Garrison Keillor

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Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids — all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.

Garrison Keillor (born 7 August 1942) is an American novelist, humorist, comedian, and public radio personality.


Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, but so far all we've gotten is Minnesota and North Dakota.
I think the most un-American thing you can say is, “You can't say that.”
If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States of America as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.
  • Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.
    • Lake Wobegon Days (1985), p. 337
  • I think if the church put in half the time on covetousness that it does on lust, this would be a better world for all of us.
    • Lake Wobegon Days (1986), p. 138
  • Lake Wobegon, where smart doesn't count for so much. A minister has to be able to read a clock. At noon, it's time to go home and turn up the pot roast and get the peas out of the freezer.
    • Lake Wobegon Days (1985), p. 355
  • Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won't feel so thankful then.
    • Leaving Home‎ (1987), p. 9
  • Selective ignorance, a cornerstone of child rearing. You don't put kids under surveillance: it might frighten you. Parents should sit tall in the saddle and look upon their troops with a noble and benevolent and extremely nearsighted gaze.
    • Leaving Home‎ (1987), p. 19
  • Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.
    • Leaving Home‎ (1987), p. 20
  • A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
    • Leaving Home‎ (1987), p. 184
  • It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn't hear the barbarians coming.
    • As quoted in Simpson's Contemporary Quotations‎ (1988) by James Beasley Simpson, p. 211
  • The funniest line in English is “Get it?” When you say that, everyone chortles.
    • We Are Still Married : Stories & Letters (1989), p. xvi
  • To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through. What else will do except faith in such a cynical, corrupt time? When the country goes temporarily to the dogs, cats must learn to be circumspect, walk on fences, sleep in trees, and have faith that all this woofing is not the last word. What is the last word, then? Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids — all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.
    • We Are Still Married : Stories & Letters (1989),, "The Meaning of Life", p. 217
  • To many Americans, whose only knowledge of the North Star State is that it is intensely cold and populated by Swedes and Holsteins, it will come as a surprise to wake up one morning in 2004 and read in the newspaper, "Half of U.S. Economy Now in Hands of Minnesota".
  • One day Donald Trump discovers that he is owned, lock, stock, and roulette wheel, by Lutheran Brotherhood, and must renegotiate his debt load with a committee of silent Norwegians who don't understand why anyone would pay more than $120 for a suit.
    • "Minnesota's Sensible Plan, TIME (11 September 1995)
  • Minnesota is a state of public-spirited and polite people, where you can get a good cappucino and eat Thai food and find any book you want and yet live on a quiet tree-lined street with a backyard and send your kids to public school. When a state this good hits the jackpot, it can only be an inspiration to everybody.
    • "Minnesota's Sensible Plan, TIME (11 September 1995)
  • Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.
    • As quoted in The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts : A Felicitous Look at Felines‎ (1997) by Ed Lucaire
  • I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.
    • As quoted in Precision Shooting : The Trapshooter's Bible‎ (1998) by James Russell, p. 54
  • Where I'm from we don't trust paper. Wealth is what's here on the premises. If I open a cupboard and see, say, thirty cans of tomato sauce and a five-pound bag of rice, I get a little thrill of well-being — much more so than if I take a look at the quarterly dividend report from my mutual fund.
    • As quoted in The Times Book of Quotations (2000), p. 384
  • The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.
  • Well, they're taking kids out of the country and sending them over there, National Guard kids and Army Reserve. They're sending kids who are barely prepared for this, and they're sending them over there to kill people, which is a serious thing. And to kill not terrorists, but to kill insurgents. I sort of find myself in agreement, uncomfortably, with Patrick Buchanan, who writes about this in his book, Where The Right Went Wrong. And writes that great powers, the way they skidded off the road, was getting involved in wars. That it's the role of great powers to stay out of wars.
  • To the cheater, there is no such thing as honesty, and to Republicans the idea of serving the public good is counterfeit on the face of it — they never felt such an urge, and therefore it must not exist.
    • Homegrown Democrat : A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America (2004), p. 78
  • Journalism is a good place for any writer to start — the retailing of fact is always a useful trade and can it help you learn to appreciate the declarative sentence. A young writer is easily tempted by the allusive and ethereal and ironic and reflective, but the declarative is at the bottom of most good writing.
  • There is almost no marital problem that can't be helped enormously by taking off your clothes.
    • "The Old Scout" in The Writer's Almanac (4 October 2005)
  • I think the most un-American thing you can say is, “You can't say that.”
    • As quoted in The Nastiest Things Ever Said About Democrats (2006) by Martin Higgins, p. 171, and The Nastiest Things Ever Said About Republicans (2006) by Martin Higgins, p. 204
  • If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?
    • "Congress's Shameful Retreat From American Values" in The Chicago Tribune (4 October 2006)
  • In electronic publishing, they're are no editors and if their are there not very good.
    • "Five Columns", in The Keillor Reader (2014), p. 257
  • The word “loser” is spoken with such contempt these days, a man might like to forget the losses in his own life that taught him something about good judgment. The money he invested in that casino in Atlantic City that went bust, the university course he enrolled in that promised to teach him the secrets of success but instead he wound up unemployed and 40 grand in debt, the candidate whose hat he wore who turned out to be tone-deaf and deluded — dumb, dumb, dumb, and yet his loved ones did not chortle and point and do the nyaa-nyaa. They put an arm around him and said, “This is how we learn.” And it is.
  • We made our mistakes back in the 20th century, Lord knows, but we never nominated a man for president who brags about not reading. Calvin Coolidge had his limits. Warren G. Harding spent more time on his hair than strictly necessary. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a piece of work. But all of them read books. When I envision a Trump Presidential Library, I see enormous chandeliers and gold carpet and a thousand slot machines. God help us. I mean it. We’re in trouble down here.
    • "Garrison Keillor: God help us. We’re in trouble down here." in The Washington Post (26 July 2016)

A Prairie Home Companion[edit]

6 July 1974 – 13 June 1987, and November 1989 - present
  • I want to resume the life of a shy person.
    • Announcing he was leaving the show, the first run ending in June 1987 (14 February 1987)
  • Librarians, Dusty, possess a vast store of politeness. These are people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions on God's green earth. These people tolerate every kind of crank and eccentric and mouth-breather there is.
    • "Cowboy Librarians" (13 December 1997)

News from Lake Wobegon[edit]

"News from Lake Wobegon" is a monologue segment which is usually heard in the second hour of every performance of "A Prairie Home Companion". The introduction and close are nearly always the same:
  • It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town, out on the edge of the prairie...
  • That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.


  • Going to church no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car.
    • Though Keillor has been quoted on the internet and in print as having made this or a similar remark, such expressions have been made by others, and may have originated with Billy Sunday, who is quoted as having said "Going to church on Sunday does not make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you an automobile!" in Press, Radio, Television, Periodicals, Public Relations, and Advertising, As Seen through Institutes and Special Occasions of the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism (1967) edited by John Eldridge Drewry.
  • A book is a gift you can open again and again.
    • Attributed to Keillor in The Miracle of Language‎ (1999) by Richard Lederer, p. 149, this statement also appears in What‎? (1988) by Ronald Silliman, p. 28:
A book is a gift you can open again and again especially when you're writing it yourself.

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