Garrison Keillor on Finding Lake Wobegon

Keillor ReaderI’m a longtime Garrison Keillor fan. Keillor, 71, said he was going to retire in Spring 2013, but judging from my radio on Saturday evenings he’s still at it, it being his Prairie Home Companion show heard on NPR.

In a 2011 interview, Keiller told AARP Bulletin, “When I was younger, I was all in favor of [retirement], and now that I’m at that age, I’m not sure. I sure don’t want to make a fool of myself and be singing romantic duets with 25-year-old women when I’m 75. But on the other hand, it’s so much fun. And in radio, the lighting is right.”

Keillor has released a new book, The Keillor Reader. The Bulletin ran an excerpt, in which Keillor explained the genesis of his fictional town of Lake Wobegon.

“I had a big beard and long hair when Minnesota Public Radio hired me,” Keillor writes, “but I was willing to get up at 4 a.m. and work the early morning shift and that’s where I discovered that irony and a dark world-view are not useful on the radio early in the morning.

“Listeners have enough darkness of their own. They didn’t need mine.”

Instead, Keillor turned toward something that would transport him through the years and build an audience more than happy to come along for the ride.

“I created a cheery on-air persona, the Old Scout, who rallied listeners to rise and shine and face the day with a smile. It was a good persona and in time I came to believe it myself. On that early morning shift, I invented a town where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are all above average. Businesses in that town advertised on my show–Jack’s Auto Repair, Bob’s Bank, Bunsen Motors, Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, the Chatterbox Café, the Sidetrack Tap, Skoglund’s Five & Dime, the Mercantile–and that town, Lake Wobegon, became my story.”

I’m not disappointed that retirement is still elusive for Garrison.


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