Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to tell stories.

From "What I Want To Tell"
by Michael Martone

"What is so funny is that I have, with great authority, told my students all about where to start a story, even using Latin to give it a special patina of power. In medias res. In the middle of things. I tell my students of this ancient technique. How to go backwards from there in order to go forward. Funny, then, that I have started here in this room, in the middle of things, to tell the story again, this time to you who are reading this story. Funny, too, that when I was in the doctor's office and when he asked me the question, "What do you want to tell me?" I, a person who makes a living, more or less, telling stories and teaching other people how to tell stories, was silenced for the moment by the existential nature of the task.

That is, that we must tell stories in some order since our words line up one after another and accumulate and are read here in a conventional sequence from the top down, from left to right, are followed step by step. Now, I am in this room because I am at the end of one rope of words. I wish at this moment I could tell the doctor what I have to tell all at once, simultaneously. Though it is true that the events that have led me here happened in a sequence so much of the sequence now seems repetitive, glossed, as if I have been polishing a table and a flat surface has taken on this depth. Rooms within rooms. I sit there. It is like a pen held to paper, this story I have to tell, the stain of ink spreading, the color deepening everywhere all at once. And I have no words, no means to make them tell. Not a line at all. A dark dark blot spreading."

~ Just so you know, I'm a complete dork. If I find some piece of writing that I really really like, I tend to save it on my computer. And I recently had one of my laundry days, ala Count Vronsky style, when I found certain treasures in my laptop that has been gathering dust. And something about that small snippet made me save it.

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