01 October 2007

It's one LONG monologue

It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon...

Like his other Lake Wobegon books, Pontoon, Garrison Keillor's latest one, is an expanded and complex version of his Saturday afternoon monlogues. I recall hearing the radio version of the last chapter on a Saturday afternoon awhile back. I wouldn't be surprised if other chapters were once complex stories told to a microphone on the stage of the Fitzgerald (or some other) Theater.

This book revolves around a woman who dies in the book's first paragraph.

Of course, Keillor has to tell the back stories and the stories of the dear departed and all the people connected to her. And for a small town, Lake Wobegon has a wide range of individualistic and truly wierd characters.

Some of the stories and characters ring true for their nïavité. Others are clearly just Keillor's imagination or childhood dreams. Just like in the little tales he weaves on the air.

If you enjoy the "News from Lake Wobegon," you'll probably enjoy reading an extended version of several of those episodes.

It's Barbara, the dead woman's daughter, who quits drinking and grows up in the end of the book. She reads an old letter from her mother before she sells her house and goes off for her life's adventure. The message is, "I miss you when I'm away... I miss you listening to me... You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories. And how we love them...

"But then other people get hold of [our stories] and they kill [them]... I need to get away from the killers. Righteous people can be so cruel when they go after sinners and infidels, I just don't want to be around to see it...

"And then it's time to get in the car and go..."

And Barbara goes. The last sentence in the book is, "Night fell and Wisconsin passed in the dark, Chicago a distant glow in the sky, and the white stripes raced by, and the radio played one great song after another."

(If you didn't realize it sooner, that last phrase proves the book is fiction.)

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