|Catherine Tankovich||Keillor, Garrison: Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||Keillor, Garrison. Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake
Wobegon Stories. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1987.
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||The first edition is published in beige cloth with dust
|3. Image of Cover Art||A13191000204153604.jpg|
|4. Pagination||134 leaves; pp. [i-x] xi-xxiii [xxiv]  1-9  11-15
 17-25  27-71  73-83  85-91  93-115
 117-131  133-145  147-151  153-157
 159-171  173-177  179-211  213-244 
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||There is an introduction by Keillor entitled "A Letter from
Copenhagen". Book is dedicated to Keillor's mother and
father, John and Grace. Includes publisher advertisement
for other books by Keilllor and a short poem by
Keillor about Lake Wobegon.
|6. Illustrated?||There is one black and white photograph on the title page
of what appears to be a lake town.
|8. General Appearance||Book size: 23cm X 15cm
Margins: 2cm on each side and 2.5cm top and bottom
Size of text: 17.75cm X 10.75cm
The readability of the book is excellent with large margins
making the book easy to read. Chapters are titled but not
numbered. The first sentence of each chapter is the same,
"It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon", and is
italicized with the first letter a drop cap.
|9. Image of Sample Chapter Page||A19191000204153604.jpg|
|10. Description of Paper||Wove paper with even, granulated texture. The book consists
of the same paper stock throughout. It is in excellent
condition and the paper is well-preserved since it is not
very old. Endpapers are beige.
|11. Description of Binding||Teal cloth binding with gold metallic stamping and
dotted-line grain. Transcription on spine: Garrison/
Keillor/ Leaving Home/ Viking.
|12. Title Page Transcription||Recto: Leaving/ Home/ Garrison Keillor/ Viking
Verso: Copyright, Garrison Keillor/ 1987/ All rights/
|13. Image of Title Page||A113191000204153604.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Information on holdings not available at this time.|
|15. Other||The dust jacket has a description of the novel and a brief
biography of Keillor on the fly leaf. On the back cover
of the jacket is a picture of Keillor.
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||There were no other editions printed by Viking books after
the initial printing. However, Viking Penguin (a division
of Viking Books) has printed numerous editions. (See item #5
for a complete listing of all other editions of Leaving
Source: RLIN and WorldCat
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||Publisher's Weekly reported for the week of October 9,
1987 that there were 750,000 copies for the first printing
of the first edition and 50,000 copies for the second
printing. I was not able to find amounts of copies of subsequent
Source: Publisher's Weekly, 10-9-87
|5. Editions from other publishers?||Other editions include:
Viking, 1987 (large print edition)
Faber, 1988 (paperback)
Penguin, 1989 (braille)
New American Library, 1989
Grossman Publishers, Inc., 1989
Viking Penguin, 1990
Ulverscroft, 1990 (large print edition)
Viking Penguin, 1992 (Garrison Keillor Box: Lake Wobegon
Days, Leaving Home, Happy to Be Here, and We Are Still Married)
Source: WorldCat and Eureka RLG
|6. Last date in print?||The last date in print was February 21, 2000.
Source: Witaker's Books in Print
|7. Total copies sold?||Leaving Home was the fifth bestselling novel of 1987,
having sold more than700,000 copies (I was not able to find
the exact number of copies sold in that year).
Source: The Bowker Annual, 1988
|8. Sales by year?||As of October 9, 1987 800,000 copies were in print.
The sales by year are unknown.
Source: Publisher's Weekly, 10-9-87
|9. Advertising copy:||The following is an advertisement placed in Publisher's
Weekly on August 28, 1987:
"This collection of stories set in Lake Wobegon is taken from
monologues performed on A Prairie Home Companion,
Keillor's radio show; each one chronicles some kind of leave-
taking or homecoming... These short narratives survive the
transition from performance to print beautifully; they are
spare, artfully crafted vignettes that will move readers as
well as entertain them. Some tales are wildly hilarious,
others are gently poignant, but all are simply wonderful."
