Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thank you, Garrison Keillor

While I've never been a big Prairie Home Companion fan (heck, I couldn't even spell "Wobegone" without a little help from Google just now), I do enjoy Garrison Keillor's writing. His recent column on libraries is wonderful: A trip to the library can restore your faith in democracy. I like it not only because it praises libraries and criticizes Republicans (though both of those are fine activities that should be practiced in print more often), but because Keillor once again demonstrates his skill as a writer. The man can turn a phrase. For example:

Libraries have rushed forward into the new age (whichever one we're in now) and the word ''librarian'' is out. They're information professionals now, and it's a media resource center, and it's wired to the max. Just as we novelists have become experiential document specialists producing sensory data-based narratives encoded in a symbolic format that informally we refer to as English.


My old hometown Carnegie library with the columns and high-domed ceiling was irreplaceable, and so of course it was torn down by vandals in suits and ties and replaced with a low, warehouse-looking library that says so clearly to its patrons: ''Don't get any big ideas. This is as good a library as you clowns deserve.''

In an age when people seem to favor acidic sarcasm and blistering criticism--and talk show hosts and columnists on the right and left poison the public airwaves with vicious lies and dangerous extremism--Keillor stands out for making his points with gentle humor and thoughtful commentary. One more example:

The other day, Mr. Giuliani came out against ''putting government in a situation where government is in charge of so many different things'' and a short time later he called for the government to build a fence the length of the Mexican border, ''a technological fence,'' which I guess means something fancier than a mud fence, possibly using kryptonite.

Can you imagine hearing something like that from the typical radio talk show host? Nope, me neither.

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