Lake Wobegon Days Review
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I’d heard so much about Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show and even enjoyed it a few times, so when I found this well-known book in a used bookstore, I bought it. The problem was that I couldn’t get past the first page for a long time. Half of it was taken up by a meandering footnoote, and I wasn’t sure whether to read that or the main text.

It was about a year later that I tried again, and found myself truly enjoying the author’s wry humor and hyperbolic portrait of a small town. After he got warmed up, that is. It was on page 8 in a footnote that he explained himself: "I grew up among slow talkers, men in particular…when I got to Minneapolis, where people took a Lake Wobegon comma to mean the end of the story, I
couldn’t speak a whole sentence in company…" Now if he’d started off with that footnote, I would have understood right off.

The truth is that this book about a town in Minnesota is often hilarious, but Keillor’s rambling style, so well-suited for radio, really does seem almost too conversational and unstructured for book form. Having grown up in small Midwestern towns, I could relate to Lake Wobegon and its inhabitants—couldn’t stop laughing through some of it. But there were many times when Keillor would veer off subject and I’d wonder where he went.

And then there are the incredibly long footnotes. Like I said they contain some of the funniest material—the whole book is worth reading just for the sidesplitting 22-page footnote documenting the 95 Theses of a small town graduate, which was ostensibly lost in the Lake Wobegon newspaper office for years. But it can be cumbersome to read half of each page for twenty-some pages at a stretch, then to go back and pick up the thread of the main story on the top halves of those same pages before finally moving on past them. It’s worthwhile, but takes a lot of concentration.

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