Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Stories We Tell

Last month, the Engineer and I were sitting at our local pub waiting for dinner. She was knitting something infinitely complex out of silk and glass beads and I was reading aloud to her from Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. If you haven't read it (and I honestly think that you should) it begins with a runaway horse, loose on the streets of New York City near the turn of the last century. It's a beautiful piece of writing and I quite enjoyed reading it aloud to really experience the poetry of the piece.

Then our food arrived and I put the book down because books and burgers don't mix.

Putting it down on the table, I noticed that the couple at the next table had been listening to me read. Not because I was reading loudly -- I was barely audible above the basketball game playing on the TV nearby -- but I like to think it was because people instinctively like being told stories.

That moment touched me in a way that made me pause despite the meal getting cold in front of me to take stock of this thing that we do.  Telling stories is a vital part of who I am. I've often been told that I seem to think in anecdotes, and it's not far off. I use stories as a way for me to absorb and understand the world. I look for the beginnings, middles, and ends and attempt as best I can to celebrate the stories unfolding all around me.

Sharing them -- mine or anyone else's -- is a tradition that goes back to the handprints on the cave wall and probably further even than that. And reading aloud to my wife is something I don't do as often as I used to (we shared the entire Harry Potter series this way) and it's something I should do more often.

Yesterday Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers and SciShow announced a new convention entirely devoted to the power and magic of stories. That's the actual copy from their Facebook page, by the way: "created to celebrate the power and magic of story-telling."

I bought my ticket immediately because efforts like this a true and noble causes. I won't be a presenter, though I offered myself as a volunteer. Which is nice in a way, because when you're a presenter at conventions you often get just a keyhole view of the convention and I really love the idea of spending a chilly fall weekend in a crowd who is excited about celebrating storytelling. I mean, just imagine it: an entire convention center filled to the rafters with devotees of the vehicle we use for passing on our culture and the empathy that comes from imagining ourselves into other lives, that which in the end most makes us human. 

Who doesn't want to walk among that crowd? How does it get better than that? 

Anyway, I hope to see you there.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).