Although he bid farewell to A Prairie Home Companion and Lake Wobegon in July, Keillor, 74, is far from retired. He is currently writing a memoir as well as penning a column for the Washington Post that is seen frequently in the Tampa Bay Times. On Dec. 12, Keillor, who started his radio career on Minnesota Public Radio in 1969, will appear at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
What's on your nightstand?
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen and LaRose by Louise Erdrich — two opposite poles of American literature. I'd recommend Carl's to certain people, guys mainly, and Louise's to the sensitive and thoughtful. Razor Girl is crazy funny, wildly inventive, and the characters use more profanity than anybody you will ever know personally, but he's brilliant. I haven't finished Louise's book yet. It's a beautiful tragedy and it is riveting from the very first paragraph. I admire her completely.
Have you added books or authors to your writing life since you've retired from A Prairie Home Companion?
I'm in the thick of writing a memoir now, and I've looked at a whole long shelf of memoir and autobiography to gather some idea of where not to go. I like Edward Hoagland's Compass Points: How I Lived and a new, as-yet-unpublished memoir by Paula Poundstone. I'm trying to get free from chronology and also assiduously avoiding backbiting, sourness, ingratitude and low blows.
Last time we talked you said something that I'm hoping you'll expand on: that books you read as a teen stuck with you more than books you read in your 20s. You said, "When you are a teen, your heart is open, and you're very impressionable.'' So what do you hope teens are reading now?
The classics. Diary of Anne Frank, Life on the Mississippi, The Innocents Abroad (both by Mark Twain) and anything by A.J. Liebling.
What do you think teens would get from reading Liebling?
Liebling had so much fun writing about the world around him, and that sense of fun comes through in the work even all these years later. Teens get forced to read a lot of glum and angry writers, and they ought to read a happy one now and then. He wrote about boxing in The Sweet Science, about newspapers in The Wayward Pressman, about France in The Road Back to Paris, about flim-flam men in The Honest Rainmaker, and I'd recommend The Earl of Louisiana. It's concise, it's funny. It's about a brand of politics that keeps reappearing in America.
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.