I was inspired to finally pull this off the to be read pile when I attended a recent live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
Garrison Keillor’s stories of his fictional town of Lake Wobegon have been some of my favorite companions during my commute and journeys by car over the years. I’ve listened to some of my favorites multiple times, even doing a term paper on Keillor years ago while in school. I firmly believe that the Lake Wobegon stories work first and best as audio. So, it’s always a bit strange at first to sit down and read them on them on the printed page or woven into the larger context of a full novel.
I’ve also got to admit that one of my favorite authors has left me cold on his last couple of fictional books concerning his fictional town. I found them too jaded and cynical and at odds when what I recall as being the best aspects of the Lake Wobegon stories.
This collection Life Among the Lutherans is a breath of fresh air after those other recent releases. Centering on the lives of his fictional Lutherans in town, this collection features some of the funniest, wisest and best observed stories Keillor had told not only about that particular denomination but about his fictional creation. It helps when two of the earliest entries are two of my favorites, “Pontoon Boat” in which 24 ministers head out on Wally’s new pontoon boat (I love it, but it still works best when Keillor tells it. It’s on CD in his second Lake Wobegon set. If you haven’t heard it, you should. I’m old enough to have hard it on first broadcast and for years I had an unedited version of the story recorded off the air.) and “The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra” which asks the question of which instrument would our Savior play. There were some newer stories that I was unfamiliar with in the collection and it was nice to discover a few new gems.
Also in the mix are a couple of poems (that I believe were performed as songs on a PHC). While not quite as memorable as Keillor’s “Obedience” or “The Finn Who Would Not Take a Sauna,” they’re still good.
As a collection, this will sit well on the bookshelf alongside Lake Wobegon Days and Leaving Home. Keillor is a great storyteller and this collection shows off some of his best