The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, January 3, 2021


Winter Is the Best Time
by David Budbill

Winter is the best time
to find out who you are.

Quiet, contemplation time,
away from the rushing world,

cold time, dark time, holed-up
pulled-in time and space

to see that inner landscape,
that place hidden and within.

 

David Budbill, “Winter Is the Best Time” from While We’ve Still Got Feet. © 2015 by David Budbill. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, coppercanyonpress.org (buy now)


Today is the birthday of women’s rights reformer Lucretia (Coffin) Mott, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1793. She went to public school in Boston for two years, and then, when she was 13, she enrolled in a Quaker boarding school near Poughkeepsie, New York. After two years there, she was hired on as an assistant, and then a teacher. She quit when she found out that she was being paid less than half of what the male teachers all made, simply because she was a woman; the experience sparked her first interest in women’s rights. In 1811, she married fellow teacher James Mott, and the newlyweds moved to Philadelphia. Ten years later, she became a minister in the Society of Friends, as the Quaker church was called, and she was a popular public speaker on matters of religion and social reform.

She was active in the abolitionist movement when she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton on a ship to London; both were on their way to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. They were attending as delegates, but found that the convention would not let them speak because they were women; they were even seated in a separate area, behind a curtain. The two women resolved then and there to organize a convention for women’s rights as soon as they returned home. It took eight years, but eventually they did: the Seneca Falls (New York) Convention of 1848.

Mott wrote, “The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.”


Herman Melville (books by this author), age 21, set sail aboard the whaling vessel Acushnet on this date in 1841 from the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, bound for the Pacific Ocean. Melville had no experience as a whaler, and not much as a seaman, either, although he’d sailed to Liverpool, England, and back during his few weeks as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. But he loved the sea, and he was eager to learn. Whaling was still big business in 1841; whale oil from blubber was the most widely available fuel for artificial lights, powering household lamps, streetlights, and even lighthouses. It was also one of the most popular lubricants, used in factory machines, sewing machines, and clocks.

Melville learned the ins and outs of whaling, helping to harpoon the whales, harvest them, and process their oil aboard the ship. He also listened to the tales his fellow whalers told, particularly of a legendary white sperm whale called Mocha Dick. Knickerbocker Magazine had described the whale in 1839: “this renowned monster, who had come off victorious in a hundred fights with his pursuers, an old bull whale, of prodigious size and strength. From the effect of age, or more probably from a freak of nature, … he was white as wool! … Numerous boats are known to have been shattered by his immense flukes, or ground to pieces in the crush of his powerful jaws.” Melville also met the son of Owen Chase, who had survived a whale attack on the Essex 21 years earlier, and he read Chase’s account. It gave him material for Moby-Dick, which begins, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”


It’s the birthday of the writer who created Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Gollum, and introduced millions of readers to a place called Middle-earth and a magical ring. J.R.R. Tolkien (1892) (books by this author), creator of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1955) trilogy, was born on this day in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the son of a banker and a former missionary.

His family moved to England when he was four and his mother taught him and brother at home. Tolkien was reading by four and learning the rudiments of Latin. His mother had an interest in botany and they roamed the English countryside, with Tolkien illustrating plants and trees. Two of his cousins, Mary and Marjorie, created a secret language called “Animalic.” Tolkien created a more complex one called “Nevbosh,” and later, another called “Naffarin.” Later in life, Tolkien recalled his love for Arthurian legends and said, “I desired dragons with profound desire.” His Aunt Jane had a farm named Bag End.

At 23, he fought with the Lancashire Fusiliers in World War I, he said, because “in those days chaps joined up or were scorned publically. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” He was wounded and not many of his friends lived. The battles Tolkien endured profoundly influenced his thoughts on the nature of good and evil, ideas he would explore in the saga of Middle-earth.

Tolkien became a professor of Language and Literature at Oxford. It was while paging through a student’s exam booklet that he came across a blank page and suddenly found himself scribbling, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” He started writing an episodic quest about a small, human-like creature with hairy feet named Bilbo, upon whom the fate of civilization rests. He called it The New Hobbit and showed it to his friend C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis mentioned the book to an editor friend of his, who passed it along to a publisher. The publisher’s 10-year-old son loved it and the book, The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again, complete with illustrations by Tolkien, was published to wide acclaim (1937). It sold out its first print run in six weeks. Tolkien was surprised by the book’s success. He said, “It’s not even very good for children.” The publisher asked for a sequel.

