GARY EDWARD KEILLOR, who adopted the fancy-pants name "Garrison," taped his last "Prairie Home Companion" last night in Hollywood. It will be broadcast in Houston today in its usual spot, late this afternoon on public radio.
Mr. Keillor is a gifted man, no doubt. Thought he's four years too old to be a Baby Boomer, himself, he spoke for the boomer generation with . . .
. . . his weekly two-hour radio show, often delightful. My favorite moment was a monologue on the death of Buddy Holly. I don't recall the plot, exactly, but I seem to recall that the young Mr. Keillor and friends from Lake Wobegon skipped out on the fateful day to drive to the crash site in Iowa. It was fiction, of course. Mr. Keillor was 26 on February 3, 1959 -- a bit long in the tooth for such goings on. But he understood the moment and captured its heart in a story.
And yet and yet . . . .
Gary Keillor was and is a jerk. He is one of the founding members of Unca D's "Jerk" page in Column Right. I have only rarely updated the list. But who among today's ripe crop of candidates could ever replace him?
If you love the guy, keep on keepin' on. I won't run a long list of his indecencies. Let this one stand for them all:
Curiously, Mr. Keillor has always found it difficult spending so much time with the strong, good-looking, above average people of Lake Wobegon, which he based on his relatives, past and present.
In "The Keillor Reader" (2014), he complained bitterly about "their industriousness, their infernal humility, their schoolmarmish sincerity, their earnest interest in you, their clichés falling like clockwork -- it can be tiring to be around."
Speaking on his porch, Mr. Keillor said of Lake Wobegonians, i.e., his relatives, "I am frustrated by them in real life." They were too controlled by good manners, he said, and "have a very hard time breaking through."
So why devote so much of his professional life ruminating about them? "It's the people I think I know," he replied.
Will he miss them, and the weekly jolt of the show?
"No," he replied. "No."
(Cara Buckley, "The Garrison Keillor," The New York Times, June 19, 2016)
His spirit here is simply hateful. Not just toward his fictional creations but toward the real people on whom they are based. Heartland America. Heartland Americans. People who, in the main, work hard, are surrounded by strong families, obey the law, love their county, and worship God. The very people who, in the flesh, nurtured and educated him and, fictionalized, created his own wealth and notoriety.
Mr. Keillor is part of what Charles Murray calls the New Upper Class -- "our kind of people," marked by high SAT scores, college and advanced degrees, managerial and professional occupations (specifically including academia and the media), high incomes, and lifestyle choices -- high-end European automobiles, lattes, and all the rest -- that distinguish them from lesser Americans.
Let me stop here. This is not the place to make an extended argument about why Mr. Keillor and many others like him are such disagreeable human beings. He just is. Either you get it or you don't.
Except, sadly, he's not going away.
I have more than once accused the editors and writers for The Houston Chronicle of equal contempt for Texans and Houstonians who hold traditional and conservative views and values on culture, the economy, religion, and -- most significantly -- law and politics. On any given day, a more-or-less conventional Chronicle reader can see himself depicted directly in cartoons and indirectly, usually, in columns and editorials as wild-eyed, ignorant, unreasonable, and immoral despoilers of the utopian America of progressive imagination.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Mr. Keillor fits right in as a new syndicated columnist for The Chronicle. Freed from his bondage to his much-hated image as an avuncular storyteller, he can not venw his spleen with the fierce joy of a man released from the prison of manners and decency.
Here is his hatefulness unleashed:
It's enlightening to see that Brits can be just as dense as everyone else . . . . Because the Brits produced Shakespeare [here begins a little celebration of the wonderfulness of his tastes] and Sir Winston and "Pomp and Circumstance" and "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by," we [this pronoun treats his own readers as elitists equal unto himself] they would do the right thing and then they go and cut off their nose to spite their face [this from a man who claims to be pained by clichés] and vote to pull out of the European Union, a real shot in the foot [cliché redux]. It's like watching the bishop drop the baby in the baptismal font.
And will we be next? The Trumpster went around banging his dishpan, whooping it up for ignorance and superstition, and if he triumphs, then there goes Texas [one can only hope]. Ted Cruz will restore the old Republic where citizenship can be restricted to the righteous and the cleanly [the cleanly?] and the Ten Commandments can be enacted into law and stoning as a deterrent to heresy. . . .
. . . . The embittered granddads outvoted the ambitious young, the old soaks at the Cock 'N Bull struck a blow for stupidity, and now cadres of suits and wingtips [our people] will have to negotiate a way out of the mess. Because you can't vote Britain out of Europe any more than you can vote Minnesota into Tuscany. . . .
(Garrison Keillor "For demagogues, Brexit provides one last stand," The Houston Chronicle, June 30, 2016)
Look, think what you will of Brexit, Mr. Trump, and Mr. Cruz, what Mr. Keillor writes above is a festival of insults, nonsense, idiotic and fantastical conspiracy theories, and clever turns of phrase substituting for facts and reason.
No given line of Mr. Keillor's little screed would withstand elementary analysis or fact-checking. Let's take the last sentence as an example.
"[Y]ou cannot vote Britain out of Europe any more than you can vote Minnesota into Tuscany . . . ."
First, it's the United Kingdom, not Britain.
Second, the vote was not about geography -- voting the United Kingdom out of a continent -- but about politics, broadly speaking -- voting the United Kingdom out of a particular political and economic institution, the European Union. His unstated thesis is that rule by the elites -- people like him -- trumps consent of the governed. Why? Because the governed are idiots who don't know what's good for them.
Third, don't tell me Mr. Keillor was speaking figuratively. His counter-example is strictly geographic -- Minnesota, Tuscany -- with an overlay of built-in cultural contempt for Minnesota: So not Tuscany.
So, Mr. Editor, 'splain how it is that a putatively serious newspaper run by adults thinks this sentence belongs in your newspaper.
Readers need honest and respectful commentary on Brexit. Reasonable minds may, and do, disagree. Many Chronicle readers -- though far fewer than in the good days before newspapers collapsed, when they were a majority -- are traditionalists and conservatives. They think Brexit makes sense. They supported Mr. Cruz. Many, alas, support Mr. Trump. Try to understand these things. Show some elementary respect to the good intentions of fellow citizens.
Mr. Keillor is not an outlier here. He gets to say out loud what the editorial board thinks. These men and women are constrained by a fear of saying openly what they believe about the rest of us, though they cheerfully slice and dice us by implication and indirection.
This contempt for the real Lake Wobegon -- and the real Lufkin and Orange and Midland and Brownville -- will never end so long as the Chronicle has not one, not one, conservative or traditionalist as a local columnist or editorial writer. And even if one were hired, I would have my doubts.
Our newspaper seriously believes that Gary Edward Keillor, an elitist, hateful, pompous jerk, offers a useful contribution to public discourse.
Shame on Mr. Keillor for disowning his own people, his own culture. For doing his farewell show in the Hollywood Bowl rather than Minneapolis's Fitzgerald Theatre, to honor and show respect and appreciation for the people who have supported him for so many years.
Shame on the Chronicle for hiring this pathetic human being and printing his bilious commentary.