We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The talent to be a spell-binding storyteller is rare. I suspect that Homer was one of those talents. I have known a couple of talented story-tellers, but most people who try to tell a story just bore you unless it's less than two minutes long.
The ability to write down a story seems to be much more common. Film scripts, short stories, novels, plays are all constantly written but rarely published or performed. It seems to me that written stories do not need high-level wordsmithing to be successful, but high-level wordsmithing can turn the simplest story into art. Shakespeare, for example. Good plays and good TV scripts can do fine with simple conversational dialogue if the tale has a good engine and cool characters.
When I think of wonderful written storytelling with mediocre wordsmithing, I think of people like Tom Clancy and Robert Parker. When I think of extraordinary wordsmithing with uninteresting stories, I think of Updike. When I think of current transcendent prose, cosmic imagination, truthful expression, giant intelligence, knowledge, and life experience - and simple stories raised to the level of art, right now I think of Mark Helprin. Perhaps because I am in the middle of his collection of short stories, The Pacific and Other Stories.
Especially his story about Ralph, the possible baal shem tov, but the story about falling in love on the Staten Island ferry was soul-piercing too. Over the years, he has opened my eyes to many things which I will not recount now.
But back to story-telling. Much of TV writing is formulaic. It has to be. I think The Sopranos was brilliant TV, great story-telling. So was Downton Abbey even though that was more of a chick thing.
Here in MT we had a wonderful story teller, that is he was wonderful until the feminazis in the graduate writing program at the U of Washington got hold of him. Ivan Doig's first books were wonderful. During his graduate studies, his fans watched the smooth simple word flow turn into something contrived and jilted. Mr. Doig had begun life working as a free lancer for various magazines.
We did not know him personally, but wsaw him often in Seattle and over the years had several conversations with him--it was clear that the bending of soul necessary for a straight white man to survive, and to obtain a doctorate,was having it's effect on the craft. I know, I know he has been nominated for several awards and perhaps I should go back and start reading some of the most recent works. But he is one example of something strange happening when a fine author goes to school to refine his skills!
I have a close friend who tells great funny stories. And an older brother who tells great stories funny. Two styles, completely different. I enjoy and envy them both. It is truly a gift. Twain was a genius. Light years ahead of his time.
"Can the wordsmithing be taught? I dunno. I doubt it, given that the talent is rare and life is short."
And yet, the fools in the English Department destroy the love reading and literature for millions with their idiotic fiction writing in comp classes. Students should learn how to effectively write about reality which is what they need in life.
Ten, will be along shortly, to tell you how wrong you are. Or, perhaps, Zachriel, maybe even Bithers. They each seem to know and encompass all knowledge, explicitly. Though at times, it is hard to tell the difference between them.
Staying focused on verbal storytelling, even more rare, much more rare, than writing, would have been more interesting.
Do we even have examples of such today, verbal storytelling... well, other than our politicians?
Is Garrison Keillor our best example? If true that would be deadening.
It is less about the story being told today, and more about the decline in the ability of people to listen. Young adults have limited capacity to sit and hear what others are saying, they are either inattentive or interrupting in order to hear themselves speak. Everything in a sound bite. This world could use a little slowing down. So much is missed. Hectic is now commonplace.
Slow down smell some roses and spin a good yarn occassionally.
A childhood friend had a short first marriage w a child, and remained single for decades. She found a second husband via the Internet-really- and has been happily married for a decade. Both she and her husband are good storytellers. They can sit together for hours swapping stories.
There is something to be said for that X-factor. That something extra. The timing, the pace, the emphasis.
We have probably all seen the Who's on First routine - by the time that was filmed, they had worked, at it - hundreds of times on stage. Is that the same as teaching - could that be taught? I think to a point - but only some, or only sometimes to we get the right stuff.
I have a saved search for Elmore Leonard titles at my local library - when his works come available I am able to be notified.