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Garrison Keillor envisions radio (but not bookish) retirement


Author and radio host Garrison Keillor plans to retire in the spring of 2013, he tells the AARP in an interview. Retire from his "Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion Show," that is. Books? No chance.

Keillor is the author of 10 books set in his fictional Minnesota town, Lake Wobegone, which also stars in his radio variety program, which, in turn, is broadcast on 590 of public radio stations nationwide. The first book was "Lake Wobegone Days," published in 1985. He's also written a number of other books, humor pieces for the New Yorker, and was even Salon.com's Mr. Blue, providing advice to both the lovelorn and hopeful authors -- perhaps the only time that romance and writing advice has been combined into a single column.

Keillor, who started his first version of "A Prairie Home Companion" in 1974, has easily moved between radio and print. These days, he also hosts the short daily radio show "The Writers Almanac," in which he provides commentary about authors and reads a poetry; coming up in April is "Good Poems, American Places," a 518-page anthology of poetry Keillor has edited.

About poetry and its place in our lives, he tells the AARP:

Life is a carnival, people are wildly busy, there are love affairs to be pursued, arguments to be waged, omelets to be made, gardens to be tended, plus ballgames, movies, auctions, bike trips, and poetry is very patient. Emily Dickinson has waited 120-some years for you to read "Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed," and she can wait a few more years. Same with Walt Whitman, same with Dorianne Laux, Billy Collins, Philip Booth, Maxine Kumin, May Swenson, and all the others. They'll be around. You will catch up with them eventually.

And as he talks about quote-unquote retirement, the 68 year old is still writing. What he's up to right now, he tells the AARP:

I'm working on a screenplay about a son of Lake Wobegon coming home for a funeral and finding out that, despite his long years of exile in distant cities, he still belongs to these people. It's scary how much he still belongs here. These people have the power to make him ashamed, which distant cities do not. His conscience resides here. The next novel is a Guy Noir mystery in which the old detective is all lined up to become a multimillionaire thanks to his friendship with a brilliant woman, Naomi Fallopian, who has come up with the perfect weight-loss scheme.

As for the radio show, he says he's looking for a replacement host. "I'm pushing forward," he says, "but I'm also in denial." Read the complete interview online at the AARP.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Garrison Keillor performs onstage in the "Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion Show" in Rochester, Minn., on Jan. 23, 2010. Credit: Tom Wallace / Minneapolis Star Tribune / MCT

Comments () | Archives (4)

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It's Lake Wobegon (no 'e'), isn't it?

E or no E, It will be sad to be without Garrison Keillor's humor every weekend.

Isn't it funny how the spirit out-smarts the body..! About the time you think you've got it all figured out the body says stop...the mind slows down and the greys look you in the mirror. I grant you this....we all will do it if we are blessed. Walk your talk....if you can.? I know we are all still in lesson...even with all the greys...the story remains the same "we are human beings becoming". You included. Till the fat lady sings and he who laughs last, the story remains the same...we're not done 'yet' till Creator takes us/U.S. out of the oven and states DONE! Maybe an FBI story should be in one of your plots...would make a really funny story...aliens included...! Ate any Crow lately..? IF not try it with some eggs.

I for one am ready for him to take a break from PHC. Lately he seems to have a hard timing writing fresh--and truly funny--material for the show. There is way too much re-use of old (worn out) material, and too much reliance on bodily function jokes. The show is not as funny as it used to be.

Years ago the show was interesting, amusing, etc. But there hasn't been a fresh idea on PHC in 15 years. How many sketches with the sound effects guy making variations of farting sounds do we need? When Noah Adams and "Good Evening" replaced PHC in 1987 I though we were hearing much better radio. But the slavish fans of PHC were going to have none of that. PHC should go dark, and let that be the end of it.


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