The OF Blog: Looking for a Story

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Looking for a Story

One of the problems of being a voracious reader is that sometimes stories told by wildly divergent authors seem to merge and flow into one half-remembered mess. This is further compounded when the reader is bilingual and has read stories told in both Spanish and in English translation. I found myself today just sorting through some of my books, trying to reorganize my double-stacked bookcases and seeing what memories I had of those tomes and the stories told within.

Glancing at shelves where a Jorge Luis Borges sat beside an Angela Carter, or where China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer shared space with a Thomas Wolfe or an Ernest Heminway, a world of literatures encapsulated within a five-shelf bookcase in which there were no distinctions made by genre or even language. As I glanced at this seeming mélange of various fictions and non-fictions (and even Derrida's Of Grammatology, fittingly enough), I started to find myself lost in thought.

I wonder if there were a story out there, one told in a first (or perhaps even a second person view) of a world in which some of Borges's ideas on labyrinths had been explored. A story which utilized the wit of a Jane Austen or perhaps the deep sympathy of a Charles Dickens. A tale in which humor abounded, perhaps not like Terry Pratchett's satirical works, but mayhap more akin to that of a W. Somerset Maugham. Such a story, if it exists, might have the beautiful flow of a Gabriel García Márquez, with his magical butterflies and tragic tales of tenderness to be found in the arms of a humble whore, or maybe the polemic of an Upton Sinclair.

Surely such a historia exists, somewhere, if not in English, perhaps in Spanish, German, Latin, or another language known or unknown to myself and others. I envision such a tale to have something, that je ne sais quoi, that would spark a reaction from its reader. Perhaps this story is found in prose form, or in a poem, or maybe even within a song lyric. I do not know. But I am looking for it. Have you seen a story, whether it be long or short, rich or poor, happy or sad, or all of the above and then some? If so, please share that story (or stories) with this humble reader, as he is looking for a part of himself that seems to be missing, out there.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

You ask for too much and too little all at once.

Your question itself is intriguing. What are you asking of us? A story out there, a tale, a telling that contains the world in it... All stories that touch us have that, don't they, whether we see them as universal or not?

Are you asking us for the words, or the core, the heart of the telling? Perhaps they're indivisible.

Larry, dearest dearest king of all llamas, perhaps you need to find your own story - in rereads or new reads or in nothing that can be read. Perhaps that 'half-remembered mess' is in fact what you're looking for... and perhaps it's not.

[But I believe that the reading is not be melded by one pen into one large GUT story - that is the reader's task.]

There are many stories out there (bigger and better than the Truth). You are one of them, and I am another.

Mind you, you could just reread Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell and look at the pictures that don't fit the period, and breathe in the Austenesque Marquezianity of all that. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not entirely sure what you're asking. From what I understand, you're looking for an emotional punch to your reading, as well as some deep thought. Well, I must admit I am not as widely read as you, nor have I thought as much about what I read. But here's a few suggestions for those two criteria You may have read them before, but here's a reminder, at least.

Emotional stories (or ones containing strong emotion for me) were King's Dark Tower series, Babylon 5 (which was more like a book on TV than a TV show; make sure you watch the whole thing in order) Whedon's Firefly, Hobb's Farseer trilogy and Fool's Fate, "The Gulag Archipelago" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoyevsky, "Flyboys" (Can't remember the author - it's about WWII Navy pilots), some of the accounts of the battle for Iwo Jima, an island in the Pacific in WWII.

For stories that made me think: Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose, Animal Farm and 1984 by Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance", "Blue Like Jazz", and "Searching for God Knows What", all by Donald Miller, anything by John Piper. So there ya go. Enjoy, hopefully.

Mad Cow Bomber.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, Larry, The Song will be found. I will find it or another will find it and the world will be ...

Well, you get my point. I am not sure for what you search. Are you looking to once again feel involved in a story? Or emotionally moved and/or attached to a story? What you describe would almost be the ultimate story. It seems to me that perhaps in all your reading you have lost something. You have lost your innocence and ignorance of youth. With that, you have lost your sense of wonder. Or maybe you have just raised your standards.

I have two answers. One, keep searching. You will read some garbage and some works that somewhat satisfy your hunger. All you need to do is relax and remember that are on a great journey to explore the literary unknown. Will you ever find your compete story? I hope not, what would you do if you did?
Two, write it yourself. Perhaps the act of writing will allow you to find the work that you want. A piece of fiction that challenges the imagination, with beatuiful prose and draws and emotional response that borders on the supernatural. Even if it only does all of these things only for you, it will be worth it.

bme

Alric said...

Larry, you seem set upon a search for your own white wale. It's bound to be a journey mostly marked by frustration. One of the secrets to humanity is that you will never fill those empty places inside by looking outward. There is only one book that promises that kind of completion, and I think you know which one I'm talking about.

That being said, I don't think there exists that perfect novel that you're looking for, and I, for one, am happy that mine will be a life spent searching for it, maybe even trying my hand at it. Still, there are those authors who walk the line, constantly slipping between the shapes of the mundane and piecing together some of that "essence" which you are looking. It happens with Pynchon, Eco, Wolfe, Rushdie, Marquez, Borges, etc.

Art and literature is sort of a constant conversation, a redefining of terms and expectations. We inform them as they reingnite our own imaginations.

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