HAPPY TO BE HERE by Garrison Keillor


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Keillor's parodies, satires, and whimsies--which have been appearing in The New Yorker since 1969--rarely provide big laughs or Perelmanic dazzle; but they do have an affectionate, easygoing, back-home quality that makes for a nice change from the clenched-up sparring of most New York-based humorists. (Keillor is Minnesota all the way.) Least distinctive of the 30 pieces collected here are obvious send-ups of trends in jargon and lifestyle: there are familiar, somewhat dated digs at alternative weddings (Sam and Judy "chose to emphasize their mutual commitment to air and water quality, exchanging vows while chained to each other and to the plant gate of a major industrial polluter"); at the craze for communal/natural goods and services ("all of our meat comes from animals who were unable to care for themselves any longer"); at the Foxfire enshrinement of plain-folks (numbing oral histories about making snowmen and customizing cars); and at psychobabble--applied to baseball. Elsewhere, however, Keillor develops a more satisfying double-joke, as in "Shy Rights: Why Not Pretty Soon?"--which lampoons gay-liberation rhetoric while maintaining the ever-apologetic tone of the minority in question ("Discrimination against the shy is our country's No. 1 disgrace in my own personal opinion"). And there are pieces which derive welcome texture from a literary-parody element--like the overlong but endearing "Jack Schmidt, Arts Administrator" (à la Sam Spade). But the special stuff here, if not the funniest, is Keillor's just-slightly-off-kilter Americana: folksy reminiscences which may veer into farce now and then but at the same time demand to have their warm, real centers taken seriously. "My North Dakota Railroad Days," for instance, generates train nostalgia while simultaneously skewering it. And best of all are three sweetly addled evocations of early/small-time radio. (Keillor is a longtime broadcaster, host of National Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion.") Mostly minor-league humor, then, but with enough one-of-a-kind touches (including a few likably autobiographical snippets) to rise just a little above the crowd.
Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1981
ISBN: 0140131825
Page count: 294pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1981


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