Garrison Keillor Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Garrison Keillor was born Gary Edward Keillor on August 7, 1942, to Grace Denham Keillor and John Keillor of Anoka, Minnesota. He was the third of six children. He graduated from Anoka High School in 1960 and completed a bachelor’s degree with a major in English from the University of Minnesota in 1966. He was raised in the Sanctified Brethren Christian denomination, but he later became an Episcopalian. He has been married three times: to Mary Guntzel (1965-1976), Ulla Skaerved (1985-1990), and Jenny Lind Nilsson (1995-present). He is the father of a son, Jason, with Guntzel and a daughter, Maia, with Nilsson. He has lived in New York, Denmark, and Wisconsin, and now resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Keillor, who was already hosting a morning radio program in Minneapolis, was inspired to begin his radio variety program after writing a piece on the Grand Ole Opry for The New Yorker in 1974. He has hosted a weekly radio variety show for more than thirty years, in addition to touring with various musical groups during his show’s summer breaks. A Prairie Home Companion has become a Saturday-night institution for many public radio listeners. It consists of two hours of comedy skits, which Keillor writes himself, fake commercials for such products as Powdermilk Biscuits and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, and live music from a variety of guests. A regular ensemble of actors performs skits that are presented as episodes of recurring “shows” such as Guy Noir: Private Eye and The Lives of the Cowboys.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Garrison Keillor (KEE-lur) became widely known for his popular public radio program A Prairie Home Companion, a show featuring a mixture of midwestern folk humor and a variety of musical offerings. Keillor’s stories about his fictional town of Lake Wobegon established him as a major figure in the tradition of American humor. Born Gary Edward Keillor in Anoka, a small town near the Minnesota’s twin cities, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Keillor adopted the pen name of Garrison Keillor at the age of thirteen, by which time he had already become interested in writing. During his high school years, he wrote for the school newspaper until his graduation in 1960, when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

At the university, Keillor obtained his first radio experience by working at the campus radio station. He also wrote poetry and eventually became editor of the student literary magazine the Ivory Tower, in which he published poems, prose essays and satires, and some fiction. During a break in his academic career, he worked for several months for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Keillor’s early influences included several regular contributors to The New Yorker, notably E. B. White, S. J. Perelman, and A. J. Liebling, but the work published in the Ivory Tower shows that he was already developing an independent voice as a midwesterner drawing upon his cultural environment for the raw materials of his art.

In 1966, Keillor graduated from the University of Minnesota. While seeking to establish himself as a writer, he continued to work at intervals as a radio announcer, and by 1969 he had begun to develop the style that was to become his trademark on the air. Broadcasting from a succession of public radio stations, Keillor presented unusual selections of folk music, which he combined with humorous narrations. He had a poem accepted for publication in The Atlantic Monthly in 1968, and by 1970 The New Yorker had begun to publish some of his short prose works. It was, however, Keillor’s radio broadcasting that both shaped and reflected the...

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