The crowd last Sunday at a joint appearance of Bill Holm and Garrison Keillor was enough to raise the temperature at least a few degrees and allow toes and fingers to thaw.

About 150 people filled the pews and odd corners of Virginia Street Swedenborgian Church in St. Paul, just steps away from Keillor's Common Good Books, to hear selections from "The Windows of Brimnes" (Milkweed), Holm's latest book of essays.

It was impossible not to mention the weather.

"Mr. Holm is done with winter," said Keillor as he introduced the author from Minneota, Minn. "He's suffered enough. He doesn't believe in the expiation of sin, doesn't believe that it builds character.

"And he will be in Arizona in a couple of weeks ... sitting outdoors in the shade in his shorts and a T-shirt and drinking things with ice cubes in them."

If last week's cold snap was not going to be material for bragging, it perhaps provided Keillor with a nifty metaphor.

"Mr. Holm is a sort of ice man," Keillor said, "someone who was buried in ice for centuries ... and we excavate him and we're able to study him and see what authors used to be like. He's one of the last of the great 19th-century writers."

That gave Holm clearance to start his trademark riff -- against Muzak in waiting rooms, bad television, bad magazines, Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, warmongering and "the noisy business of running for president."

Sure, they'd heard it before, but they wanted to hear it again. Pat West of St. Paul said she was in Florida when Common Good Books sent out an e-mail announcing the event. She cut her vacation short by two days. "It was worth it to hear these two geniuses who write and speak words that can break your heart," she said.