Garrison Keillor: A Critical Companion

By Marcia Songer | Go to book overview

4

Lake Wobegon Days(1985)

Keillor’s Happy to Be Here is a compilation of short stories and humorous pieces, most of which had appeared in print before its publication, but except for a prepublication excerpt in the Atlantic, the material in Lake Wobegon Days had not previously been published. That did not mean it was all new material, however. Keillor had told many of the stories as monologues on A Prairie Home Companion, and several were included in a set of tapes that went on sale in 1983. The four tapes, collectively entitled News from Lake Wobegon, were individually named for the seasons. The seasons serve as some of the divisions of the book as well.

On the morning radio show that eventually became A Prairie Home Companion, Keillor developed the format that brought him so much success on his later evening show. Lake Wobegon, however, was not part of that initial format. He first claimed as his hometown Freeport, where he was then living, or Brooklyn Park, where he grew up. One of his fictitious sponsors was Jack’s Auto Repair. When listeners started to send in pictures of real shops with that name, he decided he needed to create a fictional setting for his stories. The result was Lake Wobegon (Radel B9). In explaining his choice of the name, he told one interviewer: “To me it sounded vaguely like an Indian word, so I could use it and also get some of the English meaning of the word—you know, ‘bedraggled’—and still claim that it meant something else” (Damsker E12). When the

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