GK responds to queries on topics from childbearing to potato salad, with a little bookstore fetish in between.

Here's your chance to ask GK your most pressing questions—about the writing life, the radio life, Lake Wobegon, Guy Noir, whatever you like. Also, feel free to send feedback about the show. Honest comments and criticism are always welcome! Send your own post to the host.
November, 1998

I was wondering if there are any ghosts or haunted houses in Lake Wobegon. I don't remember ever hearing you talk about them. This past October we made our first visit to St. Paul and spooks seem to be a recurrent theme there. Even the restaurant where we celebrated our anniversary is supposed to be haunted. So, what's the scoop on Lake Wobegon?

Lisa Bledsoe Johnson
Birmingham, Alabama

Lisa, there are a few houses that are said to be haunted, but we don't talk about that unless it's late at night and we're in Lake Wobegon. You should never discuss ghosts at a safe remove. Come up to visit us and I'll take you around to see a couple places and we'll sit in an upstairs bedroom and then I'll tell you what we heard and saw, and it's quite a bit.

Dear Mr. Keillor,

Emboldened by the certainty that I am a latent genius, I have a suggestion for you. I've heard a few shows featuring stories about Tom Keith, but I have never heard any featuring Sue Scott who is so funny! Maybe I missed a show or two (or three) but if you haven't done anything like that yet I bet it would be great. I am anxious to know more about this talented woman.
What is her story?

Glad you asked. Sue Scott is a descendant of F. Scott Fitzgerald, after whom the Fitzgerald Theater is named, by way of a woman named The Sound of Snowflakes In The Hemlocks, who was a full-blooded Sioux and who met Fitzgerald when he was on a fishing trip with Hemingway. Anyway, Sue is a great addition to our show, and I will certainly consider telling her story on the air.

Dear Mr. Keillor,
Now that our kids are getting older, my wife is trying to talk me into another child. As a fellow parent, I was wondering how you've found the experience of being a new dad at this point in your life? Any big surprises?

Jack, I am delighted to be a father again and having a little girl around is a sweet pleasure that I never expected to have in my mid-fifties. That's the main surprise. Another surprise is how little I think about her future or mine - the mathematics of late parenthood - it just doesn't worry me. And the other surprise is how tiring it is. My wife and I could not have done this without the help of some wonderful babysitters and nannies. I don't mind getting up at 3 a.m. but I pay a bigger price for it now than when I was thirty.

Mr. Keillor,
On your Halloween broadcast you performed a song which reiterates a growing concern among the literati in our society. How can an English major participate in a song which refers to Dr. Fankenstein's monster as Frankenstein? Songs claiming to be based on a book should be consistent with the book, with differences noted. Based on your song, how many people will identify the name Frankenstein with the monster, rather than the Doctor who created him?

R. B. Campbell

R.B., the song you refer to was written by Pat Donohue, not me, and if he used the name "Frankenstein" to refer to the monster, it was the sort of shorthand that is permissible in rhymed lyric verse. And also because there aren't many good rhymes for "monster," whereas "Frankenstein" is a rhyme-rich word.
Forgive us.

Dear Garrison,
We are loyal longtime fans of PHC and were wondering whatever happened to your sponsor !AHUA! hot sauce. With the rise in interest in Mexican foods and the proven pain-relieving ability of capsaicin (from peppers), they seem to be a good fit for the program. Maybe it would appeal to those who don't care for rhubarb.

The Laband family - David, Anne, Kim and Shelley

Dear Labands, We abandoned the Ajua commercials after we got some mail complaining that it was a racist joke that worked off stereotypes of Hispanic people. That is an argument that one cannot win, so we dropped the whole idea.
No problem for us.

I am a strong promoter of the uses of Duct Tape, and I had to ask you...Is there a way to become a member of the American Duct Tape Council?

Kate, you are now a member of the Council, and congratulations, and if you think of any new uses of duct tape, you are obligated to pass them on.

