Every Saturday evening for the past 35 years, millions of Americans have twiddled the dials on their stereos and tuned in to the comedy, folk music, tall tales, and generally unbeatable old-fashioned fun that is A Prairie Home Companion. The show’s creator and host, Garrison Keillor, is 67 this year, and, despite suffering a minor stroke last month, he’s still going strong, lending his warm, rumbly voice to songs, monologues, and skits that combine satire and tenderness in equal measure. This Tuesday, October 27, Keillor will appear at the Arlington Theatre to share anecdotes and tales from the fictional Minnesota community of Lake Wobegon, the subject of much of his writings.
Keillor’s latest book, Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, sees his familiar cast of Midwestern characters whisked from their small-town moorings and set down in Rome, Italy, where they tackle new challenges, including jetlag, tipping in Euros, and revitalizing a stalled-out marriage. In scenes like this one, Keillor describes a familiar scenario-the fear of flying-but adds a surreal twist:
: on the way home, the plane hit teeth-shaking turbulence over Lake Michigan. An overhead popped open and an enormous black bat flew out and Carl screamed and threw up his hands and broke its neck and it fell on him, dying, flapping its great leathery wings. He jumped out of his seat and the flight attendant yelled at him to sit down, dammit. And the woman whose bat it was, a noted Berkeley bat researcher seated next to him, took the corpse and screeched at him for 15 minutes that bats are harmless and any 10-year-old child knows that and he had gone and killed a rare specimen from the upper Amazon and upset the balance of the ecosystem and pushed the Earth closer to extinction. “Killer,” she hissed. “You. You’re a killer.”
In Pilgrims, Keillor weaves the same magic of his radio shows and his live appearances: He describes our own hopes and disappointments in such a way that pain and pleasure are mingled in an instant, and it’s impossible to keep from laughing. For info on Keillor’s talk, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.