Last night I saw Garrison Keillor for the fifth time at his book event for Pilgrims at the Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble. He’s an incredible speaker and storyteller, and it’s such a privilege to listen to him in person.
This was a particularly special night, since it was his first book signing post-stroke. He’s doing incredibly well, thank goodness.
He started off the evening by reciting three of his sonnets. (His sonnets, which I love, are collected in 77 Love Sonnets.) Then he talked for a while and told us the story of his stroke. He introduced his book – it sounded like he was doing a monologue about the plot of the book – telling the story of the beginning of the book, without actually reading word for word. It was fantastic. Then he took questions and signed books. I always laugh so much at his events, and love his stories, so I attempted to take notes and translate them after the event.
I’ve come up with a system for noting how well I think I did sharing his stories:
Regular font means I’m just paraphrasing what he said.
Italic means I think I got it down as he said it, might big a bit off.
“Quotation Marks” mean I know I got the quote spot on.
Here we go:
On the pleasures of singing in choir in high school:
Choir is as close as you can stand to girls and not be weird.
His Stroke Story:
He was at a coffee shop ordering a Venti Latte when all of a sudden he started feeling odd. His speech was slurred. The barista noticed, and asked if he was ok. He said he was fine and left and went to his car. (Men are capable of incredible feats when in the presence of women.) He drove from Minneapolis to St. Paul, and when he got to St. Paul he just kept going to the emergency room. He parked in a no parking spot and went to check in.
The woman who checked him in wrote this about him on his admission report (it was sent to him later in the mail, with his paperwork:
“A nice, 67 year old man, awake, alert, and appropriate.”
“I cherish this.”
He’s felt enormously lucky ever since his stroke.
“NYC is a place I would rather be than just about anywhere else, although you shouldn’t tell that to anyone back where I’m from.”
On who will win the Tigers-Twins series:
The city of Detroit is in such dire straits that we Minnesotans, being Christians, cannot hope to beat them.
On recording an audio book (he said it would have to be his memoirs):
I really can’t write my memoirs until my mother dies, and she’s 94 and still hanging in there.
Someone asked what amount of the Prairie Home Companion show is scripted and what amount is ad-lib:
The skits are scripted, because actors like scripts. He likes to throw in lines during the skits.
His monologue is not scripted. “If you’ve lived a long enough life, you’ll have plenty to talk about.”
That’s about all I got that can be somewhat easily explained here. As with most things in life, it’s not a substitute for being there, but hopefully an enjoyable snapshot nonetheless.
I’m excited to read his new book. It’s about a group of Minnesotans from, of course, Lake Wobegon, who travel to Rome, along with Gary Keillor (sort of an alter-ego to Garrison).
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