A Christmas Blizzard

Dear Mr. Keillor,
Our book club just met to discuss your book “A Christmas Blizzard.” Much to my surprise, I had read a completely different version of the book then my fellow members. We were very curious as to why there were such extreme differences in the hardcover and paperback versions.
Michelle Tvaryanas                   
Centerville, OH

Penguin, my publisher, was curious too, Michelle. Ordinarily authors don’t rewrite a book for the paperback edition. But I thought the story could be improved by shifting James Sparrow, the protagonist, from the high promontory of the super-wealthy to the ranks of the renter class. So I went ahead and did it. I leave it to you to judge the results, but it was great fun to get another whack at the manuscript. No book is ever really finished — it’s simply yanked out of the author’s hands and set in type —- and that’s why authors don’t sit around savoring their own work.  They know they’d come upon big lumpy passages that fill them with chagrin. But I don’t think I’ll lobby Penguin for the chance to re-do Lake Wobegon Days or Lake Wobegon 1956. But I’m really really tempted to go at Love Me. I’d cut out about half of it and expand the core. A writer comes to a point in life where he suspects that he has said what he has to say and now his job is to say it better. On the radio show I’ve been borrowing more and more from early work, which is easy, thanks to the computer. There in my hard drive is a vast trove of scripts and lyrics and monologues going back thirty years, and if I pull up, say, a Noir episode from 1993, the thing cuts like butter.  Out goes 9/10ths of it and from what remains I sprout a new story. A frugal man takes pleasure in this sort of recycling. On the show last night, I did a revised version of a 10-year-old “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with some new lines —-

Better be careful, be discreet
Don’t try to sell a Senate seat
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Don’t think a sense of style
Conceals your escapades.
Don’t vote to impeach Bill Clinton while
Shacking up with Congressional aides.

It got a nice response from the crowd in Town Hall.

  • Peg Yates

    As a quilter of small fabric wall art, I have never completed a piece that I didn’t want to make changes, or reinvent in a slightly different way. I guess most people who create something would like the occasional do-over. That has been happening to humanity since the beginning of time.
    Nice work on the changes in the Christmas Blizzard…I can relate to James as an ordinary fellow.
    All the best for the Holidays…
    Peg

  • G

    For the quilter and the re-writing, I add an old Amish saying (especially regarding their quilts, which have one “odd” square in the design), “Only God makes perfect”.
    I don’t think I have ever done or made anything that I didn’t think could have been just a little bit better. Minnesota Norwegian Lutheran Angst, maybe?
    Happiest of Holidays to All!

  • Phillip Luecke

    Garrison – I liked your response to the reader’s question about rewriting some of your work. Especially the part about a writer having said pretty much WHAT he has to say, now figuring out HOW to say it better. With that in mind, I’m curious to know something about what half of Love Me you would pull out, and what is the core you would expand? I really enjoyed the book and alternately laughed at and felt sympathetic toward Larry’s plight. If “the core” has to do more with Larry getting back with his wife than with his writing (mis)adventures, might some of the funny go away too? Also, I hope you do an audio version, of both works if it comes to that.
    Phil Luecke
    Bellevue, WA

  • ferol Golden

    That is what Nuns of Florence said while they were creating the Bargello stiches in 16th Century. “Only God makes perfect projects.
    And they would make a mistake on purpose. When you see a Bargello wall hanging in a museum, its fun to look for the mistake.

  • S Radosti

    If “only God makes perfect projects” no one needs to intentionally make a mistake on anything. I’ve heard that about the Italians too, intentionally creating a flaw in anything they make. If they really believed that nothing is perfect unless God makes it, they should realize imperfection will happen on its own.

  • Melitta Smith

    Well, this came at an auspicious time. I am getting ready to submit an article to a scientific journal for the first time. I have been working on it for 5 years and yet I feel the same, it is being yanked from me. I find new, better information every day, but sadly it is time to give it up.
    About the mistakes, the Persian rug makers are of the same opinion that a mistake needs to be incorporated into the pattern.
    I wish I felt compelled to insert a mistake, but know that it is not necessary. If only I knew where it was.

  • bIG pETE

    I remember listening to Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard a True Star” album back in the early 70’s, and in the song “Ooh, Baby, Baby,” (I think it’s that song) on the line, “Mistakes, I’ve made a few,” there is an audio dropout – intentional I’m sure. I heard it only while listening with headphones. I always enjoyed that intentional mistake, and am delighted to hear of the others mentioned here.

  • Susan Sisson

    Garrison — We listened to the show last night returning from my sweetie’s sister’s home. The show and the trip home in the dark took just about the same time. Perfect timing! We loved your clever poem, cited above, and we both commented that we’d heard the story of your projectile vomiting and your shoplifted guilt before. Now we know why. Meeting your recycled stories is like meeting an old friend many years later, in an entirely unexpected place. Both events are and would be a delight. Dream on, spin on, keep the stories coming. We, your family of listeners out here in the dark, going home, feel loved and embraced by the glow of your stories.

  • Donna Fairchild

    It’s interesting how many cultures believe that “only God makes perfect.” As a pine-needle basket weaver, I’ve learned that Native American cultures believe this too. Cultures have more in common than how things might appear at first glance.