Monday, October 6, 2008

Guy Noir in Person at Barnes & Noble

Garrison Keillor speaks at Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center

So, I've been a fan of A Prairie Home Companion for decades. My mom introduced me to him by broadcasting his show into the living room each Sunday. I first thought the show was too "talky" and "boring." Then, I grew up and began getting the irony and wit of the writing. Plus, I became more accepting and even appreciative of the countrified music, folk and grass music, even jazz & classical music. I'd love to be a guest singer on his show someday.

He came to talk about his new book, "Liberty," and spoke for about an hour before signing autographs. The event started at 7:30, but he entered the room around 7:10. At the first sign of applause, he held his hand up and said "no, no, no, talk amongst yourselves. Introduce yourself to the person on your right." We all laughed and relaxed as he left the room.

After he returned with a proper introduction from the B&N crew, I could get a better look at him. He is indeed a tall, gangly fellow. Business suit with red tie and red sneakers (and in the above Q&A video he talks about his red socks. He only looked at his book briefly before being introduced, then put the book down and spoke everything from memory. He quoted fully written sonnets, whole passages from his book, or at least spoke with such wonderful descriptive and humorous tones that he must have memorized them. When he sang a hilariously irreverent hymn, he closed his eyes. His intelligence and sharp sense of humor was evident as he took questions - a stand up comedian in writer's clothing. I also noted that he spoke of all of his characters with a reality that I've only seen with writers such as my husband - as in, they are as real as you and me, existing in a truth that surpasses the limitations of the flesh. At the end of the Q&A, he offered a speech of hope about the future of radio; that as long as there is a human voice with an opinion and a presence in the world, people will still tune in to listen.

I made a personal recording of his speech; Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.

In Part 1 you can hear him singing a special hymn, the lyrics are thus:

"Here I am Oh Lord
And here is my prayer
Please be there
Don't wanna ask too much
Miracles and such
Just whisper in the air
Please be there
When I die like other folks
Don't wanna find out you're a hoax
So I'm not on my knees asking for world peace
Or that the polar ice cap freeze
And save the polar bears
Or even that the poor be fed
Or angels hover over my bed
But I would sure be pissed
If I should have been an atheist
Oh Lord, please exist."

I was so happy to have met him, even if he looks slightly confused when I held my own camera out to take a picture of the two of us. When I looked at the review screen and said "It's Ok, but a bit off center," he smiled and said "Well, so am I." And I got him to sign a double-CD compilation of the best moments of "English Majors" for my Mom (who is a retired English Professor). He signed "O Carmen! Let's start farmin' Garrison Keillor."

Your CD's are in the mail, Mom...

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