Guest Blogger: AESOP!

Here at this small place in the universe, we enjoy the occasional guest blogger, favorite guest blogger, and only guest blogger: Aesop, former slave and all around clever fellow! So here goes:

A Fox That Lost His Tail

There was a Fox taken in a Trap, that was glad to compound for his Neck, by leaving his Tail behind him. It was so uncouth a Sight for a Fox to appear without a Tail, that the very Thought on’t made him e’en weary of his Life; for ’twas a loss never to be repair’d: But however for the better Countenance of the Scandal, he got the Master and Wardens of the Foxes Company to call a Court of Assistants, where he himself appeared, and made  learned Discourse upon the Trouble, the Uselessness, and the Indecency of Foxes wearing Tails. He had no sooner said out his Say, but up rises a cunning Snap, then at the Board, who desir’d t be inform’d, whether the worthy Member that mov’d against the wearing of Tails, gave his Advice for the Advantage of those that had Tails, or to palliate the Deformity and Disgrace of those who had none.

from Aesop: Fables


Back in Action

Sometimes storytelling gets dissed. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I hear it in their tone when some people mention fiction, or books, or the most basic insult, stories. Maybe this is because a while ago some housewife couldn’t admit that she listened to soap operas on the radio and so called them her ‘stories’. Maybe it happened when some hard nose declared that fiction was of the devil and non-fiction was naturally morally upright. But storytelling has taken it on the nose. It ends up being relegated to the low status of children’s literature, or it is even considered downright lies because many stories, as true as they are, are also fiction. But storytelling is one of the oldest crafts available to Mankind. I’m not even sure what is supposed to be better than telling a story. Non- fiction, when told well, tells us a story. So what is it? Statistical bar graphs? Political editorials? Nutrition labels?
We depend on it daily for our spiritual sustenance. For instance, Genesis starts this way: “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth”. Is there any more glorious story than that?
If the idea of storytelling still does not appear a respectable enough art, then pardon me while I throw a spiritual brick through the window of this misconception (of which I may have to repent for, later) by informing you that there is another Genesis in the scriptures. I call it, in my little mind, the other Genesis… in the scriptures. It is in John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
No, it does not begin with “In the beginning was the math” or “In the beginning was the law of supply and demand”. Yes, it may be prideful for me to point this out. Perhaps the thought that writers often wield their fallible, mortal creativity in supreme terror of how it will sound in public will serve as a sort of check and balance to my prideful rant.
Stories are rich verbal banquets that feed our minds. It is time to get storied. After all, that is what winter is for. Now that I am back to my neglected blog, I have to feed it rich verbal manna in the hopes that it can recover and grow strong. Comments from my lost little group of intrepid readers will go a long way in sustaining this run down little place. It needs some paint, but the heart is already there.

Story telling

I have been missing in action from my own blog because while I enjoy it, I really must have a certain amount of energy to enjoy it. Life has a way of challenging a person, especially a mom, and between the holidays and the needs of teens (WHY do people think that teens are somehow ‘done’ by the age of 15? Like consumable baked goods??), I have been a very tired blogger. So here is my chance.

One of the things that gets my attention is book reviews. I loved reading them in the newspaper, when we used to get a newspaper. I love them on Goodreads. I love them elsewhere, like that other behemoth that recently bought Goodreads. Recently I’ve observed what I consider a total misunderstanding of the idea that a writer should ‘show, not tell’. We hear this from 5th grade on through adult life. It really is a good method of writing. But sometimes, telling a story has its own merits as just that: a spinning out of a yarn, a flowing monologue of memory, a passing of oral heritage from one person to another. Just telling the story can be a fine and blessed experience.

In the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” this is exactly what happens. An old woman relates stories from her youth to the woman who visits her. Meanwhile, the second woman goes on with her own life in between visits and what develops is what is called a story within a story. This is one of my favorite ways of story telling. This is seen in a children’s book I recently read: “An Elephant in the Garden” by Michael Morpurgo. It’s very similar in that an elderly woman in a care home tells a boy and his mother her amazing experiences as a teen during the bombing of Dresden in WWII. There are two stories going on, although the story of the ‘here and now’ is not as heavily developed as the story of her memories. I enjoyed the story and my daughter and I enjoy discussing it. Next time it comes up, I’ll have to tell her that some reviewers gave the book bad vibes over this element. Reviewers had no patience, it seems, for the most original form of narrative- that of simply telling a story. I found it rich, compassionate, lively, and timeless. Of course, many people saw this in the same way I did. But I wondered about this demand for rules I thought I was seeing. Sure, we’re supposed to ‘show, not tell’. But we also have to fill the need for the way each story speaks to us. Rules exist for many reasons, and one of those is so that we can break them!

I have started reading Wendell Berry’s novel “Hannah Coulter“. I’ve read several of his non fiction essay books. This is my first try at his fiction. I peeked at some of the reviews online, and there it was again: a bit of a lecture that Berry needs to follow the mantra to ‘show, don’t tell’. What is this? Public school? Have our minds contracted this far?

The book is glorious. It is rich, gentle, and its tells its story. It feels as if I were sitting on an old lady’s porch watching the summer day drift by as she rolled word after word, sentence after sentence, off her tongue. It has been a beginning of what I hope will continue to be a wonderful reading experience.  A book like this shows that you really can tell.

Now back to baking Christmas cookies and trying a no-yeast bread stick recipe. Glorious Christmas wishes and more to all my readers!