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Love Me

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Overview

n this charming departure from Lake Wobegon, bestselling author Garrison Keillor tells a hilarious and heartwarming tale of ambition, success and failure, and the virtues of real love. Aspiring writer Larry Wyler leads a quiet, decent life with his do-gooder wife, Iris, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he wants more. When his literary debut becomes a hit, he departs for a Manhattan apartment, a job at the New Yorker, and three- martini lunches with the great editor, William Shawn.

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Love Me

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Overview

n this charming departure from Lake Wobegon, bestselling author Garrison Keillor tells a hilarious and heartwarming tale of ambition, success and failure, and the virtues of real love. Aspiring writer Larry Wyler leads a quiet, decent life with his do-gooder wife, Iris, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he wants more. When his literary debut becomes a hit, he departs for a Manhattan apartment, a job at the New Yorker, and three- martini lunches with the great editor, William Shawn.

But when his second novel bombs and he finds himself in the grip of writer's block, Wyler discovers that success-and the New York publishing scene-is a fickle mistress, indeed. Creatively barren, nearly destitute, and longing for Iris, he accepts a job writing 'Ask Mr. Blue,' a column doling out advice to the lovelorn. It may not be glamorous work, but through it Wyler discovers what's really important and sets out to win back the woman he left behind.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
… a droll literary spoof wrapped in a sweet love story. — Bob Minzesheimer
The Washington Post
Unlike his feckless hero, Keillor has never lost touch with his Midwestern community and the rich and varied material it has afforded him over the years. In its revelation of what it means to be a human being in our gloriously absurd day and age, Love Me is Garrison Keillor's funniest and most ambitious novel to date. — Howard Frank Mosher
The New York Times
Love Me succeeds as light-footed fun, or as social comedy of the order that poor Larry Wyler couldn't write. Either way, any novel in which J. D. Salinger appears on ''Hollywood Squares'' gets my vote — Carl Hiaasen
Publishers Weekly
An obscure Minneapolis writer is touched by the "kiss of fame" in Keillor's latest, a sly romantic comedy-cum-literary satire that begins when Larry Wyler's first novel, Spacious Skies, takes off and hits the bestseller list. Wyler longs to accept an invitation to go to Manhattan and work for the New Yorker, but his earnest, stodgy wife, Iris, is content to stay in St. Paul and continue her work with the elderly. The siren song of New York proves too strong for Wyler, though, and the writer reports to legendary editor William Shawn and rubs elbows with the likes of Updike and Salinger. But publisher Harold Ross has been succeeded by a mafioso called Tony Crossandotti, who forces Wyler into a deadly showdown after the hapless writer fails to get a poem published for the thug. In an equally cheeky storyline, Wyler begins writing an advice column for a Minneapolis paper when his work at the New Yorker flags and his second novel tanks, and Keillor uses the conceit to pen a series of running letters from various lovelorn characters who call on "Mr. Blue" to help sort out their lonely lives (reprising his real-life turn as an advice columnist for the online magazine Salon). The material on Wyler's up-and-down relationship with Iris is less successful, although Keillor's prose does turn touching down the stretch when they reconcile and put Wyler's numerous infidelities behind them. With his trademark droll humor, Keillor exposes the foibles of human nature and pokes fun at our more absurd conventions. The icing on the cake is the use of some obviously autobiographical material from Keillor's publishing experiences in this wry send-up of literary life. (Aug. 18) Forecast: Keillor is arguably a better humorist than novelist, and this extended sketch plays to his strengths-it may even draw a few Keillor skeptics. A 10-city author tour is sure to be well-attended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After his first novel becomes a best seller, Minnesota writer Larry Wyler promptly suffers from swollen-head syndrome, separates from down-to-earth wife Iris, and rides the momentum to a Manhattan terrace apartment and a staff position at The New Yorker. Thus begins a parody of life for a successful writer in the Big Apple. Larry lives high on the hog, enjoying numerous casual sexual encounters and hobnobbing with literary luminaries such as William Shawn, John Updike, and even the elusive J.D. Salinger. Despite these triumphs, Wyler's comeuppance is not far behind. Soon plagued by writer's block, he loses confidence, begins to run out of funds, and finds himself harried by ominous Mafia types who make unreasonable demands. In desperate straits, he accepts an offer from a St. Paul newspaper to write a column for the lovelorn under the pseudonym "Mr. Blue" and eventually returns home to Iris and redemption. Keillor's clear eye for human foibles and amazing ear for dialog yields tons of material. His strength, though, is in the short format, and while the advice column technique affords him smaller settings for his gems, the book as a whole fails to come together in an easy, connective flow. Keillor fans will, nonetheless, want to read his latest. Recommended for fiction collections everywhere. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/03.]-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142004999
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/31/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 985,916
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, author of nearly a dozen books, is founder and host of the acclaimed radio show A Prairie Home Companion and the daily program The Writer's Almanac. He is also a regular contributor to Time magazine.

