Presented by Denise Doz to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club.
April 2nd, 2019
Garrison Keillor is well known as the host of the popular radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. In addition to his success as a radio personality, he is also an author of numerous books and articles, a columnist, a musician, a screenwriter and a poet.
As a writer, Keillor is known for his talent in using humor. His skill lies in the way he threads it through his stories producing a sustained and repeated smile or chuckle, interrupted by a well-placed prompt for a burst of honest laughter. His short stories, monologues and books become tapestries bright with these humorous threads that amuse and entertain the reader. He also uses humor as a vehicle to facilitate insight, empathy, and appreciation for his characters.
The books in his Lake Wobegon titles draw heavily on his upbringing in a small town in Minnesota. He creates a memorable cast of characters and takes full advantage of his own life to present them from an insider’s point of view.
What appeals to me is Keillor’s sensitivity to nuance that is often stamped with humor. He accomplishes this through his characters who know each other well, even privy to secrets. They share a common history, meander through the plot, usually encountering a denouement that brings a situation to the surface resulting in a deeper understanding of life, of others, and of ourselves.
Although his stories can be formulaic, he skillfully introduces freshness and avoids losing the readers’ interest by inventing predicaments and situations tied to different ancestral and religious points of view. The richness of his imagination merits respect and admiration, as does his deep understanding of human nature.
Keillor’s book, Happy to Be Here is rich in satire. He is a master of parody and his “95Theses95” is presented in Lake Wobegon Days. Keillor’s highly entertaining recording of his parody of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” is well worth hearing as is the original version of the poem (both available online).
Through his writing, Garrison Keillor illustrates a key element of humor, emphasizing how it requires sensitivity and good judgement in order to understand the dilemma that some events and circumstances present and to know how to respond appropriately.