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My own definition of what counts as a “novel” fluctuates. You might say I fudge. If it is a classic, like Homer’s stuff, it’s not fiction. If it is theological, it’s theology. Otherwise, I don’t read novels. Unless it’s the hilarious humor of Garrison Keillor. I’ve read all of his books I think, so when I saw Pontoon, I forked over the money and sat down recently and read the thing.
What do I like most about his books? It’s his ability to start with some odd fact and by the end of the long paragraph, sometimes a page later, we’ve gotten to where one would never expect. It’s like a parenthesis within a parenthesis within a few more and before long you’re laughing and cackling and wondering how in the world he does it.
Pontoon combines the funeral of Evelyn Peterson — cremation with the ashes put in a bowling ball and then dropped from the sky (sort of) into Lake Wobegon by a young kid flying on a parasail but the driver gets all mixed up with some huge ducks on the lake and a pontoon full of Danish pastors who have become all but atheists — with a wedding, actually a commitment, that falls apart and now you’ve got the making of all his nonsense.
What do I not like about Keillor? About the time he wrote WLT: A Radio Romance Keillor included too much sex (he doesn’t seem to have any Scandinavian reserve in this subject) and he’s not let up since. This book has a few episodes that lacked taste.
His capacity to spin a yarn, expose the weaknesses of humans, entertain, and carry us all forward a step or two … and his ability to write and his voice … well, I’ll be in line the next time another Wobegon novel comes out.
Here’s the Amazon link to Keillor … my favorite remains Lake Wobegon Days, but I’ve read them all.