Whatever happened to Guy Noir's sister Bette? Wasn't she the popular chanteuse with the smoky voice who appeared often on the Sophisticated Manhattan Nightclub Circuit?
Where is she now?

Sarah Gold

Bette and Guy had a falling out, one of those little arguments over a small issue - in their case, the relative superiority of Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart - that quickly turns into a bitter feud, and they haven't spoken in years.

Mr. Keillor,

What I'm wondering is how the people in Lake Woebegone are responding to the political changing of the (body) guard in Minnesota. I know some Lake Woebegonians overtly or covertly like and even watch Wrasslin'. So tell me, just how is Jesse Ventura's election playing in the land of Powdermilk Biscuits and Mournful Oatmeal?

Red Pierce

They're just fine with Jesse, but they're smart enough to know that Jesse is a work in progress. He is a shot in the dark. Nobody really knows who he is, and so far he isn't showing us much beyond the fact that he is pretty delighted with himself. Wobegonians are proud people and they don't like to be hoodwinked by a poseur. It remains to be seen if Jesse can live up to his own legend as a populist hero, or if he's just a loudmouth promoting himself.

Hi Garrison,
You tend to illustrate the Norwegians of Minnesota as being kind of slow, gentle, simple people of good morals, etc. I am curious how you square that with the Norse background of warfare (I believe they were the original Marines,) burning villages, pillaging, and so forth? Has cream of mushroom soup tamed the barbarous breast of the feral Norseman?

-Brian M. Godfrey

Sir - The Vikings were the greatest sailors of their time and thus got themselves far from home, far from their supplies, and had to stop at coastal villages and stock up on provisions. This was misunderstood by the inhabitants, who didn't speak Norwegian. So these small bands of Vikings had to fight their way out of precarious situations. They got a reputation as ferocious warriors, though in fact they were quite gentle and ethical folk: the problem was that they were tourists before there was such a thing and so they were seen as marauders. GK

Dear Garrison,
I am a fan of your show and especially like the radio private eye "Guy Noir." I was curious to know how the series "Guy Noir" started and your ideas about the dying profession of a private investigator.


Dear Anonymous, Guy Noir has ways of finding out who you are, but never mind. The series started out after I realized that the show had a reputation for gentle, laid-back, heart-warming humor, and I wanted to create something dark and violent. In the first couple of years, Guy was killed at the end of each episode. The series has calmed down since then, but still Guy represents skepticism, tolerance, and a certain hard-boiled wit that is rare in public radio. GK

Mr. Keillor,

On a show this summer past, you mentioned that the practice of defining lands, in 6 mile x 6 mile townships started in Ohio, and applied to all the non-colony states. Would you happen to know what method was used for the colonies, and could you suggest any reference sources on the subject?

Continued Thanks,

Guillermo, The township system of grid platting was more practicable on flat ground, where you didn't have to take natural contours too much into consideration. In the older states, property lines tended to be drawn more in relationship to the terrain. But I'm an English major, so don't pay any attention to me. I'm sure there's a book by a geographer that tells all about this, and your nearby librarian would be happy to find it for you. GK

Dear Mr. Keillor:
Many of us here in the high country would like to hear "Lives of the Cowboys" more often. Have Dusty and Lefty rode off into the sunset for good?

Steve Primm
Ennis, MT

Dear Mr. Primm, Dusty and Lefty haven't ridden off for good, I'm sure. We just haven't heard from them for awhile. Perhaps they got lost. We are awaiting word. GK

Dear Mr. Keillor-

I am an American student attending a university in the Netherlands. One of the classes that I taking is a course on American literature. After finding out that I am a Midwesterner the professor has called upon me many times as a resource to explain the life (and winters) of a person who lives in the middle. This is an enormous amount of pressure. Any ideas on how to explain the essence of a Midwesterner?

