First of all, I have a love-hate relationship with Garrison Keillor.
Sometimes when I find myself in the car on Sundays listening to him on NPR and his Pappy O’Dan’el’s Flour Hour Sermon on the mount, I just want to shake my head and pray that his cult-laden neuvo-amish hordes don’t take over modern American sentiment and set sail with tea-party types into the new revolution. It’s just too niche for me. But then … some nights, after coming home from class on Thursday nights, I flip NPR back on and I hear his warm, slow voice talking to the world and everyone around me about poetry, or a book or something else equally interesting. Much in the way that Paul Harvey kept us intrigued, Garrison has picked up the mantle in the same way – with some of the stuff he does, but not all.
With this op-ed piece though, Garrison is laboring under the false premise that just because he’s now surrounded on all-sides by writers verging and edging to be authors because of population growth and he’s in the waning years like a verse from a too-cool David Bowie song, that all the material that will spring forth will be ashy detritus from a bitter and tainted well. What a complete fool he makes of himself in these final moments – of publishing.
I’m an author in the new age, I’m one of the names that some anonymous Agent in Publisher's Weekly said earlier this week (in an article bashing authors and describing the same thing Garrison is covering), would be forgotten or never known. He said people like me self-publish books to flip off the publishers in an act of defiance. I self published a book that was received with high praise and it sold relatively well. I also kept the book away from everyone in my family and forbid them to review it. The world loved my book and said it was one the great modern classics reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and an endless list of other dead people who we all grew up with. I don’t regret a moment of it. I’m not rich. I don’t travel between countries. Matter of fact, my passport is soon to expire and has nary a stamp in it at all. That’s life. I also never received any advance from a publisher and don’t get checks in the mail from royalties that pay my bills, or even half of them. I write poetry and novels on my own time in an effort to maintain my sanity and make sense of the world around me. If I never get rich with my writing, cool -- I just don't care. And yes, I have a new book out. But guess what, next year I'll hopefully be saying the same thing.
Garrison describes an evening of his life like a disembodied Whit Stillman or a more thoughtful Bret Easton Ellis but instead of just telling like it is, he assumes way too much and filters everything through his life of satire and indifference. I guess he puts more stock in the crowd he’s observing riding the titantic than the crowd knocking at the door, piloting the Coast Guard cutter. This reader can only feel that he’s disappointed by the world that grew up around him and the children that are soon to take the reins. We’re all hummingbirds sucking on sickly-sweet, blood-colored nectar with attention deficit in his world-view. None of us seemingly have the goods, none of us could dare craft anything meaningful for the world based upon his analysis. We failed him. The world has failed him and now the publishing machine is in its death throes and the knell is sounding.
I, too sent manuscripts into New York publishers in manila envelopes and knocked out my first book on a manual typewriter, but unlike Garrison, I’m 39 not 67. I also received an endless barrage of rejection letters through the years, but I also kept writing and kept at it. Now, because of my fortitude, and your fortitude and everyone else’s – we’re all upstarts or non-starters. Take your pick, because if you don’t, someone with a banjo next Sunday will – all while smiling and dressed neatly in an ironed pair of store-bought bibjeans who will mock you openly with a soundtrack and several faux commercial breaks.
And for the record, everything I ever wrote took a great deal of effort and it would be selfish to think that it wasn’t the same for everyone else. They used to say that a hundred years ago, 98% of the world used to farm and only 2% engaged in writing but now the data has flipped and 98% of folks are writers and only a small 2% of people farm. That’s life. Note to Garrison … stop selling us short and believing that Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ is the only way it’s going to go when you’re done.
Garrison Keillor's remarks here.
Garrison Keillor's remarks here.