Biography

Garrison Keillor is the author of thirteen books, including Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, Wobegon Boy, and Lake Wobegon Days. From 1999-2001, Keillor wrote a column "Dear Mr. Blue: Advice for Lovers and Writers" on Salon.com. Keillor's popular Saturday-night public radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, is in its twenty-seventh season. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Gary Edward Keillor (real name)
      Garrison Keillor
    2. Hometown:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 7, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Anoka, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Minnesota, 1966

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Once I was young and virtually indestructible and now I am an old married guy on a January morning on Sturgis Avenue in St. Paul sniffing the wind and taking my vitamins. Six A.M. It’s pitch-black out. Fresh coffee in the air. I take vitamin C, E, B complex, lysine, cod-liver oil, echinacea, with orange juice, which eases the pills down the gullet. I do a few leg stretches, forty crunches, twenty push-ups, a dozen curlies, on the living room floor. I don’t want to struggle when I go to get out of a car. And if tonight my queen should reach over from her side of the bed and draw me to her, I intend to be capable of knighthood.

I look out the kitchen window to get my bearings. St. Paul sits on a bend in the Mississippi, and from my window I see the giant illuminated 1 on the First National Bank downtown and the light in the cupola on the great dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul high on the hill above us. The cathedral sits up there overlooking downtown along with the stately mansions of Summit Avenue that we show to tourists, where James J. Hill, the Empire Builder, resided and next door, the Hampls who made Hamm’s beer, and the lumbering Weyerhaeusers, the O’Briens, the Pearsons of Pearson’s Nut Goodies, the MacDonald and McNeil families who founded 3M, and the domiciles of their vice presidents and their spoiled children. Sturgis Avenue is a long way down from Summit and Ramsey Hill. Down here are the mechanics and millhands, the laundry workers, the ladies of the cafeterias. Up there the liquor stores stock twenty-year-old single-malt Scotch from the Orkneys and the grocery sells goat yoghurt and eight different kinds of oregano and coffee beans from Costa Rica and in the coffee shops you hear Haydn and people talking about Henry James. Down here people buy Old Overshoe bourbon and season their food with salt and the coffee comes in cans and in the coffee shops people talk about their sister whose husband beat the shit out of her and took off for South Dakota. If it were up to me, I’d be living on Ramsey Hill by sundown tonight, but my wife is a Democrat and I lost that fight a long time ago.

Next door is the house of Mr. Ziegler, who died in September of aimlessness, now owned by a hard-working young couple who don’t smile when they see me. Apparently they don’t know I’m a former famous author and I write the twice-weekly “Mr. Blue” column in the Minneapolis Star Journal (Romance going sour? Boyfriend acting weird? Wife ignoring you? Ask Mr. Blue.) They are delivery truck drivers, judging by their dark brown convict uniforms. Dear Mr. Blue, My wife and I live next door to an older man who is always staring over our way. Should we say something? Suspicious. Dear Suspicious, It can’t hurt.

