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Interview by Martin Wroe

The Uneasy Fundamentalist

While Garrison Keillor may have doubts about the faith, he knows the church (too well).

When Garrison Keillor visited London recently on a book tour, Martin Wroe talked with him about his latest novel, Wobegon Boy, his attitude toward his fundamentalist roots (Keillor was raised Plymouth Brethren), and his Christian faith. Keillor also gives a tantalizing preview of his current work-in-progress: a novel about Lake Wobegon's hapless baseball team, the Whippets, and the catalyst for their first winning season in 40 years.

One reviewer said a problem with Wobegon Boy is that it reads like a novel written in 100-yard dashes.

Well, yes, that's true. I hope the reader starts the next dash, forgetting that he just ran a previous one. I do think that it is impossible to write a comic novel as a single long take simply because a person can't be funny for a long time. We know this. People have tried, some of them at parties I have attended. Comedy is a series of short takes.

With a collection of stories, you can end your relationship with a character once you feel they have run out of interest. With a novel you must continue to make something or someone interesting to the reader for a long, long time. That is the great challenge, and it is an even greater challenge if you have a character, as I do in John Tollefson, who is not all that interesting.

Comedy is not about people who are alienated or estranged or filled with grief. Comedy is about ordinary people. And people who are privileged in some way. It is difficult to write comedy about people whom one pities. But those are really the sorts of characters that many readers prefer: people who have suffered terrible wounds in childhood and who have been able to overcome this through meditation or through truisms, through listening to one's inner self, or whatever one's mantra is—and who then went on to earn vast sums of money. That territory is not my bailiwick. I'm all for it and I'm all for people writing books. Literature is a great democracy, but those aren't my people, and in the end, deep down, though it's ...

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