Tag Archives: Garrison Keillor

In dread of locks.

"My New Guitar" by ShalunaGarrison Keillor, broadcasting from Morris, Minnesota, a college town outside the Twin Cities, riffing about the stimulation college-age people bring to the older generation:

The great thing about a college town is that students bring a certain element of weirdness to a town. And it certainly can use it. So people are grateful for this.

This is what students are supposed to do. They’re  supposed to give people something to look at and something to talk about. So they provide some tattoos, some tribal tattoos, and some piercings and some dreadlocks in a town where men no longer have the ability to grow dreadlocks. And so there they are.

You walk around Morris and there’s a bunch of people in ski masks and they’re smoking cigarettes and they’re shooting a video and they’re out there on Atlantic Avenue and somebody’s sitting and playing a guitar. They don’t even bother putting a hat down for tips because they know nobody’s going to put money in it anyway.

So that’s what they do. They provide interest for us.

So much of the meaning comes from Keillor’s timing and understated delivery. But I think his message comes through here and I like the enrichment he attributes to the generational divide. Being on the latter side of it I found it enlightening, and encouraging.

Yes, they are different, the tattoos and piercings and dreadlocks, the compulsion for guitar playing. It doesn’t denote the downfall of everything, as we who played guitar may recall;  it is the outgrowth of being young.  When else would one do these things?

“They’re supposed to give people something to look at”: like art, like a striking vista, which make you take notice, think and discuss.

Viewed in this gentle way, no one is threatening the way things are done, and no one has failed to stay current. One must simply look for the humanity and the amusement, and the interest.

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‘It is unfair to bore someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to bore you right back.’

Ever since I read Garrison Keillor’s short story, “The Poetry Judge,” in The Atlantic in 1996, this quotation has become one of my rules of thumb for judging good writing:

“Experience becomes literature when it no longer matters to the reader whether the story is true or not,” the narrator says.

“Self expression is not the point of it,” he continues. “We are not here on paper to retail our injuries. For one thing, it is unfair to bore someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to bore you right back…”

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