Born August 7, 1942, Garrison Keillor is an American author, humorist, storyteller, performance artist, musician, and radio personality. A member of the Radio Hall of Fame, he is best known as the founder and host of the Minnesota Public Radio program A Prairie Home Companion, which is heard weekly on more than 400 National Public Radio stations. Keillor’s trademark storyline is a monologue, aired weekly, called _News from Lake Wobegon, _a fictional town based on Freeport, Minnesota. His stories are about everyday people struggling to find meaning in life and their place in the world.
Keillor graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota in 1966. He is the author of numerous books, including Homegrown Democrat (2003); Love Me (2003); Good Poems (2002); Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 (2001); The Book of Guys (1993); WLT: A Radio Romance(1991); We Are Still Married (1989); Leaving Home (1987); and Lake Wobegon Days (1985). Some of these have vaulted Keillor onto the list of best-selling American authors. He has also written several articles for The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. Keillor hosts The Writer’s Almanac, a five-minute daily program broadcast on some public radio stations, and he has recorded many cassettes containing his stories.
Keillor’s book Homegrown Democrat is a blend of memoir and political demagoguery; a drama in which Keillor plays the caring, humane hero while Republicans are depicted as greedy, uncompassionate, heavy-handed bigots. Some excerpts include the following:
Keillor also has described Republicans as “swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, 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, aggressive dorks …”
Keillor pens a weekly column on cultural, social, and political topics for the liberal-left publication Salon.com. In an August 2007 column, he wrote the following about terror suspect Jose Padilla’s conviction (a few days earlier) on charges that he had conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people, and that he had provided material support to terrorists:
“They put Jose Padilla away for having filled out an application form to attend an al-Qaida training camp, a milestone in criminal-conspiracy law that makes me wonder about you readers and what you might do that some ambitious prosecutor could trace back to something I wrote 16 months ago. I’m serious.… What if I had written years ago that the World Trade Center was ugly, which it was, and I wish it didn’t exist, and what if that paragraph had been found paper-clipped to the al-Qaida application?
“Ever since that dreadful September day [9/11], the Current Vice-President has been obsessed with the idea that someone somewhere must be prevented from doing the horrible thing they may or may not be about to do and if the Constitution and common law and common sense must be crunched underfoot in order to prevent that, then so be it.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire. This, however, is rough on smokers, if the fire department is called out whenever someone exhales. And that’s what happened to Mr. Padilla. He lit up a stogie and was nailed for contemplating arson. God forgive us our zealous cruelty.”
In an August 2007 column, Keillor excoriated Karl Rove, who had recently announced his resignation as President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Referring to Rove as “Turd Blossom,” Keillor wrote:
“Karl Rove could put fecal matter on his lapel and call it a boutonniere…. Mr. Rove believed … he could make history and create the Permanent Republican Majority [PRM] to run the country, but when people look at what he actually brought to pass — this wretched war that costs us $10 billion a month or more, a mortgaged economy, the corruption of the Department of Justice — somehow the PRM seems less and less interesting.”
“… That’s the appealing thing about Barack Obama, in addition to his smarts and his résumé. He is an outsider who found the center. He is completely new, a break from the old rhetoric, a guy who doesn’t pummel the old straw men or seem put together by pollsters. He has youth, skinniness, blackness, cool intelligence, an unabashed love of country, and it’s exciting to imagine him in the White House. He is a rebel who got over himself and discovered the beauty of the American cadence. Not like the Current Occupant [George W. Bush], who came from the privileged mainstream and is still flailing against it, the Iraq war his latest attempt to prove that he knows better than Father…. Eight years of corruption and deliberate ignorance.”
In April 2007 Keillor wrote a piece calling for compassion for illegal aliens, explaining the justness of high taxes on the wealthy, and suggesting that affluence is not created by hard work but rather by societal inequities and accidents of birth:
“The Republican candidates are slugging it out, talking tough about cracking down on gay Mexican wetback couples who are stealing our guns and leaving us defenseless against big government, decrying the evils of taxation. Meanwhile an ancient Republican dropped by my house on Monday … and announce over coffee that he is now an independent. He is disgusted with the Current Occupant [President George W. Bush] over Iraq and much more, including taxation. Unlike the Occupant, he does not think of taxes as a sacrifice but simply the dues you pay as a member of society, and the haves pay more than the have-nots because they have more to lose should anarchy ensue. And he was brought up to believe that more is expected of those to whom much is given.”
In an October 2006 column titled “The All-Time Worst President,” Keillor suggested that George W. Bush’s presidency was a modern-day manifestation of Christopher Columbus’ allegedly monstrous legacy:
“Columbus was a pirate and tyrant who sailed off and bumped into the Bahamas, had no idea where he was, and to his dying day believed he had reached the Indies…. That arrogant fool Columbus, who demanded 10 percent of all the gold the Spanish stole in the New World, got the holiday, a town in Ohio and another in Georgia, a major river in the Northwest and a university in New York…. I propose that we change Columbus Day to Bush Day, a cautionary holiday, like Halloween, a day to meditate on the hazards of ambition.”
A portion of this profile is adapted from the article “Garrison Keillor: Homegrown Idiot,” written by George Shadroui and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on December 3, 2004.