It took J.R.R. Tolkien either 14 or 17 years to write three books, tapping with two fingers in an attic, that came to be known as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Three volumes, The Fellowship of the RingThe Two Towers, and The Return of the King, were published from 1954 to 1955. They came with a 104-page appendix and detailed maps. Linguists praised his invention of the “Elvish” language, noting its consistent roots, sound laws, and inflexions. Critic Edmund Wilson was scornful of the books, though, calling the series, “A children’s book which has somehow gotten out of hand.”

People read much more into the books than Tolkien would admit to. He said: “I don’t like allegories. I never liked Hans Christian Andersen because I knew he was always getting at me.” Pirated paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings began appearing in America during the 1960s and the books, with their ideas about environmentalism and society, were quickly adopted by the counterculture movement. Fan clubs sprang up. College students tacked up posters of Middle-earth on dorm room walls.

Tolkien removed his phone number from the public directory; he was getting too many late-night night calls from readers asking if Frodo had completed his quest or if Balrogs had wings. The book inspired games like Dungeons and Dragons and Dragon Quest, and rock-and-roll bands like Led Zeppelin wrote songs like “Misty Mountain Hop” in homage to Middle-earth. Fans have composed poems using the Elvish language of Quenya, and the books have been made into plays, films, and video games. They have never gone out of print.

The Harvard Lampoon published a parody of The Lord of the Rings called Bored of the Rings (1958), in which Merry and Pippin were known as “Moxie” and “Pepsi.” The BBC ran a show called Hordes of Things (1980). There’s a film called Dork of the Rings (2006), and cartoonist Jeff Smith wrote a 1,500 page graphic novel called Bone inspired by his love of Tolkien’s books. He calls it “Bugs Bunny meets Lord of the Rings.”

About his compassionate, lazy, tiny Hobbits, J.R.R. Tolkien once said: “There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colors (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner which they have twice a day when they can get it).”

 

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

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A night outside, eating with friends

I admit that when I hear the word “impeachment” I think of fruit, and “censure” makes me think of dentures, which is a sign that I’ve been watching too much news: time for a break. How often can you look at the man with the tattooed pectorals and the horned helmet and what understanding do you gain from it? So you make the screen go dark and do other things.

The lady and I went to dinner with friends the other night and the four of us spent more than an hour making no reference to the riot at the Capitol, an entirely trumpless hour, which felt like a triumph. We ate outdoors under heat lamps on Broadway, opposite Lincoln Center, which is very very dark, and we didn’t talk about the virus either.

We talked about a baby named Charlie born in Atlanta a few days before and showed pictures of him, tightly swaddled. His mother is a mathematician married to a landscape architect. The fact that young people still want to bring children into this world is an encouraging sign, a gesture of faith.

So is Lincoln Center. In the Fifties, they tore down sixteen acres of tenements in Hell’s Kitchen and under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller brothers they built a symphony hall, an opera house, a theater, and a dance theater around a plaza with a fountain. Republicans were behind it and Lincoln’s name is on it and when you attend events here, you brush elbows with a good many moguls and grande dames who probably miss Ronald Reagan keenly and you go in to watch performers, 95 percent of them Democrats, some to the left of Bernie Sanders, but the conflicting views between the stage and the box seats are forgotten in the glory of “Der Rosenkavalier” or Beethoven or “Les Sylphides.” If your heart is open to the gifts of genius, you will walk across the plaza afterward, past the fountain, and feel transformed.

I once saw Ellie Dehn of my hometown, Anoka, Minnesota, in a lead role in “Don Giovanni” at the Metropolitan Opera, and in that glorious moment, I felt that we are truly one country, one people. Anoka is an old milling town on the Mississippi, a football town, but this fabulous soprano had found her way to Manhattan, and I was there to see it. So I’m provincial — what of it? My wife, also an Anokan, had been taken to see the Met’s touring company perform “Carmen” in Minneapolis, Grace Bumbry in the title role. My wife was twelve and stood through the entire performance and has been enthralled by opera ever since and made a career playing viola in the pit. So many things are possible. Dream on. Practice, practice, practice.

