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Dear Garrison, I grew up

April 8, 2005 |

Dear Garrison,
I grew up in western Wisconsin in a little town named Arkansaw, and attended high school in nearby Durand. I read Lake Wobegon Days at age 15 and was struck by the similarity between Lake Wobegon and my own small town. And now having found a copy of Leaving Home, I was surprised to see a photo of Durand on the inside. What is the connection?

Matt Anderson
La Crosse WI

I wanted a photo of Lake Wobegon for the frontispiece of that book, Matt. I thought it was my farewell to the radio show and to the town and I wanted to go out with a visual bang. I'd come to imagine my town with the Main Street running north and south on the west side of the lake and the back doors of some of the shops, particularly Ralph's Grocery, looking out on the water. The photographer Tom Arndt showed me his picture of Durand and though it's clearly a river, not a lake, and though other details don't jibe with how I imagined, it was such a serene and beautiful photograph that I put it into the book, uncaptioned, to allow people to imagine it as Lake Wobegon. That was almost twenty years ago. One unexpected benefit is that, over the years, a couple hundred Durandites have come up and told me that the picture is of their town. Good people, all of them. One can never regret a ploy that serves to put you into good company. Once, in London, a couple came up during intermission of a play at the Royal Court theater and said they were from Durand and was I aware — . I don't know any other connection between Durand and Lake Wobegon, but the one is enough for me.

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