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Garrison Keillor: ‘Violently Angry Women’ Just Don’t Understand My New Novel

The disgraced radio icon didn't like the Star Tribune's review.

Mr. Keillor in 2011
Ryan Somma via Flickr

In Garrison Keillor’s new book, Boom Town: A Lake Wobegon Novel, an aging ex-radio host who left his job under dubious circumstances returns to Lake Wobegon, writes Star Tribune reviewer Laurie Hertzel, only to find it swarming with hipsters. The narrator is horny, hostile, and obsessed with his fall from grace. This purely fictional Boom Town character is named—we kid you not—Garrison Keillor.

Hertzel did praise the “largely plotless” book for its occasional bouts of humor and quirky characters, but suggested it’s mostly for the AARP crowd who remain nostalgic for A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor—the radio icon who was fired from MPR in 2017 after “dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents,” not the book character—isn’t pleased.

If you follow Keillor on Facebook, you’ve been subjected to his post-scandal musings, many of which angrily stew over the perceived injustices he’s endured from a woke world gone mad. You could accurately characterize this newish outlook as “embittered and self-infatuated,” adjectives that seem to fit Boom Town as well. On Wednesday, Keillor used the social media platform to shake his cloud-foisted fist at Hertzel and the (admittedly toxic) Strib comment section.

“I broke my own rule against reading reviews of my work,” the 79-year-old writer wrote, “and read an angry review of BOOM TOWN by Laurie Hertzel in the Star-Tribune that got some facts wrong and characterized the book as embittered and self-infatuated rather than comic.”

(Hertzel, seemingly amused, told Racket “I didn’t get anything wrong” and “I certainly stand by my review.”)

Keillor took particular issue with the “violently angry women” in the comment section “despising someone for something they know nothing about, despising him as a fictional figure.” In a confusing metaphor, he culturally divided Minnesota between the Mayo Clinic (presumably a place of old-fashioned values) and the Star Tribune (presumably a place of malice, judgment, and exotic restaurants).

“Hatred is tiresome,” he concludes. “But it doesn’t feel safe to have an apartment there. It’s time for me to pack up and leave.”

… Is he talking about leaving the concept of hatred, a (conceptual) place where one can rent a (conceptual) hate-filled apartment? Or literally leaving the Twin Cities? The writing makes this point unclear. We reached out to Keillor for clarification, but didn’t hear back.

A past Keillor post suggests it could be the latter.

“Minneapolis is in the hands of progressive Democrats who are sort of romantic about homeless people and vagrants and druggies, imagining they are frustrated artists or something, and now there are neighborhoods where, just as in New York in the Eighties, sensible people don’t go,” he wrote in December, adding: “When it is politically incorrect to talk about law enforcement, then the battle is lost.”

Redemption tours for certain local entertainers, as we saw this week with Har Mar Superstar, can also be losing battles, especially when they’ve fictionalized the realities that lead to their new public reputations. But that won’t stop the fawning, gray-haired diehards from buying Boom Town, as Hertzel suggested, so nothing is stopping Keillor from comfortably living in the reality of his choosing.

Just don’t read the reviews.