The dust jacket of the fiction novel reads:
"This collection of thirty-six stories is Garrison Keillor's
farewell tribute to life in Lake Wobegon- 'Where all the women
are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children
are above average.'"
An advertisement from www.Amazon.com reads:
"Revisit the beguiling comic world of Lake Wobegon. In the
first collection of Lake Wobegon monologues, Keillor tells
the readers ore about some of the people from Lake Wobegon
Days and introduces some new faces. 'Leaving Home is a book
of exceptional charm... delightful... genuinely touching'.
--The Wall Street Journal"
Sources: Infotrac, AmazonBooks.com, Leaving Home
|11. Other promotion?||Available to purchase are personalized Lake Wobegon
doormats and Lake Wobegon postcards with three different
In 1990, Longman Publishers published a books by Frances
Armstrong Boyd entitled Stories From Lake Wobegon:
advanced listening and conversation skills. This text
also came with two audiocassette tapes. This book was intended
to funciton as instruction in the English language for
foreign speakers. Audio-visual activities accompanied it as
Source: 20th-Century American Bestsellers, Allison
Barrett- Lake Wobegon Days
|12. Performances in other media?||The stories of Lake Wobegon are found in numerous other media.
Audiocassette tapes include:
Lake Wobegon Days. Four cassettes, one for each season. 1985.
Lake Wobegon Days. Four cassettes produced by Minnesota
Public Radio, March 1987. It was a GrammyAward Winner in 1987.
Lake Wobegon Days. Two cassettes. 1989.
News from Lake Wobegon. 1983, 1989.
Wobegon Tales. 1986.
Beyond Lake Wobegon. 1987.
More News from Lake Wobegon: Hope. 1989.
More News from Lake Wobegon: Faith. 1989.
More News from Lake Wobegon: Love. 1989.
More News from Lake Wobegon: Humor. 1989.
Gospel Birds; and other stories from Lake Wobegon. 1987, 1993.
We are Still Married. Two cassettes. 1990.
Lake Wobegon USA. Four cassettes. 1990, 1993.
Faith: Stories from the Collection: More News from Lake Wobegon. 1991.
Mother, Father, Uncle, Aunt: Stories From Lake Wobegon.
Two cassettes. 1996.
Wobegon Meets Alternative Radio. 1997.
Wobegon Boy. Four cassettes. 1997.
Life These Days: Stories from Lake Wobegon. Two Cassettes. 1998.
Fall Stories from the Collection: News from Lake Wobegon. 1998.
Sequels on compact disc include:
News from Lake Wobegon. Four discs. 1983.
More News from Lake Wobegon. 1989.
More News from Lake Wobegon. Four discs. 1992.
News from Lake Wobegon. 1992.
Gospel Birds; and other stories of Lake Wobegon. Three discs. 1993.
Mother, Father, Uncle, Aunt: stories from Lake Wobegon. Three discs. 1996.
News from Lake Wobegon: Summer: Stories from the Collection. 1997.
News from Lake Wobegon Winter. 1997.
Spring: Stories from the Collection: News from Lake Wobegon. 1998.
Life These Days: Stories from Lake Wobegon. Three discs. 1998.
Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days: a recital for mixed baritone and
orchestra. Minnesota Public Radio, 1989. Performed with
the Minnesota Orchestra- conducted by Phillip Brunelle.
Written and read by Garrison Keillor. Produced and directed
by Phillip Byrd. Also available on compact disc.
Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Spring Weekend. Highbridge,
1992. Includes performances by the Everly Brothers, Taj
Mahal, Tom Keith, Albert Lee, Richard Dworsky, Kate
MacKenzie, Dan Rowles. Read by Garrison Keillor.
|13. Translations?||Translations include:
Farvertil Lake Wobegon: en kronike om livets gang et sted
i Amerikas hjerte. Borgen, 1989. Danish.
En rolig uke i Lake Wobegon. Cappelen, 1988. Norwegian.
Det har varit en lugn vecka i Lake Wobegon: nya berattelser.
Forum, 1988. Swedish.
Source: WorldCat (First Search)
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||Leaving Home was Keillor's second novel about Lake Wobegon.