I attained old married guyhood despite some outstanding bad behavior on my part and an unsuccessful lunge at fame and riches a long time ago. There was a fairly popular novel, Spacious Skies, and an apartment at the Bel Noir on Central Park West in New York and an office at The New Yorker with a drawing on the wall above my desk that James Thurber scrawled there years ago with a carpenter’s pencil. A thoughtful dog with a harpy standing over him, saying, “I know what you’re thinking and the answer is No, No, No.” J. D. Salinger’s office was down the hall and J. F. Powers’s and S. J. Perelman’s. John Updike smiled at me in the hallways. Calvin Trillin took me to lunch. The great editor William Shawn became a pal of mine. Him and me went barhopping and got so soused we had to hold each other up. God, I loved that man. We played golf and sailed his boat, the Shawnee, through the Verrazano Narrows and out to sea and fished for grouper. I was in New York for six years and Iris almost divorced me, on grounds of emotional distance, but then I wrote a wretched second novel, Amber Waves of Grain, which bombed so badly she took pity on me and called off the dogs. I came down with a brutal case of writer’s block. Wrote one sentence of Purple Mountains’ Majesty and quit. The sentence was: “He and the Mrs. dreamed of alabaster cities but here they were in St. Paul and what could they do but cry in their soup?” Couldn’t write worth beans.

She almost divorced me again after I shot the publisher of The New Yorker (an accident, sort of). He lay on the floor of the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, quietly discoloring the carpet, and said, quietly, “You’ll never write for my magazine again, Larry Wyler,” and expired. I left New York the next day and returned to St. Paul, to a studio apartment on Ramsey Hill, and cooled my heels there until Iris was willing to take me back.

So I am basically okay. When people ask me, that’s what I tell them. “You’re sure looking good,” they say, which they never said twenty years ago when I did look good, but never mind. I’m sixty. Brown hair, low medium IQ, big feet and sloping shoulders, the face of a ladies’ shoe salesman, about a quart low in the charm department, and nothing to be done about it. Boo hoo for me. Hurray for monogamy.

Shortly, I’ll take coffee and the Times up to Iris, the mistress of the house, as she soaks in a hot bath, suds up to her neck, a rolled-up towel behind her head, listening to Morning Edition from NPR. And an hour later, she’ll appear downstairs good and pissed off at the Republicans for their treacheries. This bodes well for the day. We’ll eat our bran flakes and bananas and she’ll say something short and sharp about our shallow doctrinaire president and pick up her battered briefcase and hike to work downtown. Meanwhile, I stay home and write my column for the lovelorn. Dear Mr. Blue, He used to be a young stallion taking me to heights of wild passion and then he turned into Eeyore, all moody and needy. In the afternoon, I take a nap and scribble on a legal pad what I hope will become this book and I chop vegetables for supper. Iris comes home at 6. We eat. We go for our nightly constitutional, a two- mile circuit along West 7th past the old Czech lodge hall and the Day By Day Café, the porn shop and the magic store and the funeral parlor, and the half-mile trek across the High Bridge over the Mississippi to Cherokee Heights and back. Even on the bitterest cold nights when the arctic blast bites you in the shorts, she insists we do the Death March over the frozen Father of Waters—“It’s good for you,” she mutters through her ski mask, and I guess it is. It seems to settle the meal and pacify our minds and we arrive at some tender if inconclusive understanding of each other and come home and read ourselves into a pleasant drowsy state and so to bed.

Perchance to some nobility or else straight to sleep and the nobility of dreams. And then it’s 6 A.M. again.

V

Today Mr. Blue has a letter from Lonely asking how a woman who hates the bar scene can find a good man. And there’s Frustrated, who asks if he should stick with his programmer job or fly to Stockholm and pursue the woman he met at her farewell party two weeks ago. The Swedish girl. She didn’t say she loved him but there definitely was something between them and he can’t get her out of his mind. And then there is Uncertain, who responded to a personals ad (Seek sex buddy. No grief artists, drama queens, memoir writers, Dylan fans, or people in recovery. I am a fattycakes & two-fisted drinker & UB2. Acne a plus.) and met a large lonely man who came into her life like a bad case of psoriasis. He wants to borrow money so he can go back to technical college. Should she lend it to him? Surely not, but I am in no position to scorn her, or Frustrated either. I have my own flaws.

