In The Book of Guys, Garrison Keillor returned to writing short fiction. The book’s dust jacket bears a copy of Four Officers of the Amsterdam Coopers and Wine Rackers, a painting by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout on which Keillor’s picture is superimposed. The people in Keillor’s stories are not figures from 1657 trade guilds, however, but a mix of mythological figures from ancient Greece, characters from Mozart operas, and contemporary people from the United States. What the stories have in common is their theme, the male experience.
As with two earlier collections of pieces unrelated to Lake Wobegon, this group contains several stories that first appeared in the New Yorker. One story, “That Old Picayune-Moon,” appeared first in Harper’s, and “George Bush” was previously collected in We Are Still Married under the title “How the Savings and Loans Were Saved.”
The introduction, which Keillor presents as a speech to the National Federation of Associations, sets up the theme of the book. Supposedly Keillor’s first-person narrator won a membership in the Sons of Bernie, a group dedicated to drinking and male bonding in a backwoods setting. The speaker claims to be repelled by the “low-lifes” with whom he is associating until he drinks enough to begin feeling brotherly. After songs and jokes, the men begin to talk about women. The speaker admits he feels excited as he realizes they are saying things they would not normally say in polite society, which he translates as meaning in front of