Friday, April 04, 2008

Two sides of the same pleasure

My dad gave me an essay entitled The Reading Life by Garrison Keillor last December.

Being from the Midwest, my parents love him. They love Prairie Home Companion. It resonates with them - his words are real and true. They evoke memories of youth for both of them, and they listen to him and laugh.

He's a good storyteller. And I can appreciate his craft. But as a person, he never really grabbed me. I never found him all that hilarious. I got tired of his show on PBS.

All this to say, even though it was only a page long, I didn't jump to read the essay.

My dad kept asking me if I'd read it, and I'd say that I just hadn't gotten around to it. He sends me articles regularly. The importance of Vitamin D. Consumer awareness articles. Health and safety tips.

Whenever he gives me something that comes with an owner manual, he follows up to see if I've read it. Because he knows I probably never will.

In other words, I'd put it in my "will be edifying but not necessarily interesting" pile.

But I finally read it the other day. It's about how Keillor became a reader, a writer, a storyteller.

And damned if he didn't pull me in from the very beginning. And this, this part I love:

"All of storytelling is an opening of the heart, a search for intimacy with strangers. Intimacy is a necessity of life, and we would go insane without it. On planes and trains and long bus trips, in bars, coffee shops, it happens all the time: You sit next to someone you don't know, and a spark is struck and you wind up telling more about yourself than you ever told your parents or your sister.

A writer starts out trying to show off, but if you keep going, you learn a thing or two. One, that writing is less like Destiny and more like dentistry: You get up in the morning and go to work. And, second, the great pleasure of stories is to be of one mind with another human being, and to that end, it isn't so important whether I write the story or you write it and I read it, they are two sides of the same pleasure."

I love his wording, and it's so true.

Thanks, Dad.


  1. Ohhh, those words are so good. Thank you (and your Dad) for sharing. This passage makes me feel important, as a reader - not an author.

    My Dad sends me articles all the time too. In high school, I'd find photocopies of articles regarding N.A.S.A programs or female leaders in my backpack. I miss that.

  2. That is so true about the intimacy! I try to strike up conversations with strangers sometimes, and it saddens me when they give me a borderline mean look and turn away.

  3. I just saw Garrison Keillor in NYC last week. I don't know that I would have recognized him, but a woman I was with went crazy. Apparently, her husband is from Lake Wobegon. She got so excited, it was like he was a rock star. She actually screamed and got all giddy.

    I like that piece you included her. That whole meeting strangers phenomenon seems like an American cultural thing, too. Do you think? I just have had students from various countries in South America tell me that they would never open up on a bus the way Americans do. Like, "Why is this woman telling me about her divorce? I never met her!"

  4. Now that is lovely. What a great description of why we write!

  5. I love dads. I think ours would like each other too. Fantastic thoughts on writing! Did I already send this to you or post it here? Feel like I did - but I love Elizbeth Gilbert's thoughts here as well:


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