I’m having a nice little run lately with some fun interviews. I recently got to sit down with “Prairie Home Companion” host, author and humorist Garrison Keillor – he’s one of us, by the way, born in Anoka, Minnesota – for an upcoming national magazine article.
Keillor is a fascinating guy and one of the greatest storytellers alive right now. During the interview I asked him how he comes up with all his Lake Wobegone stories and he started riffing on a desk in his office:
“All of the stories come out of some little germ of real life. You don’t really need much at all. I mean here’s a desk, which is a piece of carpentry that was made for me by a cabinet maker in New York City. I even now forget his name. He made it in a shop down on the lower East Side and he delivered it to me in 1989. So this is going on 20 years for this for this old desk. And then a row of drawers on the back of it. You could make a story out of this in Lake Wobegone. Somebody who works with wood made this, and like most people who work with wood, this person would be a mystery to others. I just think that’s one of the greatest gifts, to be able to make things out of wood. My father was very good with his hands. He would have admired this desk. He would have looked at it, looked at the underside of it, and seen how it was put together. Somehow there’s a story in this piece of furniture.”
Keillor’s voice is mesmerizing, and that is why listening to him talk about a piece of furniture is fascinating.
The full story isn’t coming out until November and I’ll update this space when it does with links/etc.
Meantime you can check out some audio I gathered during the interview. It features GK talking about his life, faith and more and is on my “Faith & Fastballs” page at my web site.
My favorite clip would have to be the story of how Keillor tried to use an unfinished novel as collateral to secure a bank loan. If that loan officer would have only known!
Last thing, and this is for my good friend Dave Bateson, a huge fan of Keillor’s politics. Here’s GK’s take on several political figures, past and present:
“Paul Wellstone was a wrestler and he had the body of a wrestler. He was always bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. I used to run into him in the airport sometimes. And he would see me coming and he’d come towards me, bouncing up and down. And he would be poking at me with his index finger. And he always had something urgent he wanted to tell you. I admired that in him. I also admired the fact that when he went into restaurants, he always went into the kitchen and shook hands with the people who cooked the meals and the dishwashers.”
“George W. Bush – I think of Amherst and Yale and I think of a young man who felt so terribly out of place in both places. And who suffered through his adolescense and his college years. He really was an unhappy young man at Yale. Surrounded by all those very vocal, articulate, left wing people. Terribly, terribly unhappy there. And I feel sorry for him.”
“Barak Obama – the great white hope, really. The great white hope of liberals. The wish that this man would turn out to be somebody. So many people just are not sure yet, but they really want him to succeed. They’re waiting and hoping. And in the meantime he’s running a very credible, remarkable, respectable campaign for president. For a first-term senator from Illinois without much of a record it’s pretty amazing.”
“Jesse Ventura has gone off into retirement. One hears different stories about him. But he has sort of disappeared. And I feel sorry about him. I think he could have turned into a remarkable populist governor of Minnesota. But he was much too thin skinned. He was his own worst enemy, as he himself said. He made good appointments as commissioners and so forth. Nobody really disagrees with that. he was a lot better than people expected, and he wasn’t quite as good as he could have been.”