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Dear Mr. Keillor, I've always

June 4, 2004 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I've always been curious about my friends in St. Paul who never listen to your show, and finally I asked them why they didn't, and they said that, in their opinion, you were an opportunist who had abandoned St. Paul for New York in order to make it in the big time --- they mentioned a Broadway show you had written that failed ---- and that you were a phony who played up the folksiness to appeal to self-hating yuppies. I was taken aback by their intense antipathy to you. Any comment?


Your friends have the right to think whatever they want, but I never wrote a Broadway show and it wasn't opportunism that led me to leave St. Paul way back in 1987, more like the reverse. I shut down the show, left St. Paul, and lived in Denmark for awhile, and then in New York, where I had a couple happy years writing unsigned Talk of the Town pieces for The New Yorker. I don't know what your friends' idea of the "big time" is, but I had been writing for that magazine since 1970, so it didn't seem odd or unnatural to me. As for phoniness, it's something everyone struggles with as you get older: you sometimes hear stuff come out of your mouth that is tinny and sharp and not you at all, usually pretentious attitudinizing and fake expertise, and you pinch yourself and try not to be like that again. If you do a radio show, you are supposed to be friendly, I do believe, and maybe that's what they consider "folksiness". Tell them to lighten up.


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