cover image WLT: 2a Radio Romance

WLT: 2a Radio Romance

Garrison Keillor. Viking, $21.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81857-0

On the air and in print, Keillor has been telling wonderful stories for years, but this is his first novel. It is, as you might expect, brimful of characters, full of northwoods angst, spiced with a little sex, and cynicism and sentiment have been neatly interwoven. It is the story of a Minneapolis radio station from its launch by the Soderbjerg brothers, Ray and Roy, who hope to attract attention to their foundering sandwich shop (the call sign translates to ``with lettuce and tomato''), to the time, 30 years later, when it begins to founder under the onslaught of television. Dozens of innocent and not-so-innocent girls and scheming, heavy-drinking men live out their lives among its studios and microphones: one of Keillor's most cunning strokes is to saunter back and forth between the realm of the radio and the real world of his performers, including boozy gospel singers, saintly Dad Benson and his horrendous radio daughter, and smart young Frank White, who alone makes the transition to TV. Episodic, often absurd, frequently uproarious, it is a poignant reminder of a time that never was but probably should have been. 250,000 first printing; $300,000 ad/promo; first serial to the New Yorker; BOMC featured alternate. (Nov.)