Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 7

Love Me by Garrison Keillor

This novel was infectious. I laughed out loud. A lot. It's hilarious and sad. It's a great satire of the writing life. And it has the most bizarre portrayal of William Shawn, turning him into a heroic, athletic figure. Obviously Keillor admired his New Yorker editor a great deal; what was interesting was that the novel came out after revelations that Shawn had carried on a longstanding affair with one of his writers. Keillor's imagination is at its freest here, as he's liberated from expounding on the foibles of Lake Wobegon -- and as a result, he's as funny as he was in the short stories in Book of Guys (which were based on his radio sketches).

The novel chronicles the life of an author whose one success propels him into a life of unfulfilled promise; eventually he becomes an advise columnist, in which he keeps answering mail from a hapless president of the United States. He tries living in New York, but Minnesota calls him home, until he finds himself facing the effects of Peterson's disease and thinking of the horrors of 9/11.  

I interviewed Keillor in 1999, long before this book came out, and I found myself writing the article in imitation of his sad, smooth speaking voice. He's one of those writers whose writing style mirrors his speaking style (not as easy an accomplishment as it sounds). I've read several of his books since, but I keep thinking back to this one for its humor and empathy. 

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