Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two anthologies: Montaigne and Keillor

     Michel de Montaigne. Four Essays (1680. Translated by M. A. Screech) In one of these essays, Montaigne discusses conversation, by which he means discussion, sharing of opinions, even debate. He’s laid back about other people’s opinions. He’s more concerned with how well people say things, which he thinks is a clue to whether they originated their ideas or merely stumbled upon them. What he wants from his interlocutor is a sense of the person, of the character and the mind. His essays give just this sense of Montaigne the person: he’s curious, he lets one idea lead to another, he has strong opinions, but above all he’s a man who enjoys his world and thinking about it. Screech translates Montaigne as a conversationalist: reading these essays we hear the voice of a man talking to us, entertaining us and himself with the reach and liveliness of his mind. ****
     Garson Keillor. Truckstop and Other Lake Wobegon Stories (1995) A handful of Keillor’s tales, a pleasure to read. On its 60th anniversary, Penguin issued a number of small books of excerpts from its wide range of reprints. This is one of them, and anyone who lights upon Keillor for the first time will want to read the complete editions. I’ve read them all before, but they are as fresh as when first read, or heard on The Prairie Home Companion. The six stories here all deal with the Krepsbachs, and add up to s small novel. That’s Keillor’s genius, his ability to chronicle the lives of the people of Lake Wobegon over dozens of tales. ****

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