Sheri MacNeil

Sheri - This is good for you to have to explain America and the American Midwest to Europeans, and in the course of explaining, you are bound to learn something yourself, maybe a great deal. Midwesterners tend not to think too much about it otherwise, being brought up to be unselfconscious and self- deprecating, and it is good and useful to have to describe your people in some objective way. I think of us as industrious, mannerly, mysterious, trying to be cheerful but pulled down by a repressive instinct, a kind of glumness that we call "niceness". GK

I really enjoy your narrative style, and being an aspiring writer, I was wondering if you could suggest any good authors. I feel that, if anything, writing style is more influenced by good authors that are read and not necessarily writing classes... Care to throw any my way?

Thank you,

Dear Mr. Durbin - Eudora Welty, Lorrie Moore, John Updike, John Cheever, and Flannery O'Connor. There's five. That should hold you until January. GK

Dear GK:
As a fan of both PHC and the films of Joel & Ethan Coen, I was curious about your thoughts on their 1996 smash hit film "Fargo". Were you at all offended by anything portrayed in the film? Also, do people in Minnesota really talk that way?

J.S. Jirn

Mr. Jim - I saw the movie in an empty theater and thought it was badly off-key, especially the accents. Rather cartoonish. The sheriff lady was appealing, though. GK

Dear Garrison,
As you have the reputation of being somewhat learned in the history of St. Paul, I have a rather vague question concerning my family history. My grandmother was born and raised in St. Paul and my mother is wondering if the family house on Summit Avenue (we do not know the street number) is still standing. My great-grandfather's name was William G. Robertson. He was a real estate developer in the area in the late 1800's. Also, he built two office buildings and named them for his wife, Cora Louise (the Louise Bldg.) and daughter (my grandmother) (the Delphine Bldg.). Do you know anything about these buildings?

Sue Halpern

Dear Ms. Halpern - I have vague memories of a Delphine building. I once named a character in a story after it. But haven't seen it for years. The Minnesota State Historical Society can tell you about your great-grandfather and his house, I'm sure. They keep track of all those things. GK

Dear G.K.
I have asked high and I have asked low, and now I appeal to your wisdom.


Dear Fred, Chicken fingers sprang from the mind of a smart entrepreneur who realized that the term "poultry parts" was not an appetizing thought. GK

dear mr. keillor,
i am upset that you would criticize jesse ventura in such a terrible way before he has had any chance to demonstrate his abilities. both parties were doing poorly at governing the state. jesse being elected states that the voters cared greatly about the election. brave voters opt for change. do you think that the voters of the state failed to realize the criticism that they might take from narrow minded people who do not understand their situation? Give jesse and the voters the credit they deserve.


Dear Todd, If you're referring to my column in Time about Gov-elect. Ventura, you're pretty easily upset. Better lighten up. You're going to hear a lot worse in the next four years from us narrow-minded people who don't understand your situation.

Dear Garrison,

My husband and I are expecting our first child in May, 1999. As someone who has been around the parenting block a few times, what advice could you offer us that you wish that you had known the first time around?


Dear Maureen, Sometimes a child cries and there's nothing you can do about it. It isn't your fault. And it does them no harm. It isn't as bad as it sounds.

Dear Mr. Keillor,
My name is Paula Sue Gustowt and on Saturdays I listen to your show. I am 14 years old and I was introduced to your show by my sister Emerald. I read your book "Leaving Home" for a project in English.

I would like to ask you of all your stories, which is your most or least favorite story and why?

Your Fan,
Paula Sue Gustowt

Paula Sue, I told a story in Juneau, Alaska, years ago that was pretty horrendous. It simply wouldn't end. It was about an aunt who went north to prospect for gold and who had various adventures and it began to turn into an epic, meanwhile the clock on stage was spinning toward the end of the show. A troupe of Indian dancers was waiting to come on for the finale, and musicians stood in the wings, and I talked faster and faster and had no idea how to bring the thing to an end, and the audience sat and thought its own thoughts, and finally, with 20 seconds left, I ended the story and said goodnight and that was that. I've never gone back and listened to that show and don't care to.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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