The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor (1993. Viking. ISBN 0-670-84943-x)

When my friend Ron loaned me this book a few years back, knowing I’m a huge fan of Garrison Keillor’s stellar radio work, he said, “I loved these stories.” Despite that endorsement, the book sat on my “to read” pile in my writing studio for quite a while. This fall, I finally took up Ron’s challenge and dug in. Man, what a disappointment!

As is true with some, though relatively few, of Keillor’s radio monologues over the years, this book is simply tedious, sophomoric, and really shouldn’t be on anyone’s bookshelf. It pains me to write such words about a person I consider to be our generation’s Will Rogers; a humorist for the ages. But as I slogged my way through silly story after silly story filled with breasts and boogers and vignettes without meaning or plot or commanding characters, I kept thinking, There must be something more here, something I’m missing. Nope.

I was going to include a passage from one of the stories here as an exemplar of what I’m trying to tell you, kind reader. But as I searched the stories in this collection, I couldn’t pinpoint one sentence or paragraph to sum up my disappointment in the man, who for more than a decade, has provided my morning writerly inspiration through A Writer’s Almanac, first as a part of MPR, and now, as a podcast. Finishing this book reminded me that once upon a time, Garrison had ditched his PHC crew and taken to the road to read excerpts from Mark Twain, foregoing the monologues and music that made PHC a Saturday evening staple for so many listeners in favor of trying to prove something to the world. I caught that show with my wife and Ron and his wife at the Big Top and you know what? I was disappointed then as well.

Not everyone is perfect.

1 star out of 5. Ron wants his book back and I can’t understand why.



About Mark

I'm a reformed lawyer and author.
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