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Minnesota Fates

Ferdinand Mount

12 October 1989
We Are Still Married 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 330 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 14140 4
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... launch him into the literary world where, after majoring in alienation and/or anomie, he can set about facing the real challenges of a writer’s life: alcohol and alimony. So it was a relief that GarrisonKeillor should have left the Midwest and come to rest in the bosom of the New Yorker. Once installed there, he could safely be identified as ‘the new Thurber’, well-placed to cast an ironic ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder

17 April 1986
Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... ago, I would see Gerald’s Party as the work of a writer imprisoned in his own success. If this were to be the last of the funhouse novels I doubt if anyone would complain very much. Edmund White, GarrisonKeillor and Bobbie Ann Mason belong to the generation of American writers born during the Second World War. White’s Caracole is set in an imaginary country, part European and part Third World, in ...
6 August 1992
... is important only as a vehicle for the meaning it carries – and which, therefore, is distinguished from prose only by the use of rhyme. Unsurprisingly, examples of pure verse are hard to find. GarrisonKeillor’s ‘Mrs Sullivan’, however, is the perfect instance, das Ding an sich: its message is wryly feminist and its medium, when Keillor reads it on radio, is the purest prose anecdote because ...
3 April 1986
Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... Monroes had been nothing until they were stars, and then they could only be themselves as stars. Hepburn remained Hepburn. Sumus quod sumus was the motto of the citizens of Lake Wobegon, according to GarrisonKeillor. Perhaps they got it from Shakespeare’s sonnet. At any rate, when the play of Jane Eyre opened in New Haven on 26 December 1936, in a stage version by Helen Jerome, the critics wondered ...
9 July 1992
After Silence 
by Jonathan Carroll.
Macdonald, 240 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 356 20342 5
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The Law of White Space 
by Giorgio Pressburger.
Granta, 172 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 0 14 014221 5
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Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree 
by Tariq Ali.
Chatto, 240 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 7011 3944 7
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... magic of small-town and suburban humdrumness, and also for chronicles of the passing away of that treasured way of life, with its stable marriages, television sets and cartons of milk. One thinks of GarrisonKeillor, David Leavitt, and John Updike, whose most luminous descriptions are located in ‘the post-pill paradise’ of pleasure, estrangement and divorce. Thus the ‘normal’, whether a word, a ...

Trips

Graham Coster

26 July 1990
In Xanadu: A Quest 
by William Dalrymple.
Collins, 314 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 00 217948 2
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The Gunpowder Gardens 
by Jason Goodwin.
Chatto, 230 pp., £14.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Silk Roads: The Asian Adventures of André and Clara Malraux 
by Axel Madsen.
Tauris, 299 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 1 85043 209 0
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At Home and Abroad 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 332 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Great Plains 
by Ian Frazier.
Faber, 290 pp., £14.99, March 1990, 0 571 14260 5
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... and bevelled Great Plains not at all, but rather followed his nose and slung in whatever took his fancy. If the result isn’t quite the ‘brilliant, funny and altogether perfect book’ that GarrisonKeillor lauds on the front cover, nevertheless at least half the time it is very good. When it sags it is because Frazier has succumbed to too much geography and potted history, to interminable and ...

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