The stories of Lake Wobegon are also found in the following
novels by Keillor:
Lake Wobegon Days. Penguin, 1988.
Truckstop and other Lake Wobegon Stories. Penguin, 1995
Wobegon Boy. Viking, 1997.
More News From Lake Wobegon: Love. Penguin, 1999.
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|Garrison Keillor is most famous for his comical depictions of a prairie town called Lake Wobegon. This shy, six-foot-four man
captured the hearts of millions of Americans as he told them stories of a town that became a sort of "American Everytown"
(The Gale Group). Keillor made a name for himself through his popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, that aired
on Minnesota Public for thirteen years. His novel, Lake Wobegon Days,was published by Viking in 1985 and was an
In Lake Wobegon Days Keillor was able to gracefully combine several short comic masterpieces into one novel. Putting
his stories down on paper also enabled him to include an abundanceof details, something he could not do in a radio show.
His sense of humor comes from his belief that "life is a comedyand because "God is the author, and God writes an awful lot of
comedy"(Scholl). Lake Wobegon Days is not as much about Keillor himself as it is about the people who lived in the town
at some point over time. The period leading up to the publication of Leaving Home in 1987 included numerous formative events
in Keillor's personal life and career. Lake Wobegon Days was enormously successful,as was A Prairie Home Companion.
However, during this period he divorced his first wife, Margaret Moos, and married Ulla Skaerved shortly after. Skaerved was a
Danish exchange student from Keillor's high school who he got to know at a reunion. Also during this time Keillor planned
sessions with producer Sidney Pollock for a film about Lake Wobegon and he decided to end the radio show. Keillor told a
shocked audience in 1987 that he wanted to live in Denmark with his wife and have time to be a writer. Disenchanted with
celebrityhood and irritated with newspapers, he announced that it was "time to stop" A Prairie Home Companion (Scholl).
In the fall of that year Viking Books published Leaving Home, a book that contained thirty-six stories that were originally
written for performance on A Prairie Home Companion, and "A Letter from Copenhagen" that told his reasons for leaving the
show and his home state of Minnesota. In Leaving Home Keillor told stories about several characters who left home for
some reason or another. At the time of publication Keillor doubted that he would ever live in Minnesota again. He claimed
that he slowly lost his bearings and "felt lost at home" (Scholl). Keillor found, however, that he could not stay away from radio
programs or from the United States. He returned shortly with his wife and took up residence in New York City and began a show
called "Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company of the Air" in1989. He has written sever more books, including Wobegon Boy,
the third book about Lake Wobegon. His most recent writing is Me: Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente, Governor of Minnesota. As Told
to Garrison Keillor (Viking, 1999). He has also made severalother audio recordings since 1987. Though Leaving Home
was not one of Keillor's most recognized works, its publication occurred at a crucial time in his life.
References cited: Gale Literary Databases. "Contemporary Authors: Garrison Keillor". The Gale Group: 2000. http://www.galenet.com.
Scholl, Peter. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Yearbook: 1987.Gala Research Company, Detroit: 1988. pp. 326-337.
|With the popularity that Garrison Keillor received from "A Prairie Home Companion" and Lake Wobegon Days it is not surprising that the public and critics both enjoyed Leaving Home as much as they did. Faithful followers of Keillor's tales of Lake Wobegon love him for his refreshing wit and the folksy, down-home nature of his writings. Though it did not receive quite the attention that Lake Wobegon Days did, Leaving Home was praised by critics before it even hit the shelves. Though some critics claimed that "Keillor represents an overly sentimental and nostalgic view of small-town life", few other reviewers could find anything negative to say about this novel (Contemporary Literary Criticism, 261). Readers anxiously bought Leaving Home, a collection of 36 short stories from "A Prairie Home Companion" monologues that looks into the lives of people from an imaginary village in Minnesota, making it a bestseller.
Praising Keillor's ability to capture the reader, Gray writes, "When these tales work, as they often do, they are like American Zen (echoing) Thoreau's idea of salvation through simplicity, that 'we need pray for not higher heaven than the pure senses can furnish, a purely sensuous life.'" Other critics liken Keillor to a contemporary Mark Twain, Will Rogers, or James Thurber.
