Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Cherchez Le Guy Noir

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Having bookmarked it when it appeared, I finally read Sam Anderson's very good meditation on Garrison Keillor, which includes this interesting gloss on Keillor's New Yorker career:

Though Keillor is associated with the Midwest, his sensibility comes largely out of New York City. He began his career in the early '70s writing short humorous essays for The New Yorker (he later became a staff writer then left, on a very high horse, when Tina Brown took over as editor in 1992). He is probably the purest living specimen of the magazine's Golden Age aesthetic: sophisticated plainness, light sentimentality, significant trivia. He was inspired to create A Prairie Home Companion, in fact, while researching a New Yorker essay about the Grand Ole Opry, and we might think of the radio show as his own private version of the magazine, transposed into a different medium. The "News From Lake Wobegon" is basically an old-style Talk of the Town piece about the Midwest.

I also love this line, which is as subtly evocative as one of Keillor's own: "When he speaks, blood pressures drop across the country, wild horses accept the saddle, family dogs that have been hanging on at the end of chronic illnesses close their eyes and drift away."

Speaking of which, R.I.P., Dakota, you good, good dog.


um, “old-style” ?? what the hell does that mean? does it have a referent? but i like the line you picked too … and i think i heard an interview once with keillor that made it plain just how new yorker he was … even though he was being, of course, kind of equivocal about it. for an entertainer, its odd how explicitly political gk is. like, i dropped a knife in the kitchen when he came right out and said, a few years back, that he’d become a republican. i stopped listening then.but then i wondered if i’d heard wrong, or if it was part of his mystique or fictional or … maybe i just missed him. so i listened again.and he seems to have revised this position since all hell broke loose.of course sometimes it’s just trite and not funny. especially in the last 5-7 years.the first time i heard prarie home companion my mom and i were getting drive thru chinese food at a repurposed kfc and some wacky folk group was singing ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ … i will never forget it.

GK also once observed (as I recall it), “Anyone who comes to New York must be willing to be lucky.”A reviewer of the Altman flick remarked of Keillor’s voice that “when Garrison says ‘rhubarb’ you can hear the h and taste the pie.”eh

Altman and voice would make an interesting study …

Hmm. I love GK for his storytelling, and I do adore Guy Noir, the Ketchup stories, and the the news from Lake Woebegone. But I could seriously do with a little less yodelling and high-pitched nasal hillbilly type singing or all that scratchy fiddling. I suspect that willfully subjecting onself to this kind of noise is done in the name of duty at best, or at the worst a self-punishment, a mortification of the ears, for democrats of the kind that like that sort of masochistic pleasure.Or do people really like that stuff?

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