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Garrison Keillor envisions radio (but not bookish) retirement

March 17, 2011 |  1:14 pm

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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

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