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As Prairie Home turns 40, Garrison Keillor says 'I'm not done'

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A Prairie Home Companion is marking its 40th anniversary this summer. Its host is turning 72.

But the forecast for Lake Wobegon makes no mention of a sunset.

Minnesota humorist Garrison Keillor, tells the Associated Press he's already planned the next season of the radio show and is talking about the one after that.

Keillor has also released a new book, although he tells the AP it was against his better judgment:

"Because you don't want to let people know how long you've been around. If you do, they'll think, 'Well, that's long enough. Pull the plug on that guy. He's had his chance. Let's have the next person come up."

But it wasn't that long ago that Keillor himself was talking about pulling the plug. In 2011 he told the AARP Bulletin he was looking for a new host for A Prairie Home Companion because he planned to retire from the show in the spring of 2013.

Even then, some of those close to Keillor were skeptical that he would really retire. Bill Kling, the founder and now-retired president of Minnesota Public Radio, envisioned a long transition during which Keillor would gradually relinquish artistic control to those he trusts.

Other than some guest hosts, there's not much evidence of relinquishment yet. A Prairie Home Companion has 4 million weekly listeners and is planning a Fourth of July homecoming of sorts for its 40th anniversary.

The show's first broadcast was at Macalester College in 1974. It returns to the St. Paul campus this summer for a two-day celebration.

The new book, "The Keillor Reader," is an anthology of Lake Wobegon tales, short stories, and essays, with some additional new material. A writer in the Chicago Tribune called it "by turns cheerful and fatalistic, homespun and outrageous..."

Eventually, of course, Keillor will step away from the microphone. That will be a turning point for MPR and American Public Media, which distributes A Prairie Home Companion. Vita.mn reported last month that efforts to cultivate younger audiences seem to be bearing fruit, particularly with Wits, a comedy/musical stage show that's gaining a national foothold among the millennial set.

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