Art and Literature

Nanonotes from the front… Storytime Sunday 11/18/12 or a question of belief

Dear Friends – At week 3 of NaNoWriMo, we arrive at the heart of the matter.

Or rather the heart of your matter.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

At the halfway point of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this dialogue happens between Oscar and Mr. Black :

Mr. Black:  “Stalin found out about the community and sent his thugs in, just a few days before I got there, to break all of their arms! That was worse than killing them! It was a horrible sight, Oskar: their arms in crude splints, straight in front of them like zombies! They couldn’t feed themselves, because they couldn’t get their hands to their mouths! So you know what they did?”

Oscar:  “They starved?”

Mr. Black: “They fed each other! That’s the difference between heaven and hell! In hell we starve! In heaven we feed each other!”

Oscar: ” I don’t believe in the afterlife.”

Mr. Black “Neither do I, but I believe in the story.”

Friends, if you write any kind of narrative, you believe in the story too.

Here are some stories that I believe in:

Once a long time ago, I heard a tale about a mermaid who wanted more than she had, although she was a princess. She wanted to live above the ocean and marry the prince she loved.  But she didn’t get him. She died.  But then — in a way she didn’t. She was transformed by her desire, and she did in fact rise – in a way she did not expect.

In high school, I read a story in French about a teacher in a one-room classroom in a desert in North Africa.  A condemned man is brought to him, but the teacher cannot bear to bring him to jail.  But the condemned man goes there on his own, and the teacher stands in his classroom, an unwitting collaborator in colonial oppression.

My mother worked as a secretary at Random House and one day showed me a galley of a weird novel about a vampire, who regretted being a vampire and who fell deeply in love with a little girl who never grew up.

In grad school, I read a novel about Morgaine Le Fay, who I always thought was bad, and who turns out to have been good.

This summer I read a novel about a girl who can taste the emotions of all the people who grew and then baked the food she eats.

Hans Christian Andersen, Albert Camus, Anne Rice, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Aimee Bender were and are writers who passionately believed in the story they had to tell.

It’s time for you to tell a story you believe in.  Whether or not anyone else does is beside the point.

In his novel The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón writes “A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

So go ahead — write yourself a letter.

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