From the Desk of Garrison Keillor
A prolific writer, Garrison Keillor is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and abroad. To the right, you find a selection of articles published since 1989, and a few unpublished pieces.

In Praise of Laziness
From Time Magazine

September 10, 2001

I don't opine on matters beyond my personal experience because when I do I am wrong approximately two-thirds of the time, a poor average, worse than the President's, but now, after five weeks of doing nothing, I am an authority on the subject of indolence and glad to share my views with you.

First of all, the way to get five weeks of vacation is to have open-heart surgery. It is the perfect cover. Bipolar depression is a downer and TB makes your friends nervous and a hip replacement is terribly inconvenient, but cardiac surgery poses few risks, is mostly painless, and has a grandeur about it that erases all obligations, social and professional. It is the Get Out Of Work card. All you do is put a hand to your chest and people hold the door open for you and help you into a rocker.

So here I sit on my sunny terrace. There's a soda water fountain and the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees, just like in the song. I sit in my pajamas and work the Times crossword and sip peppermint tea and, it being Labor Day, I sit and think about work. And then I write a limerick.

Of all the useless things a person can do, limerick writing is right up there with golf and fishing. There was a young lady of D.C ./ Who was liberal and tasteful and p.c. / Except now and then / She enjoyed redneck men / Who didn't know A.D. from B.C. / "When it comes to the masculine specie,"/ She said, "I like vulgar and greasy. / Sensitive guys / Tend to theologize / And I am not St. Clare of Assisi." It takes half an hour to write this. It is useless work. But I'm quite happy, about rhyming greasy with Assisi. Happiness is in the details. An indolent man awakes in the morning and thinks, "Wow. A shower with shampoo with aloe in it. Then orange juice not made from concentrate. Seven-grain toast with butter. Jamaican coffee. One Across: A waitress (slang)." and he gets all giddy and happy.

Back when I was a kid, I spent a summer picking potatoes at a neighbor's farm. Slouched up and down the rows, stooped over, dragging a burlap bag full of spuds, dust in my nostrils, body all achin an' racked wid pain, and it seems to me that I have been picking potatoes in one form or another ever since.. The boss man, Mister Marse, kept telling me that potato picking is a great challenge and a boon to civilization and the manly thing to do and that if I quit working, my life would lose purpose and meaning and I would be unable to bear the shame.

You be wrong about that, Mr. Marse.

It is a lovely life, doing nothing. God never intended for me to work hard. I can see that now. My true calling is to live unencumbered and follow the fleeting impulses of my heart and take a nap around 2 p.m. whether I want to or not. I worked hard for years out of plain fear and ignorance and also to impress women and have the funds to take them to restaurants that serve poached salmon with a light saffron sauce on a bed of roses and then bring them home to Tara and when they say, "Wow! What a big house you have!" to say, "Come in and let me show you my art."

Work is what sets us apart. You are what you do. People ask, "What line of work did you say you're in?" and if you say, "I am a brain surgeon" to someone who washes dishes professionally, he backs up, bowing. But a man who spends five weeks lounging in his pajamas is a plain old bum like the ones at the bus depot. There are not varieties of bumhood, some more creative or distinguished than others. Indolence is, like all religious experiences, totally self-effacing.

You efface the self you've worked hard to assemble over the years and you feel a new you emerge, a nicer you, calmer, cooler, easier-going. The you you really are and not the guy you constructed at the U and from Gary Cooper movies and tailored to the needs of Hubbard, Buttrick, Bickford & Barnes and re-tuned in therapy with Dr. Koren. Now you become the you you were afraid the world would find out about. Goombah, homeboy, cowpoke, or hobo, or, in my case, a limericist, but the sun shines on me still and like any other poet I am gathering rosebuds while I may for the glory of flowers too soon is past and summer hath too short a lease and here it is, already gone, alas, alas.

Past Articles
  • Phil Keillor Benefit for the Tenney Park Shelter (04/17/09)
  • Bill Holm, 1943–2009 (02/26/09)
  • Happy New Year, Friends (12/29/08)
  • Talk of the Stacks (11/17/08)
  • What Makes St. Paul So Great? (09/03/08)
  • GK On Historic Preservation (10/05/07)
  • Welcome to St. Paul (09/23/06)
  • "Homegrown Democrat," Chapters 1-4 (08/10/04)
  • Sing the National Anthem—and Try it in the Key of G (07/02/04)
  • Holiday Greetings from Garrison Keillor (12/23/03)
  • Remembering Plimpton (10/01/03)
  • Crankiness in Decline, Says the Old Guy (04/19/02)
  • A Governor Works in Mysterious Ways (10/19/01)
  • In Praise of Laziness (09/10/01)
  • I Just Needed a Valve Job (09/13/01)
  • A Eulogy for Chet Atkins (07/03/01)
  • A Foot Soldier in God's Floating Orchestra (04/01)
  • Exile on Main Street (10/02/00)
  • Walking Down the Canyon (07/31/00)
  • The Mysteries of Prom Night (05/15/00)
  • How I Write (12/04/99)
  • The Christmas of the Great Flu (12/99)
  • Let Jesse Be Jesse (10/10/99)
  • The Rice, the Bat, the Baby (09/06/99)
  • Faith at the Speed of Life (06/14/99)
  • The Republicans Were Right, But (02/15/99)
  • Minnesota's Excellent Ventura (11/16/98)
  • The Dangers of Christmas (04/06/98)
  • Gasgate (11/10/97)
  • Talk Radio (10/97)
  • The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas (09/08/97)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins—Envy (04/97)
  • You Say Potato (04/04/96)
  • The Poetry Judge (02/96)
  • With All the Trimmings (11/27/95)
  • In Autumn We Get Older (11/06/95)
  • Minnesota's Sensible Plan (09/11/95)
  • The Art of the Embrace (02/95)
  • The Voters are Angry (08/94)
  • Word Play (05/18/90)
  • We Are Still Married (12/18/89)
  • Elevator Tales
  • A Graduation Speech

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