In his latest book (after WLT: A Radio Romance , Viking, 1991), Keillor displays his offbeat humor and quirky worldview in 22 stories fashioned around male characters. Many of the tales feature cultural icons wrenched from their usual haunts and forced to live in the present: hedonistic Dionysus suddenly faces middle age; Don Giovanni philosophizes on marriage to Figaro as he works the ivories in a piano bar; Earl Grey overcomes his anonymity as a middle child and builds a tea empire. Others feature George Bush, Norman Conquest, and Casey at bat in a road game. Although each tale depends on a gimmick, Keillor usually makes them work. A few of the stories are flat, lacking the enhancement of the author's deadpan vocal delivery, but most are pretty funny, and a few are even touching. Buy wherever Keillor is popular. Previewed in Prepub Alert, 7/93.-- A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham
"Lonesome Shorty," "Buddy the Leper," "Don Giovanni," "Omoo the Wolf Boy," "Al Denny," "George Bush," "Norman Conquest"--what, besides being titles of some of the stories in Keillor's new collection, could all these have in common? Well, they're all guys, and all they and the other heroes (and they are heroes) of the other stories in the book want out of life is what guys want--to go to a ballgame, have a burger and brew, get married to a woman they're crazy about and have a couple of kids, be able to get up and go somewhere without having to tell her what they're doing, and ask whether while they're up, is there anything she wants them to get for her. Just the basics. But life is never that simple. First off, there's sex, which, as Quentin Crisp said, in life as in the movies, is seldom a good idea; unfortunately it's one of the major ideas guys have. Other ideas they have are work, family, and the endless comic possibilities of butts, snot, and farts. Keillor understands this, the classical predicament of guys, and that guys aren't equal to the challenge, much less equal to women. But Keillor is equal to the challenge--of great humor, at least. With a gift for the ridiculous incongruity, the ludicrous faux pas, and the risibly wrong remark for any occasion, he's laugh-out-loud funny on a page-by-page basis.
More from the master of the broadcast memoir (WLT, 1991; We Are Still Married, 1989; etc.). Keillor's attentions in this outing are loosely concentrated on the plight of the semi-competent male in today's world of can-do ladies. The 23 items (five previously published) in this latest collection include the other team's view of "Casey At the Bat (Road Game)"; a modern myth about "Zeus the Lutheran" and a pastor's wife; a very amusing high-school anecdote ("Gary Keillor"); a sendup of men's movement nonsense ("Address to the National Federation of Associations..."); a sharp smack at the TV talk shows ("The Chuck Show of Television"); one of the best letters-to-the-editor of recent times ("That Old Picayune Moon"); some business with "Don Giovanni"; and an updated fable of the "Country Mouse and the City Mouse." Liberal as public radio may be, there are still some words you can't say, so Keillor can be a little sharper in print than his listeners may be used to. Some of the pieces ("Buddy the Leper" and "Roy Bradley, Boy Broadcaster") cry out for commercial breaks. The shorter pieces ("The Mid-Life Crisis of Dionysus," "Omoo the Wolf Boy") do better, but even at his windiest, Keillor is more talented at the Thurber business than anybody since. Quite good. You don't have to be a radio fan to enjoy. You do have to be literate.