A loosely affiliated collection of pieces culled from Harper's and the New Yorker, The Book of Guys supplies Garrison Keillor's brand of pathos-inspired belly laughs in great measure. Since Keillor is not only, by all appearances, a mensch but also the possessor of an extremely amiable voice in his writing (and who can say, with him, where his prose voice ends and the aural one begins?), you tend to forget the darker elements of his work. In fact, those are the things that make his writing so amusing.
The Book of Guys parades a collection of Joe Nobodies, average guys like Garry Keillor, "sixteen, six foot two, with the metabolism of a wolverine." But these are guys with a darker side: longings, misgivings, psychoses. There's Lonesome Shorty, the cowboy who lusts for town life, but as soon as he settles down, the trail calls him again. Or the mayor of Zenith, who has everything a man could want, his life darkened solely by a senseless vendetta carried out by the editor of the local newspaper. "I have spent thirty minutes [writing this letter to the Editor] and my wife, her black hair tumbling over her bare shoulders touched with freckles under the pale-blue gossamer negligee hanging light as a leaf on her pale breasts and bold etcetera..." But Keillor's guys are too preoccupied with everyday angst to take hold of their good fortune. "In a minute, dear," says the mayor, continuing his screed.
The Book of Guys doesn't give one much faith in the future of male-dom, but it is funny. And don't let the paucity of competition fool you; Keillor's a humorist par excellence, a fine, thoughtful, and witty writer. --Michael Gerber [via]