1. Arrogance. Glorying in the dopiness of others. Taking a piggy pleasure in hearing nice things said about me no matter how fatuous.
2. Restlessness. The reckless urge to abandon ship and move on and thus stay a step ahead of defeat.
3. An ungrateful heart. The expectation of gifts.
4. Alcohol. Too much of it. The inevitable stupidity. (I have cut out No. 4 for now and that leaves three to deal with. Sorry. Forgot No. 5. Dishonesty.)

I go to fetch the Times from the front step and there is fresh snow, so I grab a broom and sweep the steps and the front walk. I like January. Christmas is put away and the cold air wakes a man up and kills off delusions of grandeur. I am sober this morning. It has been two and a half years.

Dark figures stumble through the dark toward the bus stop on West 7th, an old man in a beat- up denim jacket. Dear Mr. Blue, I want to quit my custodial job and move to Florida but Mother needs me here. She is 95 and I am 72. What to do? I am freezing to death. And a young couple not holding hands, her shivering violently in a cheap leather jacket, hands in her pockets, him solemn-faced, sleepy, earrings, head shaved. I’m guessing they live together and she is angry about the three years she’s invested in him. Dear Mr. Blue, My girlfriend is mad because I’m not all that thrilled about the idea of us buying a house. I like things the way they are. She keeps saying, “What if I get pregnant?” As if this were an option. I’m 28 and don’t know what I want to do except buy a new guitar and write more songs. Why the sudden rush to buy a house? And silverware patterns? I don’t get it. Confused. Hey, it’s only life, son. It can crowd in on a guy fast. Don’t buy the house if you don’t want to. Pray for clarification. I say a prayer for you now as you walk past me. Pray for me in return.

V

This morning, as I have for two and a half years, I stepped out of the shower and felt lucky. Stepped on the scale. 195. Brushed my teeth and toweled my thatch of thin hair and anointed myself with Tango deodorant and put on jeans and black T-shirt and asked God to forget my transgressions and give me a cheerful and attentive heart and headed for the kitchen to make coffee.

Let us speak about the importance of separate bathrooms. The wise old couple cherish their individual rights and one is the right not to be crowded. I am a man who awakens in a convivial mood, apt to shuffle off to Buffalo and sing about the red, red robin who comes bob-bob-bobbin’ along. Her Ladyship does not. She rises as if from open-heart surgery. She should not be jostled or spoken to until she gathers her faculties. This requires the Times and a cup of strong coffee. She sits in her bath, eyes closed, tendrils of brown hair trailing into the water, freckled arms folded over dappled breasts, organizing the world—the Holy Trinity, the Four Points of the Compass, the Seven Cardinal Virtues, the schools of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the avenues of Minneapolis, Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax, Dupont, Emerson, Fremont, Girard. When I tiptoe in, she reaches up for the paper and the cup of coffee and says, “Thank you. Good morning, ” and I am dismissed.

I am loathe to write about her, our life, my sins. I dislike revealing what must be revealed here. I love secrecy. I would love to live invisibly with Iris and let the dust settle on us until we are hauled off to the glue factory.

Communication is an injurious thing in marriage. A person should never ever discuss the marriage if it can be avoided. Sometimes in a weak moment you blurt out something—“You never understood me!” for example—and it becomes your albatross. “What did you mean when you said she has never understood you,” says the therapist, who hopes you will say more and throw some more sand in the pistons, all the more work for him at $150 an hour. Don’t answer the question. Keep all dark thoughts to yourself. Be cheerful. Tell the therapist to peddle his papers somewhere else. You can deal with your own problems by the time-tried method of shutting up and letting them pass.

One thing that kept our marriage together was a mutual distaste for Republicans. Nixon fuming about the Jews and Reagan weaving his little MGM fables and the Ivy rednecks George I and George II and their servitude to the obscenely rich. Without this gallery of rogues, we might’ve been history a long time ago.

It also helps that I’m not drunk.

I don’t want to but I will tell the truth to the best of my ability as a step toward sobriety. I sincerely apologize if this offends you, dear reader.

