Monday, September 23, 2013

Garrison Keillor

I stopped following him much somewhere in the 1990's, as he went into a bitter period.  His making fun of people no longer had affection underlying it, and the genuinely good lines that kept coming were not worth the irritation it took to get there.  It retroactively poisoned some of his earlier work for me, though there were things I could still enjoy. In the last few years either I have softened or he has, and I feel more well-disposed toward him.

This essay from over a decade ago in Virginia Quarterly softens my opinion even more.  It addresses his religious beliefs and approach directly, and brings in some things I did not know. A sample:
Sounds like a church service, doesn't it? Protestant, to be sure, and unless one wants to count Powdermilk Biscuits as the bread of communion, noneucharistic as well, but a kind of church service nonetheless. The people assemble weekly both in the hall and around their radios. Musicians on stage take the place of choir and organist, with the audience often invited to join in the singing. The messages and greetings that Keillor reads midway through the program are not unlike church announcements, letting people know how others in the gathered family are doing. All this culminates in good Protestant style with Keillor's sermon, er, monologue, which sounds like it is being born in the pulpit but actually is well prepared and even lasts the prescribed 20 minutes. "All comedy is preaching," Keillor has said, "but it can't show its hand." As for the particular brand of preaching and worship that A Prairie Home Companion represents, "Our show down deep in its heart is a gospel show."


Sam L. said...

Well, I'd noticed his dislike/disdain/contempt/hate for Republicans a few years earlier, and by this time (Winter, 2001) he had a full-blown case of BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome). Around in there, my cable company cut off the audio it had carried, and I couldn't listen to him if I wanted. Adn I didn't.

He can be funny, I grant. But he poisoned the well for me.

james said...

I noticed the bitterness when he returned from his hiatus. I'd rearranged my Saturday nights and he didn't fit in anymore, and I wasn't going to review the arrangements for that kind of bitter humor.

However, he has the Writer's Almanac which is pretty good. I'm generally busy when it's played, though.

The article is very good--thanks for locating it. But I notice that I recognize almost all the stories he cites, which means they came from the earlier years.

Anonymous said...

i grew tired of him in the early 1990s. as i became less liberal & more conservative over that decade & the next, his DWL-ness became anathema to me. (I liked him all thru the 80's, tho:)

Dubbahdee said...

I can forgive a lot for the sake of a good story. What turned me off mostly, was the way he simply came to dominate the show. After returning from the hiatus, what I noticed what that he seemed to have to sing several songs per show and at least a few duets with the guests. In fact, the guests played less and less of a role, while Garrison and the gang started doing more and more.

I didn't like this much. Garrison is a fine story teller, but not much of a singer. I could do without it mostly -- unless he is singing the bass part in a quartet. For the most part, the guests are much more interesting than Guy Noir, or most of the other sketches. They tend to take one joke and stretch it out way too thin.

I suppose that if I were to go back and re-listen to old shows, I might find that I'm just remembering what I want to remember.

Luke Lea said...

His audio books are good for long trips. One of them made me laugh so hard my wife had to take the wheel even though I was in the driver's seat.