Life Among the Lutherans, by Garrison Keillor, Holly Harden (ed.) *****

Garrison Keillor is one of the funniest men alive. Most people who follow his work do so from his Prairie Home Companion, a show carried on NPR and at least for a time, also on the Disney cable channel in the USA.

But obviously, he writes, and he does it a lot; there is quite a bit of overlap between his radio bits and what he publishes. Usually his best work doesn’t stray too far from that track.

This little gem is a case in point. Each little chapter (3-5 pp. each generally) is almost certainly one of his monologues, and they are worth purchasing. Some of us are better at appreciating his work in print, anyway. This compact volume moves, as is typical of the writer, between gut-splittingly funny, to wry, to poignant. He is able to blend these in a bittersweet way nobody else I can think of does.

The first three selections are among the most hysterical. A convention of Lutheran ministers comes to Lake Wobegon; I won’t give you more than that, it would ruin it. I love his Norwegian bachelors, the herdsmen, and at one point, I looked at my husband, who is a Japanese citizen, and realized that in his reticence and solitude, he just could be a closet Norwegian, and maybe also a closet Lutheran. After all, as Keillor points out, a lot of Lutherans don’t really believe in a god, but it’s awkward to come out and admit it.

If you are a very serious-minded Lutheran, this book may offend you. If you are completely new to Keillor, just be aware that he isn’t truly reverent about very much.

But for his fans, and of course I am one, that’s where his genius lies.

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