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Lake Wobegon, Summer 1956 [Paperback]

Garrison Keillor
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 10 2002

Meet fourteen-year-old Gary. A self-described "tree-toad,"a sly and endearing geek, Gary has many unwieldy passions, chief among them his cousin Kate, his Underwood typewriter and the soft-porn masterpiece, High School Orgies. The folks of Lake Wobegon don't have much patience for a kid's ungodly obsessions, and so Gary manages to filter the hormonal earthquake that is puberty and his hopeless devotion to glamorous, rebellious Kate through his fantastic yarns. With every marvellous story he moves a few steps closer to becoming a writer. And when Kate gets herself into trouble with the local baseball star, Gary also experiences the first pangs of a broken heart.

With his trademark gift for treading "a line delicate as a cobweb between satire and sentiment"(Cleveland Plain Dealer), Garrison Keillor brilliantly captures a newly minted post-war America and delivers an unforgettable comedy about a writer coming of age in the rural Midwest.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

With a four-year hiatus since Wobegon Boy, legions of Keillor faithful will likely hold candlelight vigils in front of their favorite booksellers awaiting the arrival of this long overdue episode in the ongoing checkered history of the fictional Minnesota hamlet. Vacillating between poignant, endearing, outrageous and mocking, this thoroughly engaging, frequently hilarious bildungsroman is narrated by the libidinous, iconoclastic 14-year-old wannabe writer Gary. Recounting the trials and tribulations of coming of age under the smothering influence of the Sanctified Brethren, a religious sect preaching unrelenting hellfire and damnation during the summer of 1956 in the tiny backwater of Lake Wobegon, the somewhat nerdy hero has a sexual fixation on his slightly older cousin Kate, abhors his geeky goody-two-shoes older sister, is obsessed with pornographic sexual fantasies engendered from reading a purloined copy of the verboten magazine High School Orgies, and is preoccupied by such intellectual pursuits as classifying variations of the 10 known categories of flatulence. Given an Underwood typewriter as a bribe from his uncle to tattletale on Kate's romance with a ne'er-do-well local baseball hero, Gary turns to writing pornographic stories about his imagined adventures with Kate before he is serendipitously handed the job of substitute sportswriter for the local paper. Game after game, he is forced to observe Kate's budding romance, until the affair predictably culminates in the age-old biological consequence and the family spins into crisis mode while our hero suffers a broken heart. Although the denouement is more fizzle than bang, avid Keillorites will be left shouting "more." 25-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Beloved author and radio persona Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book) returns once again to Lake Wobegon, the quintessential small town in Minnesota. It is summer, and as the denizens of Lake Wobegon sit on their front porches, listening to the radio and to the swish of sprinklers on their lawns, 14-year-old Gary struggles to find his own place within the community. Gary suffers from all the hormonally induced anxieties of an adolescent boy but bears an added burden his family belongs to an evangelical group of Brethren whose definitions of appropriate behavior are much stricter than those most parents impose on their teenagers. Gary has, by his own admission, been a good boy, but he is now exploring what it means to be bad as "bad" is defined in 1950s Lake Wobegon. Keillor's wry vignettes of Gary's summer of change and turmoil are laced with his trademark self-deprecating humor. This latest will undoubtedly appeal to Keillor's legions of fans and particularly to those with a nostalgia for both the small town and the follies of youth.
- Caroline Hallsworth, Sudbury P.L., Ont.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Saturday night, June 1956, now the sun going down at 7:50 P.M. and the sprinkler swishing in the front yard of our big green house on Green Street, big drops whapping the begonias and lilacs in front of the screened porch where Daddy and I lie reading. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Nerdy, horny teenager turns into writer July 14 2004
"I look like a tree toad who was changed into a boy but not completely."
Meet Gary. He's a geeky fourteen-year-old with self-esteem problems and an alarming crush on his cousin, Kate. Within the course of the book he discovers he has a love of writing. His first stories have talking dogs, incurable diseases and unpleasant weather phenomena, but as he grows up a little and gains some insight into his family, his friends, and himself, he realizes that there's more to write about.
At the heart of it, the book is a pretty typical coming of age story, but it's worth reading if you're a Keillor fan and love his kind of humor (though his jokes and descriptions are more explicit here than they usually are). For me there weren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but I was smiling often and enjoying Keillor's unusual descriptions ("her big yellow butt like two pigs fighting in a laundry bag"). If you're a writer, or just interested in the writing process, you might also like the book because it will give you some wry insights into a writer's mind and also show you some of the development of a novice's work. Plus, there are also some truly touching moments that leap out at you unexpectedly. So if you want a quick, entertaining read that will surprise you sometimes (with funniness or poignancy) read Lake Wobegon Summer 1956.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 Feb. 5 2004
LAKE WOBEGON - SUMMER 1956 is a delightful fictional autobiographical thigh slapper of a 50s summer in one boy's life in a very conservative Minnesota town, watched over by Jesus himself, standing side by side with the author's granddad while passing out judgments.
Although the main character in an autobiography is the writer himself, his intense focus however is on his cousin Kate and the trials and tribulations of her love life with the local hero, a talented baseball pitcher whose family puts hers to shame. The 14-year-old Gary, who composes pornographic poetry to fend off the school bully, adores the 17-year-old Kate for her boldness in standing firm against the conservative morality her overly religious family imposes on her. We sense a message that the author tailors into the story how both Gary and Kate use their individual talents to try to escape the rigorous boredom of the pious country life, each in their own way. Gary succeeds in becoming the town's paper's sports writer and Kate gets her lover to marry her.
Unclear is the symbolic presence of his self-righteous older sister who is unrelenting in tormenting him. But pleasant is the array of eccentric and hilarious individuals with names worthy to be called dickensian, that populate his forsaken Midwestern town.
In a story full of anecdotal historical tidbits of a summer with doo-wop and baseball and poems and family gossip, Kate represents the symbol of many a country bumpkin trying to shake off the restraints put on her.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Woe is me Oct. 10 2003
Unfortunately, there's something a little disappointing about Garrison Keillor's latest book of Lake Wobegon lore.
I read LAKE WOBEGON DAYS a few years ago, and although I found it to be generally slow-moving, it was nonetheless also consistently moving, poetic and sweet (something like maple syrup, all told). It was probably my favorite book in a year full of pretty good books, so I was eager to pick up another Keillor title before long. When LAKE WOBEGON SUMMER 1956 came out in hardcover, I snatched it up and dove in with exuberance and relish (and a little picnic table mustard and ketchup).

