A few words in praise of Garrison Keillor, whose gentle, avuncular demeanor has been sorely tested under the Bush administration. Now that Bush is transitioning from leader of the free world to leader of the George W. Bush DVD Library, G.K. seems a lot more at ease. The role of political scold never fit him that well.
Keillor's column in Salon is one of the few I look for each week. His latest, contrasting "girlish, moody fiction" with the sort of stuff people might really read, is something I dearly wish I'd written myself:
"...what readers really want is the same as what Shakespeare's audience wanted -- dastardly deeds by dark despicable men, and/or some generous blood-spattering and/or saucy wenches with pert breasts cinched up to display them like fresh fruit on a platter. ...
"Unfortunately, writers are a gloomy bunch given to whining about the difficulty of getting published, the pain of rejection, the obtuseness of critics, etc. They sit at their laptops and write a few sentences about pale reflections and then check their e-mail and Google themselves. Maybe click onto a Web site where young women display their breasts like ripe fruit. They get busy messing around and don't have time to write fiction so they write poems instead."
Of course, I'm not one of those writers. Not me, no not at all. The biggest difference is that instead of writing poems when I get distracted, I fiddle around with this stupid blog.
It's a funny column, but Keillor has an excellent point about fiction, and writing in general: Readers like stories. They like conflict; they like cause and effect. They like it when something actually happens. All the self-indulgent interior monologues and sensitive observations in the world won't make the pages turn if the reader is convinced that's all there is. We shouldn't all write like Mickey Spillane, but for a lot of us, it might be a useful exercise.