Critics seemed to have their own individual reasons for enjoying Keillor's writings. Gray calls them "perfect bedtime stories that are at best "contemporary folk ales of American comic-karma" and at worst, "these stories are like honey-coated breakfast cereal". Best praised him for his "gentle, homespun wit that is entirely his own", writing that "a funnier place may exist in America today, but if it does, its whereabouts is a well-kept secret". Barol praises Leaving Home as "a lovely book, sweet but never saccharine. The stories," he continues, "are studded with moments of strange beauty." Pipp applauds Keillor for not merely relying his ability to make readers laugh, stating, "Despite his easy humor, though, the book is anything but a comedy. Keillor is also a master at drama and sadness. He's created an ordinary guy who says things out loud that most of us think but don't share with others." Some critics, such as Brunet, like Leaving Home because Keillor "doesn't ramble as much in type as he did on the air" and because the realization that Lake Wobegon does not exist, Brunet claims, is also expressed more in this novel than it was on his radio show. Almost all reviewers agree that Leaving Home made fans love Keillor and the fictional characters of Lake Wobegon all the more.
Barol, Bill. "What Now, Wobegon?" Newsweek. p82. October 5, 1987.
Best, Nicholas. "Books: Wobegon Days". The Financial Times Limited. pXVII. January 16, 1988.
Brunet, Elena. "Current Paperbacks: Leaving Home". Los Angeles Times p10. January 1, 1989.
Gray, Spalding. "Keillor, Garrison". New York Times. p9. October 4, 1987.
Johnbson, George. "New and Noteworthy". New York Times. p34. January 15, 1989.
Parr, John. "Love makes comic world go round". The Toronto Star. November 7, 1987.
|Keillor continues to keep a large following of readers who are devoted to the characters of Lake Wobegon. Critics still mention Leaving Home, but they now focus on his new writings and media presentations. His most recent novel about Lake Wobegon, Wobegon Boy, was published in 1997 and received the same rave reviews that his others did. Reviewers now applaud the Lake Wobegon books all together and suggest that people read all three. Reviews of Leaving Home are not much different today than when it was first published in 1987. "Keillor's shining writing allows the reader immersion into a parallel universe that has all the elements of our own- but with better stories," Pipp claims in a recent review. In a similar acclamation Greasly writes, "Keillor's humor functions regularly as a leavening, softening agent, easing the harshness or criticism and heightening audience acceptance of his social commentary," summarizing why fans and critics love Keillor's radio monologues and written fiction.
"Keillor, Garrison". Contemporary Literary Criticism. v115, p260-267. The Gale Group. Detroit, 1999.
Pipp, Tracy L. "Books: Garrison Keillor makes a small story a grand tale". The Detroit News. pB3. November 24, 1997.
|After the tremendous success of Garrison Keillor's first novel, Lake Wobegon Days, critics and readers were curious to see how Leaving Home would be received. This second book, that contained more hilarious and heartwarming stories from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, was on the bestseller's list in 1987 and is still in print today. When Leaving Home stayed on the bestseller's list for over twenty weeks it was obvious that the public loved Keillor's storytelling whether over the air on in print. Both of these fictional works about Lake Wobegon derive from his radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" which aired for over a decade. Keillor's success and recognition continued to increase after the release of Leaving Home as he wrote numerous other books and produced many audio recordings of his stories. The town of Lake Wobegon became for many people a home away from home. Keillor was able to create a fictional place with a simple way of life that seems desirable us and he has invented characters that somehow seem like people that we all know or to whom we can relate. Readers love him for his combination of wit and sentimentality, either laughing out loud or crying at each little vignette that he creates. His works recall other bestselling authors who depict certain regional locations and make the reader feel as though they have suddenly stepped into another area. His appeal to nostalgia and sentimentality is an approach that numerous authors use and may explain why the public loves him so much. Unlike many other bestselling authors whose books later became movies, Keillor's career began on the radio and then moved to books. Perhaps a combination of these and other elements explain Keillor's success and also tell us more about other bestselling novels.
