GARRISON KEILLOR IS RETIRING FROM NPR’S THE PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION: “Public radio always wondered what it was going to do when Garrison leaves,” [Eric Nuzum, former vice president for programming at NPR] said. “It’s about to find out.”
Near the end of a fawning New York Times profile on the 73-year old Keillor, the mask is lowered, and the real man begins to emerge:
Curiously, Mr. Keillor has always found it difficult spending so much time with the strong, good-looking, above average people of Lake Wobegon, which he based on his relatives, past and present.
In “The Keillor Reader” (2014), he complained bitterly about “their industriousness, their infernal humility, their schoolmarmish sincerity, their earnest interest in you, their clichés falling like clockwork — it can be tiring to be around.”
Speaking on his porch, Mr. Keillor said of Lake Wobegonians, i.e., his relatives, “I am frustrated by them in real life.” They were too controlled by good manners, he said, and “have a very hard time breaking through.”
So why devote so much of his professional life ruminating about them? “It’s the people I think I know,” he replied.
Will he miss them, and the weekly jolt of the show?
“No,” he replied. “No.”
As with many on the left, in the wake of 9/11, Keillor emerged as a vicious partisan, describing President Bush’s supporters thusly in 2004:
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.
As Christopher Caldwell memorably put it that same year: “At some point, Democrats became the party of small-town people who think they’re too big for their small towns…For these people, liberalism is not a belief at all. No, it’s something more important: a badge of certain social aspirations. That is why the laments of the small-town leftists get voiced with such intemperance and desperation. As if those who voice them are fighting off the nagging thought: If the Republicans aren’t particularly evil, then maybe I’m not particularly special.”