Image via WikipediaIf you don't have time to read the whole post, just know that Garrison Keillor is a comic genius and go ahead and read the book already.
If you're still here, welcome back for more book enthusiasm. Have I ever expressed my admiration for Garrison Keillor? I have? Huh.
I include some favorite passages below, but there's plenty more: Pastor Ingkvist's salary negotiations, his midadventures at the Sidetrack Tap. Deer Hunting, Ice Fishing, cars, brides, and the National Usher's Competition.
I used to identify with the Lake Wobegon kids, young adults recently moved to the city. Once I had kids, and increasingly as the years go by, I'm turning into Arlene Bunsen, Margaret Krebsbach, Judy Ingkvist, and Marilyn Tollerud. Heck, there's a lot of Clarence Bunsen in me, and Carl Krebsbach, Hjalmar Petersen, and the rest of the crew. In fact, every single one of them.That's part of his comic genius. He sees clearly the smallness of our dim, silly, dull, Midwestern lives and hearts, sees us as we are, the dark and the saving grace. His writer's eye takes us apart, shines a light on our flaws, yet in illuminating them, makes them ok, even funny, and we can sigh and laugh and move on. There's acceptance and love for all his characters, the young and old, men and women, pastors and barkeeps and women with badly permed hair. He's not uncritical. The writer is different from the man. There are people in real life Mr. Keillor thinks ill of. But he loves his characters.
I take a lot of heart from GK the DJ, and think his writing is deeply spiritual, though he may or not agree. It blesses us. While causing us to chortle, repeatedly, and read proclaim to anyone nearby, "Hey, listen to this."
Now we can jump into the good part, a chance for you to read some excerpts.
From "It Could Be Worse":
"A sensible person seeks to be at peace, to read books, know the neighbors, take walks, enjoy his portion, live to be eighty, and wind up fat and happy, although a little wistful when the first coronary walks up and slugs him in the chest. Nobody is meant to be a star. Charisma is pure fiction, and so is brilliance. It's the dummies who sit on the dais, and it's the smart people who sit in the dark near the exits. That is the Lake Wobegon view of life."
From "PK" (pastor's kid)
A pastor's child learns that you treat all these people with the same quiet kindness: you offer congratulations to some and condolences to others, but you say it in the same kind voice, not interfering with people's feelings or trying to analyze them, offering the simplest comfort of a hand and a voice, the presence of another human being, here in their extreme moment. And you bring a hotdish.
The clergy fought this out for two years . . . People got all hot about it in that silent glacial way that Norwegians have, and the fight got so unpleasant that people would've gladly avoided heaven if it meant they'd have to talk to the others, and the Lutheran church [of Stavanger, Norway] split into factions, and the Ingqvists were glad to leave. . . the misery of this terrible argument cured him of all homesickness or regret. Norwegians are no fun to fight with because they do it silently: they know they're right, so why should they bother arguing about it? This can go on for years.
Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery was crowded yesterday morning with ambitious people buying pimientos and whole cashews and canned oysters and exotic cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Camembert, and odd spices and exotic mushrooms, and you could tell they'd gotten hold of a magazine article with beautiful color photos of dishes. They were throwing caution to the wind and putting the candied yams and turkey aside in favor of gourmet cuisine, and you knew that some of these cuisine adventures were going to end in heartbreak, in smoke-filled kitchens with frazzled cooks weeping into their aprons and coming unhinged."
(at the National Usher's Competition)
. . . it was a motley crowd. A thousand people and there were a lot of Episcopalians in there, and they always take more time, and a group of blind nuns, the Sisters of Helen Keller, and that slowed things up--old ladies waving white canes and whacking people with them, and some guide dogs growling and barking and there were 140 members of Lutheran Weightwatchers, and the kids from St. Vitus's School for children with ADD, kids who come with a fast-forward button--it was like herding fruit bats and water buffalo.
So go and read it, already, and then tell me your favorite parts. I'll even let you read them out loud.