Published by Palimpsest in the blog Palimpsest's blog. Views: 132

Just finished reading Storycatcher, by Christina Baldwin. It's not too detailed on the technicalities of writing like plotting and character development and style, in fact it's not confined to writing at all. It's an exaltation of storytelling in any and all forms.

As the elders of unspecified tribes are quoted, "The story in English is not the story; and the story written is not the same as the dance." Cave paintings are put forth as the first journals. Around a bonfire, so-called primitive tribes put the criminals and traumatized child soldiers among them through psychotherapy by oral storytelling.

There's theories of the importance of storytelling: history, religion, evolutionary biology, anthropology... but these are interwoven with examples of the practice.

A grandmother writes of her family's legacy of alcoholism: "From where I sit, thirty-plus years sober, a woman in my late seventies, I can see three generations back and two generations forward..." A Dutch-African woman writes about the moments and reflections that built her identity, growing up in both lands. A stepmother of difficult children finds an "in" to correspondence and communication, when one leaves an open journal for her --turned to the page of his angry diatribe. The author herself shares an anecdote about the sleepy, grouchy, long line of people waiting for their coffee-- brought to enthusiasm and the-opposite-of-grouchiness, by her just asking the stranger next to her what his first memory is of coffee.

Having developed an inner editor who very badly wants to make public service announcements, I should have loved this book. But, while I found some tidbits really interesting, (who knew the "sympathetic protagonist, plot catalyst, trials and tribulations, turning point, resolution" organization came from Aristotle?) I found the content more maudlin than the floweriest of Diane Ackerman's stuff. It seemed more padded than powerful, and worst of all passive: only in the last few chapters does it seem to recognize that while "self-healing is a necessary foundation, the leap must be made to extend our healing into our actions in the world around us."

On the other hand, I like Ackerman sometimes. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood. :p

The prompts ought to appeal to a diarist, because the invite personal stories, but I felt intensely embarrassed. I ramble in diary entries, to get the clutter out. I plan articles and stories, even the semi-autobiographical short stories. This no-man's land of personal essay prompts that are both or neither... blah.
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