May 10, 2017

JAMES LILEKS ON GARRISON KEILLOR’S LATEST COLUMN: “No matter what the topic, his hatred of the right is always waiting in the wings to take the stage like Daffy Duck beating a bass drum and clashing cymbals. Wrap it up with some sonorous booshwa that sounds American — the ribbon of highway, the land that goes on, and new life where a man can still learn things, like the math he couldn’t grasp because a kid in fourth-grade had gas:”

Now the paragraph that gives you the bitter pit at the heart of the old mealy fruit:

At home I try to be kind, but out here, to the disgruntled voter who feels ignored by Washington, I say, “Put away the 12-pack and the three-cheese chips, lose the gut, stop smoking, turn off the TV. Papa is not responsible for your sad life. Go back to school, arise at dawn, take brisk walks, think big, show your kids how it’s done.” That’s me talking at 70 mph.

That’s a man driving in the dark, yelling at farmhouses and angry about wasabi potato chips. You wonder if he had to invent a fictional place full of curious Lutherans because the actual residents of such a place were a constant disappointment.

Read the whole thing. But no need to wonder — that’s exactly what Keillor believes, as quoted in his New York Times profile last year, when he retired from NPR at age 73:

Curiously, Mr. Keillor has always found it difficult spending so much time with the strong, good-looking, above average people of Lake Wobegon, which he based on his relatives, past and present.

In “The Keillor Reader” (2014), he complained bitterly about “their industriousness, their infernal humility, their schoolmarmish sincerity, their earnest interest in you, their clichés falling like clockwork — it can be tiring to be around.”

Speaking on his porch, Mr. Keillor said of Lake Wobegonians, i.e., his relatives, “I am frustrated by them in real life.” They were too controlled by good manners, he said, and “have a very hard time breaking through.”

So why devote so much of his professional life ruminating about them? “It’s the people I think I know,” he replied.

Will he miss them, and the weekly jolt of the show?

“No,” he replied. “No.”

Something tells me the feeling is mutual. Or as Paul Johnson wrote in Intellectuals, “Disregard for truth and the preference for ideas over people marks the true secular individual.”

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