Keillor has a unique ability to draw readers into his tales and make them feel as though they are a part of the community he describes. His vivid descriptions of the rural prairie town of Lake Wobegon become familiar to readers and make them feel as though they, too, are experiencing the landscape. He describes the community's dependence on the weather for their farming, writing, "The rain was more than farmers needed and came at the wrong time, keeping them out of the fields, and now planting is late. Farmers are in enough trouble as it is, and even if they could run the weather as they please, they still might not make it." After a long night and much embarrassment Roger, a farmer, settles in bed next to his wife and prays, "Thank you 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." With portraits such as this Keillor provides a kind of regional humor that is reminiscent of many other authors. Critics often compare Keillor to well-known authors such as Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and James Thurber (Contemporary Literary Criticism, 1999). Mark Twain, arguably America's greatest humorist, wrote of Huck Finn's adventures in the South during the period of slavery. Using local dialect Twain captured the essence of the region at that time, in the same way that Keillor does with Lake Wobegon. While the town is fictional, the descriptions of it are remarkably similar to the Minnesota town in which Keillor grew up. It is interesting to note that he recently made an audio recording of Huckleberry Finn, perhaps because he appreciated the regional humor in Twain's writings that he also used in his own.
Critics often associate Keillor with other authors who either created mythical places as he did or who portrayed stories of their own hometowns. Stephen Wilbers wrote an article in American Studies, claiming, "In spinning his fanciful and gently satiric tales of life in Lake Wobegon… Keillor invites comparison with an earlier Midwesterner, James Thurber, and with the late E.B. White, whose stories evoke life in rural Maine so convincingly" (Wilbers, 1989). Bret Harte, a nineteenth century author, wrote about the California gold rush and laid the foundations for the Western. Roy Blount wrote several books of Southern humor, poking fun at and also fondly recalling the South and its idiosyncrasies. Blount made regular guest appearances on "A Prairie Home Companion" and his writings sparked Keillor to remark that his book Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor "along with the Bible and Shakespeare's plays and a good dictionary, should just about do it for you" (amazon.com). Rebecca Wells, author of Little Alters Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, also depicts life in the deep South where Southern belles mix with "rednecks" and Cajuns alike. Her combination of wit and tragedy is similar to Keillor's. He is often compared to Will Rogers as well, who shares the same rural frontier background. "Keillor, like Will Rogers," a New York Times book review claimed, "creates an immediate emotional relationship with his readers," (Lurie, 1988). The success of these authors reveals that audiences enjoy experiencing regional culture and humor by an author who is able to creatively and accurately depict everyday life in these settings.
The nostalgic appeal that Keillor uses in Leaving Home may be the most alluring aspect to the public and may explain why his novels are so beloved. The dust jacket of Leaving Home describes Lake Wobegon as a place "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." In creating his own version of an idealized landscape, Keillor creates in his readers a longing for a simpler life that has not been touched by modern advances. "The residents of Lake Wobegon resist change and technology and live a simpler life," one critic writes describing the town's contrast to life as most American's experience it today (Contemporary Literary Criticism, 1999). In his stories Keillor lures people into the comic town of Lake Wobegon that is, as the dust jacket reads, "the town that time forgot, that the decades cannot improve." Yet it is interesting that Lake Wobegon is appealing to so many people since Keillor does not exactly portray it as an ideal place to live. In contrast, Keillor gives the reader many reasons to avoid Lake Wobegon, such as its drab landscape and its typical small town problems. "The perils of that little town on the prairie have to be set out," Keillor said in an interview, "boredom, loneliness, alcohol, self-hatred and madness" (Lurie, 1988). John E. Miller, in an essay comparing Sinclair Lewis and Keillor, writes, "Life in Lake Wobegon is not perfect, but it is whole. It is within this community that a collectivity of individuals find meaning and freedom, not in escape nor in quixotic efforts to remake society, but in the day to day transactions, resolutions, and interactions that make and individual a social being" (Miller, 1987). In a book review for the Detroit News Tracy Pipp claimed, "Keillor's strength… is in the reminiscences of days past" (Pipp, 1997). It is ultimately Keillor's ability to craft this wholeness and wistfulness for simpler times that creates a sense of nostalgia for the quintessential small town of Lake Wobegon.