1 a We Met at the U

I met Iris O’Blennis in choir when I was twenty. We were juniors at the University of Minnesota, 1963. She was in social work, I was an English major. Choir met MTW 3–4:30 in the musty basement of Northrop Auditorium. I took my place among the baritones and stood behind a pale shining alto with short brown hair and long neck and that was her. Dear Mr. Blue, I am too shy to talk to girls. Sing to them then. Join a choir. Pick out the girl you want and stand behind her and blend your voice with hers, gently, reverently, in tune, as if lifting her by the waist, and this will excite her and also create trust. Animals mate by ear, so do people. People mate in choir all the time in Minnesota. We are a choral state. Our director, Bruno Phillips, was rehearsing us in The Passion According to St. Matthew, and I leaned forward and looked down the front of her silk blouse and saw her pale freckled breasts resting in their white hammock and my baritone heart swoll up, as did my baritone pants.

April is in my mistress’s face,
And July in her heart hath place.
Within her bosom lies September,
And that’s the one that I remember.

I was thrilled to stand within inches of her and smell her and brush against her bare arms as we swung off together in “O Mensch, bewein dein’ Sünde gross,” breathing in unison, my voice a buttress and sounding board.

I followed her like a dog. She ran with a crowd of poets and literati who camped in the corner of the Shevlin Hall cafeteria and said airy things about jazz and sex and revolution and I sat studying her and entertaining lustful thoughts, working up the courage to ask her to come with me to a movie—O Mr. Blue, how do you do that? You do it by doing it, sir.—and then one day in May, I was witness to a horrible traffic accident (CAR JUMPS CURB, SLAYS FAMILY OF 4) and an hour later I stood dumbly in choir, weeping, as the apostles cried out for the soldiers to let Jesus go—“Lasst ihn! Haltet! Bindet nicht!” and I swayed forward and put my right hand on her bare shoulder and she turned and smiled up at me. And afterward asked me what was wrong. And I told her.

It was on the West River Road. I was sitting on the grass, reading Dubliners, and a car jumped the curb and mowed down the four picnickers. Bodies strewn like dolls on the grass and the Buick Dynaflow smashed into an elm tree and the driver was wandering around, an old man, confused, needing to “get to Dorothy’s” and pleading with the dead to get out of his way. The bodies covered with picnic blankets. The crowd of relentless gawkers. The Elvis lookalike priest giving last rites. Fresh gawkers arriving by the minute. What happened? Car went out of control. Anybody hurt? No, they’re all dead. Four people gone, evaporated like a song.

We lay side by side on the grass in front of Northrop looking up at the white clouds and I told her all about it.

She took my hand and pressed it to her cheek.

“I am glad you’re alive,” she said. “Life is so precious, we have to savor every moment.” And she scootched over and kissed me on the mouth, a sisterly kiss that lasted longer than intended and sort of flared up into something passionate and noble, her tongue searching my mouth, and then she touched my pants and I about passed out for joy.

Odd fish that I am, I didn’t speak to her for a couple weeks. I skipped the kaffeeklatsch. Too much to say and no idea how to say it. So I made as if we’d never met. And my disregard paid off.

After the big performance in May of the Passion, I emerged from Northrop Auditorium and there she was, waiting, and said, “When are we going to make love?” We headed for her apartment on 8th Street SE above the Rexall drugstore and I followed her up the stairs. Why not? Two magnificent things in one day. The apartment was tidy, spare, a white kitchen table and two chairs, a row of clay pots, a sheaf of dry milkweed in a vase, a pine bookcase, a poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger (I WANT YOU TO WORK FOR PEACE & JUSTICE), a big bed with a blue chenille cover. She lit a dozen candles on the windowsill and put the Bach cello suites on the record player. I sat on the bed. “The bathroom is down the hall if you need to use it,” she said. What would I use it for? I didn’t know. Was it my job to get a condom out of the medicine cabinet? I went into the bathroom, rinsed my face, stared at it in the mirror. Tried to look handsomer. No condoms in the cabinet. She lay on the bed. She said, “I honestly believe that people who love Bach are good people.” We kissed. She tasted of blackberries. I took off my shoes and socks. She lay my hand against her tremoring breast and I unbuttoned her shirt and she slipped out of her jeans and I took off mine. I kissed the pale slope of her belly with the little indentations from the elastic like the ghostly skyline of an alabaster city. The lush valley below. The birthplace of civilization.