I first saw the U.S. Capitol in 1962, heading for Baltimore to attend a wedding, got lost, saw a lighted dome and realized I was in Washington. I parked and walked up the steps and in the door, past one policeman sitting on a folding chair in the foyer, and walked in under the great dome and looked at the statues and murals, and saw only a couple of cops relaxing in a hallway, not paying much attention to anybody.

When I tell people about that night, it feels like ancient history. Those days will never return. Even at the opera, security men wand you as you come through the turnstile. After the Capitol insurrection of January 6, security will be iron-tight forever to come, metal detectors will beep at every steel zipper, uniformed men with assault weapons will watch your every move. Walking into the Capitol of 1962, the openness of it told you that we are a civilized society with a high level of mutual trust. I don’t care to ever visit Washington again and see our government on wartime alert for attacks by our fellow Americans. Too painful.

I’ve seen what I needed to see of Washington. I sat in the Senate gallery once and watched the proceedings and it was dominated by the sort of self-important people I avoided in high school. I went to a ceremony at the White House once and sat where I could see Barack Obama’s teleprompter and saw how beautifully he improvised something much better than the script. So I’ve seen the good and the not so good. America will never be what it once was but still it is good enough. And if Hawley and Cruz get tossed out on the street, we will be better for it.

 

Dolts are dolts: don’t give them too much credit

The pictures of Wednesday stick with you — the mob rushing up the steps when the line of cops broke, the bozo smashing the window with a pole, the gangs of Trumpers running wild in the marble halls and the cops in confusion, the lout lounging in Speaker Pelosi’s chair — it was an assault of a few thousand of the densest people in America, a congregation of barflies and dropouts and people you’d never hire to look after your children, who were so thrilled to triumph over authority they could hardly stand it. That was the whole point of it. To roam around where you weren’t supposed to go, to sit in the Speaker’s office, and to take selfies while they did it. It was the high point of their lives.

It thrilled them that Congress fled and hid in the basement and they got to parade around and wave their Trump banners and yell and own the place, which is pretty much how their man feels about the White House. He had little interest in policy but he loved the security entourage, the chopper on the lawn, Air Force One, being saluted. He was ill-informed and had the attention span of a housecat but he was Boss and smart people had to kowtow to him. It was glorious. What fool wouldn’t enjoy it.

In those debates during the Republican primaries of 2016, old pols like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio stared at him in astonishment — the man made no sense but he could feel the audience’s fascination and he fed on it. There had never been a presidential candidate like him. He was the 300-pound man who won the pole vault. He was an auctioneer with nothing to sell but he could talk faster than anybody else.

The dunces who occupied the Capitol for a few hours got a similar pleasure from their adventure. They got to cross the NO ADMITTANCE line and sit in the Speaker’s chair and put their feet up on her desk, and get photographs of themselves doing it.

When order was reestablished, the suits came back and were full of pious baloney about how the confederacy of lulus had “desecrated” the place by their failed “insurrection” and I’m sorry but they gave the mob too much credit. The halls of Congress are not sacred — the idea of democracy is, but there have been plenty of fools elected to that Congress who desecrate it on a regular basis without any help from the outside. The mob was a band of anarchists with nothing in mind except to cross the red line and take selfies while doing it. As the man said, “Be there, will be wild!”

That’s the whole idea of Trumpism. To call him “authoritarian” is to give him way too much credit. To be a real dictator, you need to have ideas, a goal, something going on upstairs. The man is simply an anarchist. After eight years of the overachiever Obama, people were amused by the idea of a president who was bored with meetings, ignored briefings, liked to play golf, watch TV, and perform for large crowds of people who loved him.

I talked to my friend George on Wednesday as the American Stoopnagle Society took over the Capitol, and he was so downcast, he said, “I feel sad for my country.” I tried to cheer him up, but he’s 85 and a liberal Democrat so he is often slow to get the joke. I told him that the crowd was only out for a good time. And a poll of Republicans later showed that almost half supported the assault on the Capitol. It’s a Good-Time Party now.

The man was an anarchist, out to prove that it doesn’t matter who is president, a potted plant will do just fine. Joe Biden is an honest and decent man. More people prefer that to a potted plant and prefer thoughtful honest people in Congress to old bikers and bozos. So let’s have four years of thoughtfulness and then let the Republicans nominate a springer spaniel in 2024. It could be a close race.