Critics note a continuity between Keillor and his predecessors in their appeal to nostalgia and sentimentality. Thornton Wilder, author of Our Town, is perhaps the best example of one who is known for depicting a nostalgic view of a small town. His portrayal of the history of a placid New Hampshire town appealed to many readers who longed to belong to such a place. Books such as Our Town and Leaving Home captivate the imagination of American audiences, Wilbers wrote, because they address a need "for a sense of community and belonging, for reassurance against social disruption and the threat of loss- that need, in short, for a sense of place" (Wilbers, 1989). Keillor addresses this need and makes readers feel a sense of belonging "by calling on our shared experience" (Wilbers, 1989). We realize that the characters of Lake Wobegon are not really all strong, beautiful or above average but, instead, they are typical people who experience common events and often make the same mistakes and feel the same emotions that we do. In this sense we feel do feel a sense of belonging when reading or listening to Keillor's tales.
The success of Leaving Home may also be a result of the fact that Keillor was already well known and liked. This collection of stories followeed quickly after the release of bestselling Lake Wobegon Days, which may have boosted its sales. On the outside cover Garrison Keillor's name is in large, bold letters in the very center. A large picture of Keillor covers the entire back of the dust jacket. People knew his name already from "A Prairie Home Companion" and Lake Wobegon Days, a fact that may explain the immediate popularity of Leaving Home. Similarly, many authors appear repeatedly on the bestseller's list because they are already established household names. Authors such as Danielle Steel and John Grisham are such authors whose success is nearly guaranteed because of their name recognition. That Keillor wrote a book entitled Leaving Home at the time that he left his Minnesota home and headed for Denmark most likely boosted his sales, as well. Critics often cited this piece of information as interesting and viewed the collection of stories involving Lake Wobegon characters leaving their own homes as glimpses into Keillor's personal life. Both his name recognition and the events occurring in his life also help to explain the great success of Leaving Home.
Despite all of the similarities between Keillor and other authors there is also one large difference. While many authors write books that later become motion pictures, Keillor took his radio broadcasts and compiled them into a book. John Grisham and Tom Clancy are notorious for having films made of nearly every book they write, and are sometimes criticized for writing movie scripts rather than pieces of literature. Keillor, by contrast, is the exception because the popularity of his radio show contributed to the success of his written works. "A Prairie Home Companion" had nearly three to four million listeners weekly and it is safe to assume that these loyal listeners also bought his books. This interesting fact sets Keillor apart from other bestselling authors in a unique way.
Leaving Home could have most likely sold because of its endearing stories and fascinating characters, but many factors probably contributed to its great success. Keillor's use of regional humor and appeal to nostalgia are common among bestselling books and help to explain why audiences love his stories so much. These factors, along with his already established recognition and the fact that he was "leaving home" contributed to its appeal. Yet it was also unique in that the stories in Leaving Home were first told over public radio. "Leaving Home will most likely make Garrison Keillor's fans love him all the more," Gray wrote, and it seems to have done just that.
Gray, Spalding. "Keillor, Garrison." New York Times. p9. October, 4, 1987.
"Keillor, Garrison." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 115, p260-283. The Gale Group. Detroit, 1999.
Lurie, Alison. "The Frog Prince." The New York Review of Books. p33-4. November 24, 1988.
Miller, John E. "The Distance Between Gopher Prairie and Lake Wobegon: Sinclair Lewis and Garrison Keillor on the Small Town Experience." Centenniel Review, Vol. 31, p432-46. Fall 1987.
Pipp, Tracy L. "Garrison Keillor makes a small story a grand tale." The Detroit News. November 24, 1997.
Wilbers, Stephen. "Lake Wobegon : Mythical Place and the American Imagination." American Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1, p5-20. Spring, 1989.
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