The doorbell rang a nasty ring and she jumped up. “It’s the landlord! He said he was going to check the toilet!” So I pulled on my pants and tried to look businesslike, went to the door, and it was a hollow-eyed man who wanted to discuss prophecies in Scripture. His handshake was damp. Perspiration shone on his brow. No easy matter getting rid of him, he was so jazzed on the idea that I stood at the threshold of a great spiritual turning point, and I hemmed and hawed about being busy and then I told him the truth: “I can’t talk to you now, I am about to get laid, sir.” He didn’t understand get laid. “I am about to fornicate with a young woman.” He backed away, quite mournful but promising to pray for me, and I returned to the bedroom feeling oddly depleted. The imminence of the Last Judgment and all. Fornication did not seem like a good idea, with those avenging angels poised to descend, the Antichrist, Armageddon, the seven-headed beast, the whore of Babylon and so forth. I put a Sinatra record on to get me in a secular mood. I thought, Oh boy, what if I can’t—and that was a fatal thought to have right at that point. My penis shrank to the size of a tassel. It hung down like a defeated flag, like Florida. It forgot what it was there for. The minutemen lay down their rifles, the redcoats took Concord and Lexington. Meade turned tail in the face of Pickett’s charge and Gettysburg went gray and Lincoln fled Washington, disguised as a washerwoman. The U.S. Marines surrendered Iwo Jima. The Washington Monument melted like wax. I went to the bathroom and tried some little twirling and stretching exercises. Fourscore and seven inches long, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a great rebirth of the penis, for the penis, by the penis. Finally, I lay on Iris’s bed and turned my face to the wall. After years of gigantic involuntary erections in high school hallways whenever a girl came within three feet, now on this historic occasion when I am naked with a naked woman, God takes the lead out of my pencil.

“Do you want me to leave?” I said.

“I want you to stay the night.”

“What for?”

“To be with me.” She nestled her head against my neck. “It’s no big deal,” she said.

“You’re telling me,” I said.

She lay, holding me. She was sweet. A social worker is used to dealing with silly predicaments. She fixed a frittata for supper and got out her Scrabble board and let me beat her. We lay curled together in the dark. “I love your voice,” she said. “You put so much feeling into the baritone part.”

The candles flickered on the windowsill, my cigarette burned in the tuna-fish can, a still small voice said, “This is where you belong. Don’t mess this up.”

V

On the night before the choir took off on our eastern tour, I took her to hear Doc Evans’s Dixieland jazz band play in the courtyard of Walker Art Center, Iris in her white summer dress, me in my chinos and sport coat. We sat on the cool grass by a hedge and she glanced at my crotch and said, “There are holes in your pants.” Which there were. You could see London and France. “You must’ve brushed against something with acid on it.”

I ignored this and lit a cigarette. It was a perfect summer night in the North, a hot clarinet, a crowd of lovers in the dark, smoking, lying on the grass and on each other, engines revving, stoplights turning green all over town, every song about sex, none about wise career choices, all about kissing and feeling your heart go boom, and meanwhile the summer breeze is blowing through the holes in my pants, which definitely are getting bigger. We head back to her apartment and I take off the pants and we go to bed and make love. So sweet and true. And the next morning, we’re on the bus heading for Madison, South Bend, Cleveland, Syracuse, and New York City. I’m sitting next to Iris and she dozes with her head on my shoulder. Everyone can look at us and see: They’re a couple. They sleep together. Sex written all over us.

