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Dear Garrison, I've been a

April 28, 2005 |

Dear Garrison,
I've been a listener to your programme off and on for about the last 6 years now, especially since it started to be carried on BBC7, the BBCs digital radio station for comedy.

I was talking with a friend up in Scotland about APHC and he said he had read a copy of your autobiography, about how you got into radio. I didn't know you had written such a book, only the Lake Wobegon books. Has he got the two mixed up or have you in the past written an autobiography?

Cheers,
Chris Butterfield
U.K.

Chris, I didn't write an autobiography as such but perhaps your Scottish friend happened onto a copy of a book called Homegrown Democrat which includes some stuff about me and which is now widely available on remainder tables for about 69 cents a copy. Remainder tables are the ones bookstores put out on the sidewalk so as to make shoplifting easier. As for writing a real autobiography, it's far down on my list of things to do. I just don't feel confident about being able to, frankly. Like most people, I can take myself back to various points in the distant past — the house I grew up in, my school playground, the Mississippi River, a backyard in St. Paul in the fall of 1947 and cousin Kathy and an apple tree and coal smoke in the air, a visit to Brooklyn, New York, in 1953 — but nothing happens to me when I arrive there: the memories don't expand, the light doesn't spread — my memory seems to consist of postcards rather than film footage — and so I'm leery of writing a series of fables and foisting it off as a memoir. This may be the fate of a fiction writer: you plunder your memory for characters and story elements and bits of dialogue and you wind up changing it, blurring truth and fiction. My father-in-law, who is 82 and never wrote a book before, wrote an extraordinary and beautiful one (unpublished), which is, on the face of it, a memoir of all the cars he has owned. It's a brilliant framework for autobiography, utterly original, and what's more he is blessed with near total recall, and he is free of literary self-consciousness. If I can't write something as good, then why bother? I don't want to walk up to a Barnes & Noble and see the Story of My Life on sale for 69 cents.

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