Democracy wasn’t affected by Wednesday. Georgia showed on Tuesday that democracy is quite vital. More than 2 million came out to vote for two thoughtful senators over a springer spaniel and a stoopnagle. It was close, but close only counts in horseshoes.

A true story about last Tuesday and love and death

I had cancer for about five hours last Tuesday, from about noon when I noticed a hard protuberance on the roof of my mouth to about five p.m. when I went to see my doctor. I asked my wife to look at it and she shone a light into my mouth and was alarmed at the size of the thing, and made me call the doctor. It looked like a giant dice and of course I remembered that the singular of dice is DIE. Tuesday was our daughter’s birthday and for the ZOOM party I was creating a Mad Libs fill-in-the-blanks story for her friends to do, knowing they’d be eager to include barfing and farting and poop and pee, meanwhile I was brooding about diseases such as congenital pertussis, systemic fatigue, traumatic trachomatis, and deep down figured it had to be a deadly fast-spreading malignancy.

There’s not been much cancer in my family. Coronary malfunction is what kills us, but my blood pressure has been of championship quality so the odds would seem to favor cancer, and when I called a cab to go see the doctor, I put a razor and toothbrush in my briefcase and also my laptop and phone. I was sort of planning to go straight from the doctor’s to the hospital where a surgeon would remove the protuberance and the report would come up from the lab, malignant, and a kindly carcinogeneticist named Jenny Carson would come in and explain that chemo isn’t recommended for this type of cancer, it only prolongs the suffering, and radiation might lead to dementia, so she would recommend that I go home and sell the apartment and take my wife on a world cruise. “Get a Queen suite with a balcony. I gather from your questionnaire that you quit drinking fifteen years ago. Start up again. Have a gin martini. And start smoking cigarettes again. Sit on the balcony and enjoy a nicotine rush and get good and sloshed. Why not? And instruct your wife that when you die, off in the Indian Ocean or maybe the Pacific off Australia, she should throw you over the rail to the sharks and skip the funeral stuff and use the money to spend a month at a spa.”

I would be stoical, of course. I’m from Minnesota and stoicism is our preferred mode, living in an icebox state among emotionally repressed Andersons and Olsons, but I decided that on this world cruise, I’d write the erotic novel I’ve been eager to write ever since I read Henry Miller in high school, a novel with gasping and thrusting and throbbing and the woman crying out, “Oh my God” over and over and over, and the shudder of ecstasy and two bodies locked together in a chain of climaxes making your ears pop and your teeth chatter.

And then the doctor came in and looked in my mouth and said, “That’s a common growth on the hard palate known as the torus palatinus, and if it doesn’t hurt, we tend to leave it alone. In any case, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. You could see an otolaryngologist but it’s apparently not infected and not cancerous.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and patted my back, and I took a cab home where the birthday party was winding up and people were still laughing about the Mad Libs and the barfing and pooping and all. I was stoical for their benefit, didn’t mention Dr. Carson’s advice about the Queen’s suite with the balcony and the burial at sea. I was quiet at supper. My wife asked if I was okay. “Of course,” I said. I realized that if I had googled “hard lump on roof of mouth” I could’ve learned about the torus palatinus and skipped the anxiety and the cab ride but on the other hand, it was fear of mortality that inspired the idea of two bodies interlocked, her skin against mine, various protuberances hard or soft, lips and roaming hands and her crying “Oh my God” and a person doesn’t need to book passage on a steamship for that, it’s available in the next room, especially now that she has imagined my demise and I notice her standing behind me, her hands on my shoulders, kissing the side of my neck, her beloved face next to mine, and I reach back and find her leg and now I am putting paper and pen away, I shall save the rest for the novel.

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

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

It’s the birthday of the woman who sang “At Last,” “Tell Mama,” and “Something’s Got a Hold On Me.” Blues singer Etta James (1938).

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The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, January 18, 2021

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Writing

A night outside, eating with friends

I admit that when I hear the word “impeachment” I think of fruit, and “censure” makes me think of dentures, which is a sign that I’ve been watching too much news: time for a break. How often can you look at the man with the tattooed pectorals and the horned helmet and what understanding do you gain from it? So you make the screen go dark and do other things.

