Fans of Minnesota Public Radio’s long-running variety show Prairie Home Companion set in the fictional Lake Wobegon were no doubt responsible for making Lake Wobegon Days a 1985 bestseller.
The book by the show’s creator and monologist Garrison Keillor is a collection of stories about the small, rural Minnesota community told in the rambling, discursive style beloved by audiences for almost 40 years.
That audience would recognize the people Keillor talks about in the book: the Bunsens, Pastor Ingqvist, Father Emil, Dorothy of the Chatterbox Cafe, Ralph of Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery, and Norwegian bachelor farmers.
Readers today are more likely to associate Keillor with an accusation of “inappropriate behavior” (a term unknown to Lake Wobegonians) and “The Lake Wobegon effect,” derived from the Keillor’s description of the town as a place “where all the children are above average.”
Readers for whom the little town on the prairie would prompt recollections of their own experiences growing up are a dwindling group: Keillor’s 77th birthday is this year.
For today’s young Americans of child-rearing age, the world of Lake Wobegon will be about as familiar as life in a 14th century Italian monastery.
In 1985, Lake Wobegon Days was humor.
Today it’s historical fiction.
Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
Viking. ©1985. 337 p.
1985 bestseller #3; my grade C+
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni