Thanks for your comments on last week’s “How I Got Into….”, so pleased people liked it.
This week it’s a writer, Garrison Keillor. But I’m a bit frustrated, because I can’t trace it to the ultimate source.
I can remember stage 2 – buying the first of Garrison Keillor’s books, Lake Wobegon Days. It was from a bookshop in Uxbridge. It was 1989, and I had a job interview with Coopers & Lybrand, a management consultancy firm I really wanted to work for. I’d decided that consultancy was what I wanted to do, and here I was going to talk to one of the leaders in the field.
So I made sure to get there in plenty of time – train to London, tube out to Uxbridge, a good half-hour to spare. So I wandered into town, and stopped into a bookshop. Browsing the shelves, I picked up Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor and bought it. And this is where the chain breaks – I can’t remember why. Had I heard him on the radio? I don’t think so, he wasn’t well known in the UK. Had I read something about him being an interesting humorous writer? Maybe, but also unlikely. Or maybe it was just how the book was displayed on the shelf, an interesting cover, enticing blurb on the back cover.
Whatever it was, I bought the book to read on the train home, and headed for the interview. And I got the job, stayed with the firm for 9 years and had a wonderful, interesting career there.
So Garrison Keillor has a very positive association for me. When I read the book, I loved it. I loved his wry, quirky style, the cast of characters that he created for Lake Wobegon, which was so far removed from anything I had experienced (I hadn’t even visited the USA at this point) yet you felt completely familiar with the situation.
And then I got a cassette tape of him reading the stories, and that languid delivery opened up a whole new dimension and my wife and I spent many long car journeys in his company. Any time I read his writing, I can hear the gentle idiosyncrasies of his voice reading it to me.
For a while, I read everything he wrote, but then kind of drifted off to other things. But in writing this post I’ve had a smile in my heart at the reminiscence of those stories, and there are some of his tales that still. I dug out a copy of We Are Still Married, a collection of stories for which we also had an audio cassette, and re-found in it Hoppers, a short, beautifully observed piece about watching people avoiding a flood caused by a gushing fire hydrant.
And also there is an essay, Meeting Famous People, which makes me cringe – “Tip #2: don’t gush, don’t babble, don’t grovel or fawn.” Maybe one day, when I feel ready and comfortable enough with my audience, I’ll write a post on just why I shudder at those words.
I could have picked up any other book in the shop. But I didn’t, I picked up that one. I can’t remember why it was that one, but I got years of joy from the choice.