V

We were all pumped up for the tour. This was no rinky-dink thing, The Bobbsey Twins Sing Bach, this was a real kick-ass choir. We’re serious about this in Minnesota. We do choir as well as anybody in the world. We were brought up for it. Stood in Zion Lutheran with folks who never said boo in real life, and the organ played “Ein feste burg ist unser Gott” and my God, a cathedral of sound rose up through the floorboards and out your scalp, the Sacred Harmonic Convergence of the Blessed Are the Meek, and now in a packed hall in Cleveland we sing the St. Matthew Passion, and there are tears glittering in the front row, noses are blown, stunned faces, and again in Syracuse—just as Bruno Phillips has told us, “We are going to sing so that they will remember this for the rest of their lives. There is no other reason to do it, folks, none”—and two nights later, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Central Park West in New York City. Oh, my God. Our driver missed the exit on the Thruway and wound up on the New Jersey Turnpike and then it took two hours to turn around and come through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Manhattan, Bruno Phillips sitting tall and composed behind the driver, and in the anxiety of arriving late, we forgot to be nervous about our New York debut, we just hustled off the bus and peed and combed our hair, and filed onto the stage twenty minutes late and the audience gave us a standing ovation. There were standees in back, people sitting in the aisles. We sang the best St. Matthew of our lives and those New Yorkers wept openly—old Broadway actresses, crooked financiers, admen, Jewish socialists, atheists, fingers stained yellow from tobacco, breath redolent of gin and vermouth—they were transformed into angels by J. S. Bach’s faith in Christ’s sacrifice and they rose to their feet and drenched us in applause and shouts and we stood and soaked in it. People shouting “Thank you” and “God bless you.” (A Minneapolis audience would’ve turned and walked out and gotten in their cars and driven home and turned on the news, but never mind.) So we sang “Children of the Heavenly Father” for an encore. And then the “Hallelujah Amen.” The applause wore us out. We walked off in a daze and Iris and I wandered into Central Park in the dark, into the Sheep Meadow and stood holding hands and I asked her to marry me. “Tonight?” she said. No, I said, when we get home. “Sounds good to me,” she said.

Let us not to the marriage of people who know what they want
Admit impediments. Love doesn’t vary
Like you might change your hair style from pixie to bouffant
Or throw away your swimsuit in January.
Oh no, it is an ever fixéd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It laughs at death and gooses statues in the park
And loves a cheeseburger with extra bacon.
Love’s not time’s fool though rosy lips and cheeks
Get all wrinkly and veiny and saggy and gnarly.
Love alters not with its brief hours and weeks
So don’t give up on it, Charley.
If this be a big mistake and we wind up hissing and snarling
There is nobody I’d rather be wrong with than you, my darling.

I knew so little about her. She was a good person, a good alto. A true-blue feminist and Democrat out to save the world like her heroes Dorothea Dix and Jane Addams and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and also a Golden Gophers hockey fan who leaped to her feet when the team scored and whooped and yelled and sang “Minnesota, Hats Off to Thee” and shouted out the Rah rah rah for Ski-u-Mah. Her father was a Lutheran minister from Wisconsin, so she knew the power of principled blockheads to drive you nuts, and her maternal grandfather led the plumbers out on strike in 1915 crying, “If they won’t pay a living wage, let them shit in the streets!” so she also knew the power of united action to bring about change. She got her degree in social work and was hired by Lutheran Social Services as a caseworker and discovered her calling in life, which was to rescue old people from the ravages of longevity. She became the Susan B. Anthony of demented geezerdom. She was a great woman. She went out one day to track down somebody’s lost grandpa, and found him living in filth in a plywood shack near the Dayton’s Bluff freight yard. He’d been a mover and shaker in the Republican party, a federal judge for twenty-five years, a patron of the arts, a man who once dined with Ike at the White House, and now he was filthy and out of his mind, and she roped him in and brought him to the hospital and made sure that his needs were attended to and that the newspapers wouldn’t find out, and took the afternoon off and married me, at the courthouse in Hudson, Wisconsin, August 4, 1966, with a bouquet of dandelions in her hand. No fancy wedding for her because the expense was ridiculous and what did we need it for? Dandelions are fine.

We called our parents from a coffee shop and gave them the big news. My father said, “What did you go and do that for?” He was miffed, but then he always is. My mother said, “I hope you’ll be happy” in a tone of voice that said, Six months. A year at most. They were on their way to play in the 3M Parade of Plaid golf tournament. My parents live in their own little world. May to October at Dellwood, winters in Palm Beach. They golf eighteen holes three or four times a week and attend a cocktail party every single night and in their pink lady and martini haze are honestly not aware that some people do not have two homes. We don’t talk except when absolutely necessary and we haven’t come to that point yet.

