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Humor, Heart, and Wisdom: Unpacking Garrison Keillor's Cheerfulness and Its Blend of Nostalgia and Insight
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Humor, Heart, and Wisdom: Unpacking Garrison Keillor's Cheerfulness and Its Blend of Nostalgia and Insight

Garrison Keillor, the renowned American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality, has long held a place in the hearts of audiences worldwide.

Some of us may remember Keillor's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, premiered in 1974 and ended in 2017. It featured a mix of comedy sketches, musical performances, and his signature monologue, "The News from Lake Wobegon," a fictional Minnesota town that became a central element of the show.

Born on 7 August 1942, in Anoka, Minnesota, Keillor has had a prolific career in the entertainment industry. Apart from his work on A Prairie Home Companion, he has written numerous books, including novels, essays, and short stories. Notable works include Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance.

Continuing his tradition of captivating audiences globally, Keillor's latest work, Cheerfulness seamlessly intertwines humor, nostalgia, and astute observations about life's eccentricities. He invites his readers on a nostalgic journey that seamlessly intertwines the warmth of rural Americana with universal themes of love, friendship, and personal growth. 

The book unfolds in twenty chapters, resembling an autobiography infused with Keillor's dry and understated wit. He skillfully pokes fun at everyday experiences cleverly, not too over-the-top. 

The pages have a literary style that is both accessible and rich, as he turns regular moments into candidly interesting stories. And he is good at noticing details and understanding people. What is cool is how he finds special moments in ordinary events from his own life. It's like sitting by the fire and listening to stories that feel like old, treasured memories.

In the opening chapter Keillor shares the insight that life may bring hard knocks, yet encourages one to keep dancing and let the heart sing. Reflecting on his upbringing in the 1950s, he reveals that his shyness led some relatives and teachers to perceive him as gifted, though he discloses that he was, in fact, autistic rather than artistic. 

One cannot help but admire the precision and depth of the definitions presented in the extensive Glossary chapter. Keillor's remarkable insight is evident in the meticulous articulation of terms such as cheerfulness, joy, blissfulness, jubilation, elation, contentment, gaiety, glee, triumph, delight, and euphoria. His ability to discern subtle distinctions between these positive emotions is truly noteworthy. Each term seems carefully chosen to encapsulate a distinct nuance of cheerfulness, providing readers with a profound understanding of the diverse and vibrant spectrum of positive emotional experiences. For example, according to his perspective, his depiction of "gaiety" involves dressing up and a certain kind of frivolity, emphasizing that ordinary people in everyday attire can easily achieve cheerfulness.

Keillor delves into his experiences after his heart surgery with a mix of humor and insight. .He reflects on the idea of having more years to live but also considers that younger people might not see it as good. 

In a humorous exploration of aging, Keillor addresses various challenges, including topics like erectile dysfunction. He amusingly suggests, "God created erectile dysfunction because old men can't be trusted to raise little kids. It's nature's way of saying Enough out of you." This whimsical viewpoint injects a comedic element into the narrative, providing a lighthearted and amusing insight into the aging journey and the evolving dynamics between generations.

Thinking back on his radio show Prairie Home, Keillor says, it was tough work. Making people laugh isn't easy, "especially for a guy like me who grew up in a Brethren community." In the world of public radio, some folks saw the show as a bit embarrassing—a side act just to bring in money from less sophisticated listeners. He remembers going to NPR conventions and noticing the smirks on the faces of classical music announcers. Despite spending hours writing funny segments like Guy Noir, Lives of the Cowboys, and Ruth Harrison Reference Librarian, he felt like these announcers, who only had to play classical music records, considered themselves way better. He felt bad for them, sitting in a studio, talking all fancy, and thinking they were above criticism because they dealt with "classical" stuff. His tone shows a mix of frustration, irony, and understanding, revealing the challenges and opinions he faced in public radio.

It's important to mention that Keillor has faced controversies, including accusations of inappropriate behavior, which led to his departure from Minnesota Public Radio in 2017.

According to Keillor, at 75, he was essentially kicked off public radio, but instead of feeling down, he became cheerful almost immediately. He describes it as a simple scheme by a man and a woman who had been part of the show for a long time—basically, they told him, "Pay us a million bucks or we'll say bad things about you." Minnesota Public Radio didn't bother investigating; they just let him go. Surprisingly, Keillor found a sense of liberation in being canceled. People kept their distance as he strolled around St. Paul, and oddly enough, he was okay with that. He was no longer the radio guy; he was just himself. The mood in Keillor's version carries a mix of resilience, candidness, and a touch of liberation from the controversy.

Overall Cheerfulness offers a captivating exploration of life's eccentricities. Seamlessly blending humor, nostalgia, and astute observations. Keillor's narrative is both engaging and thought-provoking. And what makes Cheerfulness truly compelling is Keillor's knack for finding special moments in ordinary events, creating a reading experience reminiscent of sitting by the fire and listening to cherished stories. It's more than a book; it's an enchanting journey through lives ups and downs, presented with a touch of wisdom and Keillor's signature charm. 

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Garrison Keillor










 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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