Wobegon Boy

Wobegon Boy

4.0 7
by Garrison Keillor
     
 

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"Can it really be 10 years since Lake Wobegon Days showed that Keillor's hilarious and sometimes poignant stories about his imagined Minnesota town could please a multitude of readers as much as they delighted a huge radio audience?... Among all the fun and games [in Wobegon Boy] is a very real sense of abiding American character and more, a passionateSee more details below

Overview

"Can it really be 10 years since Lake Wobegon Days showed that Keillor's hilarious and sometimes poignant stories about his imagined Minnesota town could please a multitude of readers as much as they delighted a huge radio audience?... Among all the fun and games [in Wobegon Boy] is a very real sense of abiding American character and more, a passionate devotion to qualities of courage and compassion that makes Keillor's books salutary as well as delightfully daffy."-- Publishers Weekly

It has been 12 years since popular radio-host Garrison Keillor first published the number-one New York Times bestseller Lake Wobegon Days. Since the collection Leaving Home, written ten years ago, only a few Lake Wobegon stories have appeared in print. But the host of "A Prairie Home Companion" (a program heard by more than two million people on more than 400 national public radio stations) is sure to please his legions of fans with the eagerly anticipated novel Wobegon Boy. Set in upstate New York, New York City, and the fictional Lake Wobegon, this passionate '90s romance features the esteemed John Tollefson, who last appeared at the end of Lake Wobegon Days as he was ushered off to college with his elderly relatives. Wobegon Boy opens with John, now a 40-something bachelor, working as a public-radio-station manager at a small college in upstate New York.

In his quest for grandeur at midlife, John embarks on a love affair with Alida Freeman, an up-and-coming young historian. He plunges into this romance while attempting to deal with his gloomy and neurotic staff, his controlling boss, a disastrous speech at a public-radio award ceremony, the bankruptcy of a farm restaurant venture, and his bumpy relationship with his querulous father and his four siblings -- all while his romantic interest, the elusive Alida, is busy writing a book about a Norwegian naturopath who treated Lincoln, Thoreau, and Whitman back in the 1800s. As the romance blossoms, John looks back to his hometown, which he ends up visiting twice -- once when tempted to be unfaithful to his lover, and once for his father's funeral. It is during these visits home that John looks at himself and at the difference between the "Happy Lutherans" and the "Dark Lutherans."

In typical Keillor form, Wobegon Boy is also a vehicle for the author's jabs at some of the staples of today's politically correct, postmodern culture, from sexual manners to public radio itself. "One outright surprise is how bilious Tollefson (read Keillor) is about National Public Radio," writes The New York Times Book Review. The book also brings revelations about the essential Lake Wobegon Code, on which all of its children were raised: "Do Your Job, Don't Tell Lies, Don't Imagine You're Exceptional, Be Glad for What You Have, and above all, Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself."

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Editorial Reviews

Henry Kisor
Wobegon Boy had me spraying Diet Coke from my nostrils and scattering popcorn across the carpet in great gusts of mirth. . .As sharp and funny a comic novel as any I've read in the '90s. —Chicago Sun-Times
Rocky Mountain News
Possibly the best thing he's ever written. . .delivers all that you'd expect. It's laugh-out-loud funny. And it will break your heart.
Seattle Times
It's expansive, big-hearted and can stand proudly alongside the most enduring American humor.
Washington Post Book World
A masterful portrait of the sort of small town that many of us Americans believe we grew up in, or would have liked to. . . .A wonderfully readable tale.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Can it really be 10 years since Lake Wobegon Days showed that Keillor's hilarious and sometimes poignant stories about his imagined Minnesota town could please a multitude of readers as much as they delighted a huge radio audience? This time Keillor has had the happy inspiration of sending a bred-in-the-bone Wobegoner, John Tollefson, out into the wider world to see how his stern Lutheran values hold up in the rather less rigid context of '90s America. Not so badly, as it turns out. Tollefson becomes director of a campus radio station at a college in upstate New York, where the library runs a very distant second in popularity to reruns of 'Gilligan's Island,' and also a hapless investor in a restaurant based on the notion of vegetables grown in its own garden, which is the eventual victim of a hippie contractor with dreams of grandeur. He also finds a winsome girlfriend in Alida Freeman, a Columbia historian, and goes through Wobegonian agonies before he can commit himself to marriage. As always with Keillor, a plot is the longest possible distance between two points, since he can't resist an anecdote, diversionary episode or fond recollection along the way, and these are so many and so rich that forward motion is sometimes barely visible. But who could complain about such set pieces as the death, funeral and wake of John's father, the account of the family fortune that escaped to Buenos Aires, the theological chapter on the Dark and Happy Lutherans (even the Wobegon atheists are Lutheran, for that, of course, is the faith of the God they don't believe in). Among all the fun and games is a very real sense of abiding American character and mores, a passionate devotion to qualities of courage and compassion that makes Keillor's books salutary as well as delightfully daffy.
Library Journal
Keillor picks up the adventures of Lake Wobegon's John Tollefson, now puddled in upper New York State as an NPR station manager and soon to embark on a torrid romance and a midlife crisis with time out for uproariously inconsequential visits home. It's been 10 years since the previous Lake Wobegon novel (Leaving Home), and Keillor, who may, if he keeps this up, soon have to live branded as the worthy successor to Mark Twain and Will Rogers, is once again very consistently very clever, very funny, and, to readers of Mr. Tollefson's age, very wise, right down to the throwaway stuff ('The polka...a Norwegian martial art'). -- David Bartholomew, New York Public Library
The Seattle Times
It's expansive, big-hearted and can stand proudly alongside the most enduring American humor.
Kirkus Reviews
No, that's not thunder you're hearing. More likely it's laughter from the Hereafter, for if there's any justice here or there, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and James Thurber have already received their advance copies of this latest installment in the ongoing saga of Minnesota's endearingly phlegmatic Norwegian-Americans. Woebegon Boy isn't exactly a novel, but what the hell, who really wants one from the genial creator and host of public radio's 'Prairie Home Companion?' What we're given here is a shred of a story—narrated by Keillor's protagonist John Tollefson, who escapes the stultifying 'cheerfulness' of his homeland (and the girlfriend he doesn't want to marry) by securing a job as manager of a newly created radio station at upstate New York's nondescript St. James College. Shades of Jon Hassler close about the Horatio Alger-like John, who picks his way in and out of relationships with assorted academic phonies, potential business partners, and—most importantly—the Amazonian Alida Freeman, a lively university historian who isn't above any number of amorous tumbles with the smitten Wobegonian, but won't commit herself to 'the doldrums of marriage.' The plot is really only an excuse for comic riffs on such irresistible targets as political correctness, talk radio, feminist militancy, academic unfreedom, the polite impregnability of the Norwegian national character, sexual good manners, New Age music, and Lord knows what all else. There's a laugh on virtually every page of this fresh reimagining of the young-man-up-from-the- provinces novel, even during the truly touching extended sequence that describes John's return home for his father's funeral andreconciliation with exasperating friends and relations he thought he'd seen the last of. And John Tollefson is no mere innocent afoot (consider, for example, his perfectly reasonable theory that the New England Transcendentalists all suffered from chronic constipation). Drollery raised to the level of genuine comic art. And that's the news from Lake Wobegon.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568955605
Publisher:
Cengage Gale
Publication date:
05/28/1998
Pages:
426

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