Mrfishscales's Reviews > Wobegon Boy

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor
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Jun 23, 11

bookshelves: american-20th-century-fiction
Read in June, 2011

I just finished reading this for the second time. I found that I didn't remember as much of it as I thought I would. This is likely because I listen to Prairie Home Companion nearly every week and so the world of Lake Wobegon has become a sort of timeless alternative reality to me.

Keillor's style is deceptive. It appears to be gentle, but is rapier sharp. It appears to be folksy, but in fact is sophisticated. One thing is for sure: it is relentlessly digressive. He loves to tell stories within the primary story arc and all these secondary tales somehow contribute to enriching the main narrative.

John Tollefson isn't a particularly likeable character. He knows that he is coasting through life and that he has adopted a lot of despicable bourgeois habits and tastes, but he can't seem to do anything about it until his father dies and he travels back to Lake Wobegon for the funeral. He has been living his life negatively; he has been trying very hard to not be like a Lake Wobegonian, but his hometown's response to his father's death serves as a sort of Lutheran epiphany for him.

Tollefson is the manager of a campus-based NPR station in an upstate town called Red Cliff, which is an odd melange of Ithaca and Aurora (the respective homes of Cornell University and Wells College). Keillor skewers the political correctness associated with college towns without mercy, which was a more striking criticism when the book cam out than it is now. But it is still hilarious.
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