KEILLOR, Garrison (b. 1942). Lake Wobegon Days. New York: Viking, 1985. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust-jacket (chipped along edges).
FIRST EDITION, signed on the author’s photo on dust-jacket: “Forty-two, wide-eyed, solemn, ready for something to happen. GK.” Lake Wobegon Days was “the last book I wrote on a typewriter, a Selectric” Keillor tells us on the half-title. “After this I switched to a word processor, then a laptop. For this one, there were endless redrafts, stacks of paper around our house on Goodrich Avenue in St. Paul. I had stopped smoking 2/14/1982 which briefly made me think my writing career was kaput, then this book got me going again.” He gives us interesting bits of the backstory: The story “Protestant” is a “fairly accurate description of Plymouth Brethren, which I renamed ‘Sanctified Brethren,’ a band of 19th c. Dissenters now scattered by schisms, decimated, soon to be as extinct as the buffalo, which makes me ever more fond of them, impossible though they were.” There are plenty of second thoughts: “A lovely first chapter of description,” he says of the opening story, “Home,” “but I’d cut [pages] 15-22 about the author and his disloyalty. Awkward.” Of “New Albion,” he calls it “A rather long digression, a parade of 19th c. caricatures, that adds very little to the book but I worked hard on it and couldn’t bring myself to omit it. Wish I had. Somebody wrote a snooty essay about Unread American Classics and listed LWD, which stung, but then I thought of this laborious chapter and thought maybe they were right. Oh dear.” He even makes some uncomfortable personal confessions. Underneath the epigram of “Dogs don’t lie, and why should I? / Strangers come, they growl and bark. / They know their loved ones in the dark…” he writes, “So untruthful. I tend to bark at loved ones and play up to strangers. Lord have mercy.” On the first page of “Forebears” he admits that “I am Scots-English, not Norwegian, but I like Norwegians a lot and didn’t mind being taken for one.”