I’m not a very good writer, but I think I’ve read enough to recognize what I consider good writing: empathetic characters, economy of language, story through detail. And most importantly, the willingness to refrain from drawing a tidy lesson. My favorite writers create a space in which I can find my own murky resonance.
From the start of high school through college, I probably interacted with Garrison Keillor’s writing more than anyone else’s. It’s a particular schedule quirk of playing lots of ultimate frisbee, but I was in a car virtually every Sunday evening, driving back from a tournament, decompressing after an exhausting weekend. I was usually quiet, and vulnerable, and A Prairie Home Companion was always on. I’m a little embarrassed at how much I enjoyed the skits, but the News From Lake Wobegon got me every time. I was always so impressed at how little actually happened in each essay -- but the smallest moments always had the biggest lessons.
Garrison Keillor is just a great, great writer. And the more radio I do, the more I realize that the best work is simply the stuff that’s written well. Whether it’s This American Life, Radiolab, Another Round — if someone has worked hard on the words they are speaking, it shows.
I know Keillor’s retirement sparks all sorts of attendant conversations about the state of public radio, and diversity, and new voices, and so on. And lord knows those are important. But, we’re losing a great radio writer this weekend, and for that I’m bummed.