Garrison Keillor’s first book, Happy to Be Here, is a collection of short pieces, most of which appeared in magazines between 1969 and 1981, the year the book was published. Of the twenty-nine compositions in the hardback edition, twenty-six were written for the New Yorker while “Your Transit Commission” was first published in the Atlantic. To the paperback edition of Happy to Be Here, published in 1983, Keillor added five additional pieces: “The Tip-Top Club,” “Jack Schmidt on the Burning Sands,” “The New Washington: An Inside Story,” “My Stepmother, Myself,” and “After a Fall.” All five appeared first in magazines.
In the introduction Keillor says that he wrote all of the pieces in Minnesota, his birthplace. His writing frequently mirrors the Midwest in general and Minnesota in particular. Nevertheless, it has no difficulty appealing to the sophisticated readers of the New Yorker. Keillor’s ability to focus with humor on what is commonly called “the human condition” makes his writing relevant to all.
Happy to Be Here is divided into five parts, the compositions in each part being loosely related by subject matter but each standing alone as a story or commentary. Besides adding pieces to the revised edition, Keillor changed their order. Thus, for purposes of clarity, all references here are to the more inclusive revised edition.