The lady and I went to dinner with friends the other night and the four of us spent more than an hour making no reference to the riot at the Capitol, an entirely trumpless hour, which felt like a triumph. We ate outdoors under heat lamps on Broadway, opposite Lincoln Center, which is very very dark, and we didn’t talk about the virus either.

We talked about a baby named Charlie born in Atlanta a few days before and showed pictures of him, tightly swaddled. His mother is a mathematician married to a landscape architect. The fact that young people still want to bring children into this world is an encouraging sign, a gesture of faith.

Read More

Dolts are dolts: don’t give them too much credit

The pictures of Wednesday stick with you — the mob rushing up the steps when the line of cops broke, the bozo smashing the window with a pole, the gangs of Trumpers running wild in the marble halls and the cops in confusion, the lout lounging in Speaker Pelosi’s chair — it was an assault of a few thousand of the densest people in America, a congregation of barflies and dropouts and people you’d never hire to look after your children, who were so thrilled to triumph over authority they could hardly stand it. That was the whole point of it. To roam around where you weren’t supposed to go, to sit in the Speaker’s office, and to take selfies while they did it. It was the high point of their lives.

It thrilled them that Congress fled and hid in the basement and they got to parade around and wave their Trump banners and yell and own the place, which is pretty much how their man feels about the White House. He had little interest in policy but he loved the security entourage, the chopper on the lawn, Air Force One, being saluted. He was ill-informed and had the attention span of a housecat but he was Boss and smart people had to kowtow to him. It was glorious. What fool wouldn’t enjoy it.

Read More

A true story about last Tuesday and love and death

I had cancer for about five hours last Tuesday, from about noon when I noticed a hard protuberance on the roof of my mouth to about five p.m. when I went to see my doctor. I asked my wife to look at it and she shone a light into my mouth and was alarmed at the size of the thing, and made me call the doctor. It looked like a giant dice and of course I remembered that the singular of dice is DIE. Tuesday was our daughter’s birthday and for the ZOOM party I was creating a Mad Libs fill-in-the-blanks story for her friends to do, knowing they’d be eager to include barfing and farting and poop and pee, meanwhile I was brooding about diseases such as congenital pertussis, systemic fatigue, traumatic trachomatis, and deep down figured it had to be a deadly fast-spreading malignancy.

There’s not been much cancer in my family. Coronary malfunction is what kills us, but my blood pressure has been of championship quality so the odds would seem to favor cancer, and when I called a cab to go see the doctor, I put a razor and toothbrush in my briefcase and also my laptop and phone. I was sort of planning to go straight from the doctor’s to the hospital where a surgeon would remove the protuberance and the report would come up from the lab, malignant, and a kindly carcinogeneticist named Jenny Carson would come in and explain that chemo isn’t recommended for this type of cancer, it only prolongs the suffering, and radiation might lead to dementia, so she would recommend that I go home and sell the apartment and take my wife on a world cruise. “Get a Queen suite with a balcony. I gather from your questionnaire that you quit drinking fifteen years ago. Start up again. Have a gin martini. And start smoking cigarettes again. Sit on the balcony and enjoy a nicotine rush and get good and sloshed. Why not? And instruct your wife that when you die, off in the Indian Ocean or maybe the Pacific off Australia, she should throw you over the rail to the sharks and skip the funeral stuff and use the money to spend a month at a spa.”

Read More

The end of the worst, bring on the better

It was a small Christmas, stockings full of candy and also toothpaste and soap, and Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and mashed potatoes and creamy gravy. The wind whistled outside, the tree sparkled, and though we weren’t what you’d call “joyful,” we were in good humor and sweet to each other, and admired each other’s presents, the electric footbath, the brilliant scarf, the woolen shoes, the earbuds, and peeled our Christmas oranges.

In the late morning lull, we attempted to watch the Netflix “California Christmas,” which was a lull even duller than the one it was meant to fill. It topped the TV charts and was as bad as a movie can possibly be. It died quietly before our eyes and I imagined its enormous viewing audience was mostly made up of the bedridden and the imprisoned. My daughter said that girls she knew liked to watch movies with their friends on smartphones, each person watching a different movie, a scene I could not imagine.

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When snow falls, can spring be far behind?

