A brief rant on Garrison Keillor and the Writers’ Almanac (Yes, I’m that much of an NPR nerd)

Every time I hear the Writers’ Almanac on NPR I’m left frustrated.

I am a fan of the short program. How many places can you be exposed to all of the following items in just a few minutes?

  • poetry! In Nature! That isn’t a limerick!
  • learn that George Plimpton took down RFK’s assassin.
  • That it’s the birthday of the Apple II computer. Today’s Mac’s come with one million times more memory!
  • That Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations “Invisible Hand of capitalism” guy was raised by gypsies and he believed in taxes!

And all of that and more was in a single episode.

So yes, I’m a fan until the very end. By that I mean, it’s the end of the show, the sign off, that ruffles my feathers, that ripples my Lake Wobegone. Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion and “one time he met me” fame, signs off like this:

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

AHHHHH!!!! Does that drive anyone else crazy? Am I alone here? (I hope for the rest of you that I am.) In my mind it should be…

“Be well, do good work, and DON’T FORGET TO WRITE.”

Isn’t that obvious yet way more original?

And keep in touch? It’s a radio, Garrison! I can’t talk to you. If I send you a letter will you read it?

And what’s with the registered trademark BS? The transcript is on the show’s site and that phrase is registered. Why would anyone want to steal such an irrelevant, unoriginal tagline?

Garrison, if you are reading this, feel free to use my edit. Also, I’m a big fan of your eyebrows and your work.


Wow, I’ve been a Prairie Home Companion fan for well over two decades…but once when I heard he was going to be out here live at the Hawaii Theatre down town…it was already sold-out by the time I heard that..!…as if I would have been able to afford a ticket. Seeing you pixed with him wuz a shock.

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Fred Balzac says:

Kelsey, I see where you’re coming from regarding “keep in touch,” but I read the phrase has having a double meaning–the other being, stay connected to those around you and to the wider world, a quality that every writer should strive for. Of Mr. Keillor’s three exhortations, I take the second, “do good work, ” as the most important. Of course, if a writer is not well, s/he likely won’t be up for doing much good work or, for that matter, keeping in touch. I do like your replacement phrase, “don’t forget to write”; it, too, has a nice double meaning. And isn’t that quality of containing more than one or even multiple meanings–of having a subtext lurking beneath a surface reading–one definition of good writing?

R. Keith says:

With regards to Garrison’s registered sign off, I never felt that it was directed at me personally. It instead feels as though Garrison is reciting a letter from one lonely writer to another from the distant past.

juan says:

“…DON’T FORGET TO WRITE.” sounds like something taped to a refrigerator. In my opinion, too many people are wrtiting. If you need to be reminded to write, maybe you should leave it to others.

Donnie says:


Like yourself and Mr.Keillor I am a man of many and varied talents. As a fan of the show like yourself I can offer you a thumbnail of my life to show you that I too enjoy getting a lot in in a short time

I was born in a section of New Orleans which has since been repaved for a newer brighter Image, grew up poor and crafty, often carrying my work uniform in my backpack Tuco work under the table jobs after school

A washer of dishes, living his life out in 150 year old shotgun house on the edge of town, selling my artwork 2 an. Uptown audience under a different name.

A lothario by Nature I begin complex seductions upon Society ladies, went to school for funeral service, and he’ll down jobs as a French Patisserie and a clown

Join the service a year or two later than the other guys and found a place among the u.s. Marines, traveled Europe and the former Soviet Union in a pre September 11th military

When the towers came down I was in Cypress our martini glasses traded for M16s, and enjoyable Libo port became a rallying point as we scoured the Middle East

When the dust cleared later I returned to the civilian world full of experiences but low on education, you see I’ve never been the type for a classroom as much of my learning has come from the people and things would you pass through my life

Here I am skant shy of 50 years old, still telling my friends at tales when they want to hear it, a kindly old storyteller who’s lived a thousand lives

Just like Mr.Keillor, now markwell, Mr.Tinnerman, this is simply his wish for you at the end of a little nugget of his story his way of letting you know the tail is in for the day the school Master releasing you from class

In modern times I’ve been reinvented as a third-rate writer watching The Horizon for the legalization of certain herbal delights with the following of 27 readers

I could name them all clear is winter ice I measure my popularity not by the millions I rake in by the small and Arden following ready to hear the next part of the tale

You didn’t think I told you the whole story today did you?

So I shall leave you with this tasty nugget to think on, is it better to mock our beloved storyteller for the choice of words in a single phrase of his goodbye a goodbye I always saw as him giving me 3 simple Homespun little wishes for my well-being or as the ancient Muslims when forming geometric patterns would often leave one small detail intentionally undone showing that nothing was perfect in the eyes of Allah

I shall leave you with my own little sign off, an old Irish proverb I picked up from god-knows-where which I think you could appreciate… wisdom is found when we say little, but hear much

GP ferret says:

I rather like the phrase “keep in touch”, for it does not specify any specific means of maintaining personal contact. It can be visiting someone, calling on the phone, chatting when passing on the street, or composing a note (whether on actual paper or sent electronically by various means: email, texting, blogs). During the Covid shutdown and isolation, I’m doing my best to keep in touch with friends, family, neighbors, EVERYONE. Use all communications means possible!

To paraphrase Roseanne Roseannadanna “but I know where you’re coming from” because the Pufnstuf TV series always ended with “keep those cards and letters coming!”. I felt that was ingenuine: if this is the first broadcast, how is there any fan mail? I never saw any address, so where was I to write? Did they honestly receive any fan mail at all?

Similarly, Rod Sterling talked about writing fake “reader letters” and testimonials for TV shows. I’ve got to wonder how many “Dear Abby” letters are fake or “composites” of allegedly real reader letters. Artistic license, anyone?

Let your voice be heard!