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I have sometimes concluded remarks here, somewhat self-derisively, with “Sapienti sat”.  Garrison Keillor is content to conclude the text which I am about to quote, with the less pedantic “A word to the wise should be sufficient”.  Gary (“of the gently lunatic yarn” – “Independent on Sunday”, London) has been called “the most gifted and prodigious humorist the U.S. has heard from since the old steamboat pilot ran aground” (TIME).  His “WLT : A Radio Romance” has been described as “vivid, hilarious” and “downright subversive” (“L.A. Times Book Review”) but also “raunchier” (GK “has learned to talk dirty” : “Independent on Sunday”) than his renowned and more respectable “Lake Wobegon Days”.  It is “wicked satire” (“The Cleveland Plain Dealer”).  Keillor “is the great poet of American mediocrity of hollow lives bloated with determined piety” (“Sunday Telegraph”, London).

In “WLT” he has Ray, the radio-station’s founder, on his death-bed, voice what is, I suspect, the author’s own personal philosophy of life and death (I hope he will appreciate this unauthorized quotation and publicity) :

“Man is conceived in ignorance and born in doubt and his life goes downhill from there”, he wrote to Dad.  “He makes his way from pure foolishness to outright stupidity, stopping now and then to do something mean and ugly, and yet, to some lucky persons, the Lord has doled out a modicum of common sense, enough to enable us to know our butt from a hot rock, to not spend all our money or insult our friends, and to sit down and shut up when it’s time to.  Now is the time to sit down and shut up, Walter.

“The urge to perform is not a sign of talent.  Greed is not an indication of business acumen.  Keep this in mind; it may be helpful in the future.  The beauty of retirement is the way it raises your reputation.  Keep plugging ahead and you will soon become a ridiculous old relic, and a back number, but quit soon enough and live long enough and you will be regarded as a genius and a pioneer.  This is the truth, otherwise I wouldn’t tell you.  The key to a person’s reputation is He knew when to quit.  A word to the wise should be sufficient.  Good luck, your friend, Ray.”  (I do wonder whether Gary, back in 1991, meant this last paragraph for me or for … Donald Trump.)

Another morsel to whet your appetite : “Learning, you know, is what makes a man fit company for himself”.  “Sapienti sat”, indeed.

RIDENDA      RELIGIO

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