Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

January 14, 2008 | 2 Comments

Post to the Host:
I just received a signed copy of Pontoon for Christmas, and noted that your signature was extremely legible, which is unusual for someone famous who is signing thousands of books and is in need of speed more than accuracy. Did you have an elementary teacher who drilled you on handwriting?

Rod S.
Brookville, OH

Penmanship was very important to Mrs. Estelle Shaver, my first and second-grade teacher at Benson School on the West River Road in Brooklyn Park in 1948-1950. She had an excellent hand herself and stood at the blackboard and demonstrated it day after day, the perfect loops, the dangling curled tail of the g and y and q, and I suppose it was from Mrs. Shaver that I absorbed the sense that illegible handwriting was slovenly and immature. I admit I still feel that way, quaint as it may seem. I look at some people's handwriting and even though they are folks of some distinction, doctors, lawyers, poets, and such, I see something unsavory in the way their letters are formed. Jagged, cramped, illegible handwriting is on a par with public nose-picking in my book. I shouldn't say it, but that's how I feel. And if I look at an autograph that is a scrawl, it strikes me as arrogant somehow. And when I see a signature like Bill Clinton's, which is really elegant and perfectly legible, I feel a burst of admiration. My own signature has gone through phases of scrawliness but it has always, I think, been legible and sometimes even elegant. That's what I keep aiming for anyway. Mrs. Shaver is gone but her influence is still strong. Including a feeling that, if your penmanship goes to pieces, then you might start drinking brandy Alexanders for breakfast and driving like a maniac and blaming your parents for your troubles. I could go on, Rod, but will not. But to be complimented for penmanship means an awful lot to me, I must say. It's sort of like our technical director Sam Hudson's pride in winding up microphone cable properly. Or Pat Donohue knowing how to pick up a guitar.


Although my handwriting has been marred severely by 20 years of fast-note-taking journalism, I couldn't agree more. I have a very legible, albeit as-yet-unasked-for, autograph. Meanwhile, your lovely remembrance of your teacher reminded me of a story I read about another fine teacher. I'll recall it as best I can. The great basketball player Bill Walton - or was it Kareem Abdul-Jabaar - was observed carefully lacing up his sneakers. A sportswriter asked, somewhat mockingly, if lacing up sneakers was the first thing John Wooden taught his players. "No," he said, solemnly. "The first thing Coach Wooden taught us was how to correctly put on our socks."

Helle Mr. Keillor,

this is the first time I've wrote a comment. I live in austria. I am 16. My dad works halftime in Houston, Texas. Every year we come to Houston in the summer holidays. I have been listening to your show since I was a baby (I didnt know what you were talking about then), but it became a sort of routine to listen to your show every saTURDay (I read your book, Lake Wobegon Days) , and Tuesdays. My dad always brings recorded tapes of your show, for me and my brother to listen to. You are something like an idol to me. I travel to Norway with my family every once in a few years. I dont like Luttefisk and Gammelost but norge ar best! ( did I spell that correctly?).
I have read your books (Wobegon Boy and WLT a radio Romance, and other books) I devoured them!
I just hope that someday I can show my children the delight of listening to your show.

sincerly, and mange helsen,

Hans Kueffner-McCauley

Previous Post:

Next Post:

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy