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.
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.