts coming from China, building projects halted, dire situations, workers idle, confusion, dismay — and here we sit, Madame and I, with the opposite problem, too much stuff, need to give it away.

We have about twenty big dinner plates and twenty small plates and when was the last time we sat eighteen guests down to dinner in this little apartment? Not since Jesus was in the third grade. I have eight suits in my closet: when did I last get dressed up? The number of unread books on our shelves would sink a pontoon boat. And why the whiskey glasses? Nobody in this household drinks whiskey. Neither do our guests, they’re all left-wing liberals and whiskey, in case you didn’t know it, has become politicized and is now reserved for patriots who are out to Stop The Steal. I wish they’d steal our whiskey glasses.

Read More

If you love your work, be sure not to finish it

 The life of a writer is a wild adventure you wouldn’t imagine simply by looking at the lonely figure in the black cloak sitting hunched in her/his niche in the cloister, scratching corrections onto the parchment with a feathered quill pen, but it’s true and someone really ought to write about this. At the moment, I am looking at a galley of a new book of mine as sent by a graphic designer named David and I am stunned by the elegance of it, which makes my own words seem almost of classical quality, which makes me want to revise the work to bring it up to the quality of the design, meanwhile my crew of overseers is firing off memos insisting the book be finished by Friday. This is what I’m up against: David’s graphic artistry has shown me how wonderful my work almost is while editors are banging on the door of my cell, threatening to withhold food until I turn the work over to them. It’s ugly.

The book is set in a small town in Minnesota and I feel that a good street fight, an insurrection of farmers versus townsfolk, with a lot of hacking and clubbing and shouting and cursing, would add some interest and maybe also a good gas explosion. I’ve written many novels and never put a major explosion in one and it’s appealing to me now, the chance to have people I dislike file into a building and then blow it up. Terrorists do this all the time, so why not novelists?

Read More

A few beams of light on our current situation

“Goodness gracious” was about as close as my mother came to actual profanity, that and “Oh fudge,” and now that our daily life is showered with profanity and obscenity, it is no more shocking than dog barks, whereas the words “Goodness gracious” still have (for me) a bite to them, and I can feel my mother’s dismay, which now I feel, hearing about the tidal wave of political narcissism opposed to the idea of social responsibility — Senator Graham was booed and harassed the other day by constituents when he suggested they consider getting vaccinated against COVID — people who deny that the state has a right to mandate vaccination or mask-wearing as a public health measure or enforce speed limits or restrain the sale of weapons meant for combat or the responsibility of parents to send their kids to school, and weird ideas that are being preached from pulpits by ministers who don’t realize that their own people are dying of COVID and in marginal states the plague may be delivering the 2022 elections to us socialists. To raging narcissism, I say, “Oh fudge.”

Read More

Lonely guy seeks old café and three buddies

I am an orphan, which is not so unusual for a man of 79, and like everyone else I know, I work out of my own home and at the moment I’m sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of Cheerios beside the laptop and a cup of coffee (black). I have no office anymore. I’ve had offices, not cubicles but offices with doors and a window, sometimes a credenza, since I was 22 years old. I miss them.

If someone opens a Museum of the American Office, I volunteer to be a docent and I’ll show them around the office of fifty years ago with the mimeograph machine, the manual typewriter, and the big telephone with the long curly cord that went into the wall. There was no copier, we used carbon paper. Someone knocked on the door and I hid my copy of Portnoy’s Complaint in the top drawer and a woman poked her head in and said, “The meeting is about to begin.”

That’s what I miss, the meeting. They were like little morality plays, in which people assumed allegorical roles, Dreamers, Realists, Satirists and Strategists, and the outcome was usually to maintain inertia but they were entertaining. I was a satirist in my early years and then suddenly I became the boss and I was surrounded by realists, and at the end of my office career, I became a dreamer and the two women employees listened and took turns being the assassin who points out the deadly reality so not much happened but I was okay with that. The pleasure was in the meeting itself.

Read More

On Tuesday it all came down at once

The world is turning wondrous again, maples and ash and goldenrod turning golden Van Gogh colors and I got into a weepy mood on Tuesday, which is unusual for me, a man with dry eyes, but I was overwhelmed by everything happening at once, thinking of an old friend and sweet singer who’d died, and on Tuesday a reunion of my Anoka high school class (1960), feeling kinship to old rivals and antagonists but now we’re all in the same boat, a sinking ship. The names of some of our dead were mentioned, including Henry Hill Jr., a star athlete and a good guy who enlisted in the Army and made first lieutenant and was killed in action in Quang Ngai province in 1968, leading his unit of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division.