It snowed big-time in New York last week and overnight the city was transformed from gritty realism to a TV Christmas special, the city hushed and magical, skaters skating in Central Park and every sled or saucer, garbage can lid, flattened cardboard, employed in sliding. For the old man, walking flat-footed in tiny steps on an icy sidewalk, sliding feels treacherous but still the snow brings back memories of Minnesota and homemade hockey rinks, using magazines for shin pads and lawn chairs for goals. We had no laptops or video games then. Indoors belonged to grown-ups so we went outside for independence. It was joyful. I still look at snow and feel joyful.

As a Minnesotan, I’ve known people who felt oppressed by snow and cold and escaped, as people once escaped from behind the Iron Curtain, so they could sit outdoors in January and barbecue steaks and drink mai tais. I never longed for the patio lifestyle. People sit on patios in the sunshine and they yell at their kids and complain about schools and taxes and their neighbor’s lawn ornaments. People who sit in a cozy living room on a cold day experience gratitude. They pull a quilt over their lap and feel comforted. They look out the window at snow falling and feel joyful.

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Let the light of heaven shine on me

I’m ashamed that I imagined the Supreme Court might overturn the election. It goes to show how far down the river of unreality a man can go, even a man who has authored books. (Okay, fiction, but still.) I imagined they might go on to overturn Newton’s first law of motion but instead they turned the president upside down and held him by his ankles until, despite powerful spray-on adhesives, his hair hung down.

I confessed my self-deception in church Sunday, which now I attend in my pajamas, sitting in the kitchen, watching on a screen as clergy in vestments process around the sanctuary and ascend into the pulpit. It makes me feel more like a penitent than when I dressed up as a bank vice president to attend in person — here I sit, O Lord, unwashed, uncombed, undeodorized, in a T-shirt and sackcloth pants, cup of black coffee in hand. I live in a prosperous and civilized land and I thought that four men and one woman in black robes might bring democracy to a shuddering halt. Forgive my cynicism.

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Good times ahead, the old man said

I bent down to pick up a popcorn kernel from the kitchen floor the other day and straightened up and whacked my head against an open cupboard door, which hurt and also reminded me of the time I did the very same exact thing back in my early forties, a harder whacking that in an instant decided me that God is not the angry God of my evangelical youth, the author of plagues and disasters, but loves us dearly and grieves with us when we despair. You can find sacred text supporting either Angry or Loving, but that sharp blow to the head like the vorpal blade hitting the Jabberwock settled it for me.

So when people say, “Don’t beat your head against the wall,” I say, “Why not, if it can help?”

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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

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The little guy in the shop around the corner

Amazon has hired a half-million new workers during the pandemic to bring its work force to 1.2 million, so I read in the New York Times, the newspaper that has elected Joe Biden president despite his losing Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada, but on the odd chance they may be right, I am now going to walk a few blocks to Gold Leaf Stationers to buy my pens and paper rather than go online.

It’s a romantic notion, I know. Gold Leaf is a small store run by an Ethiopian immigrant, Fasil Yilma, and so there is a story behind it, whereas Jeff Bezos’s story is sort of beyond me. What do you do with your weekend when you’re worth $189 billion? Fasil works at his shop; that’s what he does. He carries the writing materials I need and he also will print stationery with my name across the top. In the age of texting and email, it’s a sweet gesture to write cursive with a pen on an 8-by-5 sheet with your name at the top. A graceful touch of the past, just as small shops are.

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A modest proposal to head off the next one

It’s a dangerous time, when families gather for Thanksgiving and pass the deadly virus from the young to the elderly and kill them off. This will be very hard on the Republican Party. Gamma and Gampy in South Dakota think the communistic Bidenists are the threat but actually it’s Oliver and Olivia home from the U. The kids see COVID as inapplicable to them, like dementia or hair loss, and return to the farm to cough on the cranberries and kill off Elmer and Gertrude. A generation, wiped out. By 2032, South Dakota’s two senators may be 30-year-old artisanal Democrats.

These are, as evangelicals keep pointing out, the Last Days. Forest fires, hurricanes, over-regulation, the closure of churches, face mask requirements, everything points toward apocalypse. But what if the world does not end? Somebody has to fix the highways, send out the Social Security checks, distribute the vaccine. Competence is required.

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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

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           Lake Wobegon virus cover.            mono art

 

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