Sunday, July 3, 2016

galloping hooves and the barking spiders

While I believe Prairie Home Companion will go on, it will now be sans Garrison Keillor (and if it morphs into what The Daily Show became after Jon Stewart left, well.  They'll be short a listener.)  He sent this letter to all the Writer's Almanac subscribers yesterday: 

Dear Friends,
I come from serious taciturn people and grew up in a separatist religious sect that believed that every word and deed should be to the glory of God and here I am winding up forty-two years of talking my head off, much of it silliness, and portraying a private eye and a cowboy. This was not supposed to happen. As Robert Frost did not write:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And, sorry I could not travel both,
I chose the one with the galloping hooves and the barking spiders
And now I’m trying to figure out why.

I am a writer who got tangled up with Minnesota Public Radio and A Prairie Home Companion and not because I was ambitious or had aptitude, but simply through a series of coincidences. I was like a kid in Port-au-Prince who’s never seen ice and whose family is too poor to travel but he reads a book about Antarctica and is fascinated and eventually becomes captain of the Haitian Olympic hockey team. He’s not a great player but he’s pretty good for a Haitian. That’s my story. And now, as retirement nears, it’s a revelation to be accosted by people who want to say: Your show has meant a lot to me. Some of them have been tuned in for most of their lives. It’s very sweet. Also confusing, since I never was a big fan of the show myself. I enjoyed doing the show — it was the only social life I had — but the show was never as good as I wanted it to be, and that’s just a fact.

I’m 73, in good shape for a writer, working on a memoir and a Lake Wobegon screenplay, writing a weekly column for the Washington Post, planning to take brisk walks and start reading books again and rediscover the pleasures of the Weekend. Meanwhile, I am grateful beyond grateful for the people I’ve met along the way, Richard Dworsky, Tim and Sue and Fred, the ladies I’m singing with, Sara and Sarah and Aoife and Heather, and Suzanne Weil who was the first person to ever put me on a stage. She is here tonight and it is all her fault, every bit of it. Had it not been for Suzanne, I would be preaching every night at the Union Gospel Mission on Skid Row and all my friends would be old drunks. Millions of people would never know about Lake Wobegon or Powdermilk Biscuits or the power of rhubarb to ease shame and humiliation. But in the course of fifty years of preaching, I would’ve brought three, possibly four, men to eternal salvation. I will have to make peace with this myself. Meanwhile, thank you for listening to the show.

Looking forward to reading his WP columns and am grateful that most of the old shows are still on-line~for those days where one needs to be 'where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average.'


  1. I think I will never write narrative nonfiction, thanks to Our Garrison's good example. Even poking gentle fun at people with whom you're deeply uncomfortable and you're not sure you even like, if you're good at it, you may end up doing it FOR MOST OF YOUR CAREER.

    Best leave off writing about the in-laws or I won't be able to stop talking about them for forty-two years... I, too, am glad the recordings will stay; listened to a LOT of Keillor in Scotland, because it meant home...

    1. I wish we could be so lucky to amble into a career that suits...

      There's something soothing about the cadence of his speech. Believe he could read the phone book & it would be enjoyable.

    2. I wish we could be so lucky to amble into a career that suits...

      There's something soothing about the cadence of his speech. Believe he could read the phone book & it would be enjoyable.