LAKE WOBEGON SUMMER 1956 starts off strongly enough, setting up an interesting family of characters, and putting them through a series of interesting and keenly observed episodes of mid-twentieth century interpersonal drama. The young male protagonist portrays himself, often humorously, as something of a tortured soul: a sensitive artistic type saddled with an incurably filthy mind who, as plain bad luck would have it, was born into the midst of a thick-witted, Bible-toting household.

Young Gary is relentlessly persecuted by his goody-goody older sister, unjustly scolded and disciplined by his humorless father, and gossiped about by his aunts. It's only his free spirit cousin, whom he has the hots for, and his somewhat free-thinking mother that give Gary some of the room he needs to grow into the adult who'll eventually write down all of these sometimes fond, sometimes painful memories. There's also an uncle that gives him the best gift anyone could give a boy with too many thoughts in his head: a typewriter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet And Evocative, But Somewhat Tired April 1 2003
There are few authors alive today who possess the ability to seamlessly mix sweet nostalgia with bittersweet melancholy in their writings. Garrison Keillor maintains his reputation as one of these authors in Lake Wobegon, Summer 1956. Keillor skillfully juxtaposes the serenity of small town life and the closeness of family with the frustrations of teenagers and the not-so-idyllic reality of day-to-day family existence. The result of these depictions is a setting and a set of characters that seem real.
My problem with the book is that I felt like I've been here before through Keillor's other Lake Wobegon books. I was already familiar with the Bunsens, the Larsens, the Sanctified Brethren, and the Chatterbox Café's location. While I don't mind revisiting familiar territory (a sentiment with which I'm sure many of his readers would agree), I felt that there was nothing really new in this book.
Since Keillor's attempts outside of the Lake Wobegon milieu have had mixed success, it is easy to understand why he would want to stick closely to his "comfort zone." The combination of this familiar setting and his tremendous talent makes the result of an enjoyable read a foregone conclusion. Yet, one can only hope that Lake Wobegon, Summer 1956 is not the first sign of that one of America's finest writers is running out of ideas.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A rather shockingly honest look into the mind of an adolescent boy
I found this book on the clearance rack for a dollar so most important of all, don't over pay for it. There are plenty of copies to go around. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Rob Slaven
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Startling at the Same Time
I really enjoy Garrison Keillor's writing, and this book is no exception. What I enjoyed most were his moments of enlightenment. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Refrain Jenny
1.0 out of 5 stars Needs a PG-17 Rating!
Please be warned: If you enjoyed family style listening to Keillor's older feel-good radio-style vinettes of Lake Wobegon, such as "Faith", "Rhubarb," and the like, DON'T play this... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Yuck
while there were instances of humor, mostly the book seemed rather gross. If Garrison's goal was to get into the mind of a sexually obsessed 13 year old (the main character seemed... Read more
Published on July 24 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars X-Rated Lake Wobegon
I was looking forward to the homey, innocent stories so familiar to G.K. fans, but he must have thought that, by injecting soft porn in the guise of the main character's sophmoric... Read more
Published on March 14 2003 by Michael Clahr
1.0 out of 5 stars A Real Dissapoitment
I've purchased Keillor's audio tapes for years. I haven't listened to the show lately and maybe I should. In the past I've found Keillor to be funny, poignant and nostalgic. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2003 by John A. Lefcourte
3.0 out of 5 stars He's written better...but this is still good
Without question, Keillor is one of our best "journalistic" literateurs. But this effort is a little thin in places. Too mawkish in parts. But read it, anyway. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Lake Wobegon: Summer 1956
Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 reminds me of when i was young garys' age. All he has on his mind is girls, naked girls. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Adam Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Are the puritans missing the point?
Several of the reviews mention that Gary's obsession with porn occupies too much of this book and that its depiction is too graphic. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2002 by Jen in Kansas City, MO
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