The woman who spoke of Henry remembered a few lines of a song I wrote about him, “His picture’s on the piano in a silver frame and his family weeps if you speak his name. In ’68 he went off to the war and now he’s forever 24.”

Read More

Last night I went to sleep by my girl

My friend Lynn, a personal trainer, has given me a list of twelve useful exercises to strengthen the core muscles and improve the sense of balance and I’ve been thinking about doing them, meanwhile I’ve been concerned with other matters, such as which came first, the can or the can opener. This question has no relevance to my life or yours and yet — what is the relevance of relevance at this point in my life? I need questions to answer, otherwise I lie in bed at night with a song repeating in my head, such as “Please Please Me” or “When They Ring Those Golden Bells,” both of them infectious. So the question of can openers is how I spare myself from thinking “Last night I said these words to my girl.”

The answers to all of life’s questions are on the internet and this is why I don’t get out and walk. Things I might’ve had to walk to the library to find out are in my computer on my desk. So here I am. An English merchant named Peter Durand invented the can around 1800, which made it possible to preserve food aboard ships for long voyages. People used knives or other sharp instruments to open them until 1858 when the can opener was patented. This probably saved a great many sailors from stabbing themselves in the hand, which, in those primitive times, probably meant serious infections from bacteria on knives also used to gut fish and shuck oysters. Some galley crew, opening cans, probably lost a hand to a fish-borne disease and replaced it with a hook and thereby became pirates and wound up being hanged. Mothers grieved for them back in Yorkshire and Liverpool. Then the can opener came along and piracy went into decline, shiploads of immigrants sailed unmolested to our shores, the Industrial Age began, slaves were emancipated, the automobile was invented, radio came along, and the 20th century, without people having to jab holes in cylindrical containers.

Read More

The story of my life: revised version

I’ve bought many copies of Mary Oliver’s poems, Devotions, and on Friday I gave away the last so now I’m ordering more. I gave it to a friend whose description of brushing his dogs’ teeth reminded me of Oliver’s description of a grasshopper sitting in her hand and eating sugar, the jaws moving side to side, not up and down.

He said he uses a finger pad with bristles and a beef-flavored toothpaste and the dogs tolerate it well and the brushing spares them dental miseries so it made sense. Oliver carefully describes the grasshopper chewing and washing its face and flying away and then —

Read More

Email sign-up:

Sign up for the Garrison Keillor & Friends email newsletter here >>>

Sign up for the weekly A Prairie Home Companion email newsletter here >>>

Sign up for the daily The Writer’s Almanac email newsletter here >>>


Submit to The Writer’s Almanac:

We are not accepting new poetry at this time. For questions, please contact twa @ garrisonkeillor.com


ShopGarrisonKeillor.com Questions 

For questions related to items you have ordered from our store, please contact orders @ garrisonkeillor.com


Get In Touch
Send Message

Press Kit

If you are hosting a show with Garrison, please feel free to use the below press photos for marketing, as well as the below short biography. Promo video for purpose of booking is available here.

Garrison Keillor did “A Prairie Home Companion” for forty years, wrote fiction and comedy, invented a town called Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, even though he himself grew up evangelical in a small separatist flock where all the children expected the imminent end of the world. He’s busy in retirement, having written a memoir and a book of limericks and is at work on a musical and a Lake Wobegon screenplay, and he continues to do “The Writers Almanac” sent out daily to Internet subscribers (free). 

He and his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson live in Minneapolis, not far from the YMCA where he was sent for swimming lessons at age 12 after his cousin drowned, and he skipped the lessons and went to the public library instead and to a radio studio to watch a noontime show with singers and a band. Thus, our course in life is set. 

Recent reviews:

“Fans laughed, applauded and sang along throughout Sunday night’s two-hour show” -Jeff Baenen, AP News

“His shows can, for a couple of hours, transform an audience of even so-called coastal elites into a small-town community with an intimacy only radio and its podcast descendants can achieve” -Chris Barton, LA Times

“[Keillor is] an expert at making you feel at home with his low-key, familiar style. Comfortable is his specialty.” -Betsie Freeman, Omaha-World Herald

To shop merchandise related to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Writer’s Almanac, visit our new online store >>>

To make a donation to The Writer’s Almanac, click here >>>Won

           Lake Wobegon virus cover.

 

           .