V

We attended Iris’s dad’s church in Hopkins that Sunday and he introduced us from the pulpit and people clapped and he had us come up front for a special blessing and then he preached on fruitfulness. It was a twenty-five-minute sermon and all through it I thought about how nice it would be to get back into Iris’s pants. The Rev. and Mrs. O’Blennis took us to dinner at the Tremont and the Rev was still revved up about fruitfulness; he asked Iris if she had a bun in the oven. She said no. “What do you do, if I may ask?” he said to me. “I am a writer, sir,” I said. “I’m working on a novel.” For all the work I had done on that novel, I might as well have said, “I am working on a cure for the common cold,” but he seemed satisfied with my being a novelist and keeping busy novelizing. They were sweet old birds. He said to the Missus, “Well, it’s a big occasion, our little girl going off and getting married,” and he ordered a bottle of red wine and they got slightly potted and then he had a big glass of tawny port and I thought he might burst into song. “When can you two come up to the cabin?” he cried. The Missus fussed over the fact that Iris was keeping her last name, which was customary among young progressive women in those days. Her mother worried, “How does Larry feel about that? What’s wrong with Wyler?” Larry felt fine about that and everything else. Had no dough and no great prospects, but I had the girl, and that was good enough for me.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Hilarious

    The funniest part is the letters he gets from tje lovelorn. Only keillor could make this stuff up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2005

    'Man has travel itch'

    The love story was a bit odd. I'm not sure that anyone would say they could live married life like you might live in a dorm with your buddy. Maybe this is the author's ideal life coming to the stage. 'Love Me' is your typical 'man has travel-ich and scratches it in very odd ways' novel. There are funny parts and interesting plots. Definatly a summer read. I read it in a day, had a good laugh, learned a few things, and then went on to the next book. I'm sure that is what Kealor would have wanted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2004

    Bad Translation

    Imagine this scene: you are trudging uphill through the thigh-high detritus of a mudslide that carried away your beloved home. Now, you are fairly sure that here and there you will come across a familiar and treasured object, but as it turns out, the prizes are few and far between, and meanwhile, the trudging is growing tiresome. That is what it is like reading Garrison Keillor's latest book, LOVE ME. Every chapter and a half or so, the familiar humor comes through, a turn of a phrase or a description that brings the reader a smile or a chuckle. But the rest of it is essentially slogging through pages of self-indulgent claptrap. The plot is thin, the characters unsympathetic (if not downright silly), and the resolution is abrupt, unsatisfying and leaves the reader wondering if perhaps Keillor just ran out of steam, or decided to finish up quickly so he could take an important phone call. But perhaps the fault is not entirely Keillor's; the problem COULD be the novel form that he is attempting here. Years ago Andy Rooney released two collections of his observational pieces. One was a compilation of his newspaper columns. They had originally been meant to be read, and time did nothing to diminish the wit or insights. However, the other collection was of the text of his famous 60 MINUTES pieces. Those, by contrast, were meant to be HEARD by audiences, and the translation into something an audience would READ failed badly. The same thing may be operating here. Keillor is a humorist who has made his name by offering audio tales. Whether Guy Noir or Lake Woebegon, the magic is in the combination of the material AND the delivery. When he sits down to write a novel meant to be read, the translation fails badly. The reader strains to 'hear' Keilor's familiar voice, cadence and inflection, but the effort to provide them while wading through an uninspired text eventually proves to be too much effort. My advice would be for fans to continue to enjoy Keillor's wit and charm on the radio, but take a pass on the books. The charm doesn't translate, and the effort is not worth the slim reward.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2004

    No Lake Wobegon

    It is sad to see an experienced author turn out a book of this low calibur. It is very amaturish, and rambling. The plot is thin, and creativity almost non-existent. A publisher should never publish a book because of the name on it, but because of the contents in it. Hopefully the next one will be much better, but unless you have nothing better to do with your time pass this one by.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    Inside joke for writers?

    Although I enjoy most of A Prairie Home Companion, I didn't get what this book is about and think you probably have to be a writer, maybe even a magazine writer in New York to understand it. The love story was kind of strange too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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