On November 13, 2002, Kentucky Author Forum presented a solo guest, an author with no need of an interviewer: Garrison Keillor, humorist and celebrated host of America’s most popular radio shows, “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac”. Mr. Keillor talked about, among other things, his most recent books, Good Poems (Viking) and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956(Penguin).
In Good Poems, Keillor selected poems from “The Writer’s Almanac”, a popular show on public radio. These are poems, Keillor writes, which “make people stop chewing their toasted muffins and turn up the radio and listen.” Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 evokes his growing-up days in semi-rural Anoka, Minnesota. The Chicago Tribune described Lake Wobegon as a “town that lies not on any map but somewhere along the border of his imagination and his memory.”
Now an American icon, Keillor is widely praised as both funny and touching, someone able to point out people’s foibles without condemning them. According to a book review in the Houston Chronicle, “No one tells a story better…the unerring ear that has earned Keillor admiration on public radio translates perfectly onto the page — in this case better, there being some things one still can’t say on radio…He’s Will Rogers with grammar lessons, Aesop with no ax to grind, the common man’s Moliere.”
With his most lasting fame likely to center around “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show, Keillor has made a lasting contribution to the literary world, the art of story telling, public broadcasting and American culture. His many honors include the George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award, Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Grammy Award for best nonmusical recording, Los Angeles Times Book Award nomination, and a Gold Medal for spoken English from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is an inductee of the Museum of Broadcast Communications and Radio Hall of Fame.
An estimated 5 million listeners tune in each week to hear Keillor’s stories from the fictional small town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Because his fundamentalist parents banned television until Keillor was in high school, Keillor became a devoted listener of popular radio shows such as Fibber McGee and Molly. His keen observations of life around him helped create the radio show that is a mainstay of public radio broadcasting nationwide.