Growing up in a place that has winter, you learn to avoid self-pity. Winter is not a personal experience, everybody else is just as cold as you, so you shouldn't complain about it too much. You learn this as a kid, coming home crying from the cold, and Mother looks down and says, 'It's only a little frostbite. You're okay.' And thus you learn to be okay. What's done is done. Get over it. Drink your coffee. It's not the best you'll ever get but it's good enough.
Adolescence hits boys harder than it does girls. Girls bleed a little and their breasts pop out, big deal, but adolescence lands on a guy with both feet. . . . Your body is engulfed by chemicals of rage and despair, you pound, you shriek, you batter your head against the trees. You come away wounded, feeling that life is unknowable, can never be understood, only endured and sometimes cheated.
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A person cannot coast along in old destructive habits year after year and accept whatever comes along. A person must stand up on her own two legs and walk. Get off the bus and go get on another. Climb out of the ditch and cross the road. Find the road that s where you want to go. ... The only sermon that counts is the one that is formed by our actions. She would quit drinking and thereby show Kyle life is what you make it. A person can grab hold of her life and change things for the better. This happens all the time. We are not chips of wood drifting down the stream of time. We have oars.
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IMPORTANT Book reading is a solitary and sedentary pursuit, and those who do are cautioned that a book should be used as an integral part of a well-rounded life, including a daily regimen of rigorous physical exercise, rewarding personal relationships, and sensible low-fat diet. A book should not be used a as a substitute or an excuse.
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You learn this great lesson of life: it's not about me. It's just not. The matter of talent-which seemed so important to you when you were young-is not of great importance. We're simply a conduit. We take things out of the air into us and put them in the form of stories. That's pretty much it.
And then I stand in front of God's Throne squinting up at His blazing glory and He says, 'You had your opportunities, boy. But did you listen? No. You went on heedlesly reading that garbagey magazine with pictures of naked girls in it. How juvenile! I gave geese more sense than that.' Please, God. I'm only fourteen years old. A teenager. Have mercy. Be loving. I was,' says God. 'For eons. And look at what it got me. You.' God turns in disgust, just the way Daddy does. 'Sorry, but I'm the Creator. I take it personally. There are slugs and bugs and night-crawlers I feel better about having created - I mean, there are sparrows - I've got my eye on one right now. Is that sparrow consumed with lust? No. He mates in the spring and that's the end of it. Consider the lilies. Do they think about lily tits all the time? No. They look not and they lust not, and yet I say unto you that you will never be half as attractive as they. Therefore, I say unto you, think not about peckers and boobs and all that nonsense and your Heavenly Father will see that you meet a good woman and marry her, just as I do for the sparrow and walleye - yea verily, even the night-crawler and the eelpout. But I've told you this over and over for nineteen centuries. And now, verily, it's too late. Time's up, buster. Lights out! Game's over!
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I ran a constant low fever waiting for my ride to come and take me away to something finer. I lay in bed at night, watching the red beacon on top of the water tower, a clear signal to me of the beauty and mystery of a life that waited for me far away, and thought of Housman's poem, "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom upon the bough. It stands among the woodland ride, Wearing white for Eastertide. Now, of my three-score years and ten, Twenty will not come again... " and would have run away to where people would appreciate me, had I known of such a place, had I thought my parents would understand. But if I had said, "Along the woodland I must go to see the cherry hung with snow, " they would have said, "Oh, no, you don't. You're going to stay right here and finish up what I told you to do three hours ago. Besides, those aren't cherry trees, those are crab apples.
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I can see how I could write a bold account of myself as a passionate man who rose from humble beginnings to cut a wide swath in the world, whose crimes along the way might be written off to extravagance and love and art, and could even almost believe some of it myself on certain days after the sun went down if I'd had a snort or two and was in Los Angeles and it was February and I was twenty-four, but I find a truer account in the Herald-Star, where it says: 'Mr. Gary Keillor visited at the home of Al and Florence Crandall on Monday and after lunch returned to St. Paul, where he is currently employed in the radio show business... Lunch was fried chicken with gravy and creamed peas'.
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Mark Twain told jokes, but they somehow stayed funny for a hundred years; they're still funny today. When Mark Twain said, 'He was a good man in the worst sense of the word,' we know exactly what he's talking about. When he said 'Wagner's music is not as bad as it sounds,' it still is funny. Mark Twain was really a miracle.
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We live a pleasant life shopping at the Food Shoppe . . . taking the kids to the Weinery-Beanery, . . . and eating bran flakes . .. and then, with no warning, we wake up one morning stricken with middle age, full of loneliness, dumb, in pain. Our work is useless, our vocation is lost, and nobody cares about us at all. This is not bearable. In despair, we go do something spectacularly dumb, like run away with Amber the cocktail waitress, and suddenly all the women in our life look at us with unmitigated disgust.
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I thought A Prairie Home Companion would be an interesting thing to do for a summer or so. Public radio was just seven years old in 1974. It was a tiny organization in which a lot of things got started simply because there was all this time to fill. If you wanted to do an hour on Lithuanian folk dancing, you probably could have done it.
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A married guy is responsible for everything, no matter what. Women, thanks to their having been oppressed all these years, are blameless, free as birds, and all the dirt they do is the result of premenstrual syndrome or postmenstrual stress or menopause or emotional disempowerment by their fathers or low expectations by their teachers or latent unspoken sexual harassment in the workplace, or some other airy excuse. The guy alone is responsible for every day of marriage that is less than marvelous and meaningful.
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People meet writers and are bowled over when the writer is friendly to them and invites them to his house for a glass of wine or to shoot up heroin or whatever they do, and they talk their heads off, and a year later it comes out in a book, and there follow years of bitter and fruitless litigation, and that is why you should always keep a writer at arm's length.
As a former English major, I am a sitting duck for Gift Books, and in the past few years I've gotten Dickens, Thackeray, Smollet, Richardson, Emerson, Keats, Boswell and the Brontes, all of them Great, none of them ever read by me, all of them now on a shelf, looking at me and making me feel guilty.
We carry adolescence around in our bodies all our lives. We get through the Car Crash Age alive and cruise through our early twenties as cool dudes, wily, dashing, winsome . . . shooting baskets, the breeze, the moon, and then we try to become caring men, good husbands, great fathers, good citizens.
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Sport is a seductive metaphor (life as a game in which we gain victory through hard work, discipline, and visualizing success). but the older metaphor of farming (life as hard labor that is subject to weather and quirks of blind fate and may return no reward whatsoever and don't be surprised) is still in our blood.
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What keeps faith cheerful is the extreme persistence of gentleness and humor. Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music, and books, raising kids-all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purpose in life, it would be good enough to live for their sake.
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Before the world was made, when it was only darkness and mist and waters, God was well aware of Lake Wobegon, my family, our house, and He had me all sketched out down to what size my feet would be (big), which bike I would ride (Schwinn), and the five ears of corn I'd eat for supper that night.
On investments, 1998: Where I'm from we don't trust paper. Wealth is what's here on the premises. If I open a cupboard and see, say, 30 cans of tomato sauce and a five-pound bag of rice, I get a little thrill of well-being - much more so than if I take a look at the quarterly dividend report from my mutual fund.
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons. ... Republicans: The No. 1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb, and dangerous.
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