The Book of Guys

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Keillor announces his main themes in his opening selection, “Address to the National Federation of Associations Convention.” Contemporary males, especially the middle-aged who have lived through the most recent phases of feminism, feel lost in a culture where definitions of masculinity are in flux. Men with good intentions strive to make themselves acceptable to women, but men cannot be better than C+ feminists, and so they cannot escape women’s anger at their stupidity. Keillor is eager to surrender world domination to women, but he says men need women to love them again or else life will be unbearable.

Each piece deals with one or more problems of being male. “The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus” tells about the god of wine and orgies, who has thought himself immortal for thousands of years but one day is informed he has turned fifty and his immortality is over. Balancing this is “Zeus the Lutheran,” in which Zeus’s lust for the wife of a Lutheran minister costs him domination in his marriage, but gives Pastor Wes an opportunity to renew his commitment to his wife and family.

Many of these pieces will be familiar to fans of Keillor’s public radio shows, where they have been performed as monologues and skits, and to readers of THE NEW YORKER and other magazines where they have appeared. Keillor’s humorous repertoire is large; this volume sparkles with wordplay, absurdity, one-liners, parodies, and satire. Male and female readers alike will chuckle at his wry portraits of guys lost in the conflicting weather of changing ideas about gender.