Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Even Keillor

Is Garrison Keillor the Howard Stern of NPR? Sam Anderson makes a case, based in part on that bracing rip Keillor took through Bernard Henri-Lévy's America tome (a sort of vaudeville Tocqueville) in January in the NYT book review. I had to keep flipping back to the front page to assure myself this really was that NPR house yokel writing. It was.

It may be that Keillor is so allergic to Henri-Lévy's love of paradox because, though he'd never acknowledge it, his own public image is deeply paradoxical. He's a cosmopolitan provincial (he's lived in Copenhagen and owns a multimillion-dollar apartment on Central Park West) and a sophisticated simpleton (a plainspoken yarn-spinner who just happens to write world-class prose). Once you start thinking about this—once Keillor's trademark simplicity begins to look complicated and unnatural—the paradoxes start tumbling out like herrings out of the pickle-barrel: His plainness seems pretentious, his anti-bombast bombastic, his anti-snobbery snobbish. This sense of affectation is why some people instinctively dislike such a likable entertainer.

Nothing but net.