4 thoughts on “We All Tell Stories

  1. I really love the idea writing towards what we want to know, rather than what we already know.

    And the idea of the writing voice, predicated by those that came before us. And it’s only by reading and reading and reading, that we let those voices seep into our skin and shape our own.

    This is one of the best things I’ve seen here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I was unbelievably fortunate to get to spend three days in the fall with Colum McCann as part of my assistantship in grad school. We brought him in for a reading and some workshops and stuff. I got to ply him with wine one night and talk his head off until the sun rose about stories. The next night he returned the favor, buying me and everyone else Jameson whiskey until two hours after the bar closed. He’s a remarkable, fun, brilliant guy.

    Took away from him two major things:

    1. “I don’t live in the world as a writer. I don’t carry around a notebook and pen and scribble things down. I become a writer when I get back to my keyboard, and I build my story from my memories and my imagination.”

    2. You may or may not know this, but before he became a novelist, he was one of Ireland’s greatest young journalists. He quit that to get into fiction. Now, he says, “Journalism is wonderful, and I loved it, but literature lives longer. You can work months on a journalism piece and it be largely forgotten in three weeks. But literature has the chance to last forever.”

    I’ve always thought about writing more fiction. Being around him made me wish I’d been writing it all this time. But being around him and reading his books also taught me so much about storytelling, so much about language, and made me realize I still have so far to go.

    My point is: dude’s a great writer, which may be obvious; what took me by surprise a bit was that he was also a really great guy.

  3. After watching the video, I definitely want to read McCann. He seems like the kind of writer I love the most.

    That said, I think I have to take issue with No. 2 in Brandon’s post. I think we sell journalism short when we say, oh well, it will never live as long as literature, so what’s the point? I don’t even buy the fact that literature lives longer, or that great journalism isn’t literature. There are a lot of novelists who write very good fiction. They spend years honing a single book, and then it is released and almost instantly it’s forgotten by the vast majority of people. I guess what I’m asking is, for whom is literature living longer for?

    I look at my fiction shelves and see a couple of novels that have really impacted me. O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Auster’s “The City of Glass.” Those are the two that stand out, the two novels that I think about from time to time, that I read over and over.

    Then I look at the huge pile of newspaper and magazine stories I’ve collected over the last four or five years. If I read something great, I print it out and it goes in the pile. That pile has things like “Final Salute” and “Kennel Trash” and “The Girl in the Window” and “The Boy who Died of Football.” It’s got “She was reported missing but never left home” and “A Brevard woman disappeared but never left home.” The pile has “Pearls Before Breakfast” and “Fatal Distraction.” In this pile I see stories that I think about almost on a daily basis. They have changed the way I think about the world as much as Tim O’Brien’s books. For me, the journalism will live a far more meaningful life than just about any novel that has or has yet to be written.

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