For the average NPR listener, hearing the name Garrison Keillor may summon up the sound of his voice: deep and soothing, wise and mischievous, but with a palpable tinge of sadness. Keillor spoke at Seattle’s University Bookstore on June 12.
Keillor’s new book, “The Keillor Reader,” presents a collection of writings spanning his career. It was released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his iconic radio show A Prairie Home Companion.
He wrote with somber gratitude earlier this year, for instance, about his hometown, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and his high school friend Corinne Guntzel.
She was a suicide 28 years ago, drowned with rocks in her pockets, and I still love her and am not over her death, nor do I expect ever to be. If I drove by the cemetery with a visitor, I wouldn’t say a word about this. Too much. Too painful. Her at the wheel, the summer wind in my face, the lights of Minneapolis passing, sweet love in the air. I would give the world to go back to that night and hold her in my arms.
Over the years Keillor became a prolific writer, storyteller, humorist and radio host, but he never forgot the people who influenced him or where he came from. With a style uniquely his own, he has done for the Midwest what the Grand Ole Opry did for the South.
Prairie Home debuted on July 6, 1974, to an audience of 12. It now has 4 million weekly listeners on more than 600 public radio stations.
“We intended the show to last for a year, or maybe two,” he wrote, “but just as we were about to quit, the show started to draw an audience, 50, 100, 200 people coming to see it on Saturday night, and we kept going so we could figure out what we were doing right.”
Back in 2011 Keillor said he was getting ready to retire, but later changed his mind. He says now he loves doing the show, so can’t see a good reason to quit.
Thanks to Ayan Sheikh and University Bookstore for this recording.