Two of the most-clicked posts on this blog have been Paul Holmer: How literature functions and Umberto Eco on theory and narrative. The common theme between the two might be that storytelling is not only necessary, but also of greater value than systematized and abstracted knowledge. Granted, the structure of Eco’s quotation seems to give priority to theorizing, but Holmer argues that humans learn more broadly and deeply from stories than from abstract or systematic knowledge.
So a quotation from James K.A. Smith’s book Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, found in this recent review, was a welcome addition to the theme:
“We were created for stories, not propositions; for drama, not bullet points.”
In this context, it’s probably worth remembering that beloved storyteller C.S. Lewis warned against systematizing the Bible.
Posted in Christian Humanism, common grace, literature, philosophy, story, storytelling, theology
Tagged books, bullet points, C.S. Lewis, drama, James K.A. Smith, narrative, Paul Holmer, philosophy, propositions, stories, storytelling, theory, Umberto Eco
Acclaimed author Walter Isaacson on the late, great writer Walker Percy:
“I had a friend of the family, an uncle of a friend, Walker Percy…
“He was a kindly gentleman. From his face you could tell he had known despair, but his eyes still smiled. And he had a lightly worn grace to him….
“He would say that two types of people came out of Louisiana, preachers and storytellers. He said, ‘For God’s sake, be a storyteller. The world’s got too many preachers.’
“He thought that too many journalists, and writers in general, feel they have to preach. He said it was best to do it the way the best parts of the Bible do, by telling a wonderful tale, and people will get the message on their own.”
I realize I’ve been guilty of preaching, too.
Posted in Christian Humanism, Humanities, literature, storytelling, Walker Percy, writers
Tagged Bible, journalists, preachers, storyteller, Walker Percy, Walter Isaacson, writers
“I don’t think Lewis was by any means a natural storyteller, and all of his fiction suffers to one degree or another from his shortcomings in this regard,” sayeth literary critic and distinguished humanities professor Alan Jacobs. “Every time he sat down to write a story he was moving outside the sphere of his strongest writerly gifts.” To get Jacobs’ full view on the matter, as well as a few words about storytelling differences between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, read the entire post here: “the problem of Lewis the storyteller – Text Patterns – The New Atlantis”.
Posted in book, C.S. Lewis, culture, fiction, literature, storytelling
Tagged Alan Jacobs, books, criticism, fiction, humanities, J.R.R. Tolkien, reading, writing
“They say language makes us human. That notion is being challenged as we discover that apes have language. Whales have language. I welcome them into our fold. I’m not threatened by them, quite frankly, because I think stories make us human. Only by telling them do we stay so.” — Jacqui Banaszynski, “Stories Matter,” in Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer’s Guide
I really love Telling True Stories and highly recommend it. Perhaps the book should have been subtitled A Narrative Nonfiction Writer’s Guide. I’m a MFA who focused on creative nonfiction, and I’ve found dozens of gems in Telling True Stories.
Last summer, when Nora Ephron died, I posted part of her contribution to the book. You can read an excerpt of her essay “What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters” here.
A ‘Saint’ in Mundane Clothing (Photo credit: Robert Burdock)
Anton Chekhov’s short fiction was undergirded by a spirituality and a morality that suggested what one critic called “internal blindness” — a blindness of the heart detected within the privileged characters of Chekhov’s short stories.
“And perhaps nothing is as tragicomic in our daily experience as that highly serious comedy of errors, moral and spiritual in character, constantly falsifying social relations and human intercourse…. Our own reciprocal misunderstandings are due not to material appearances or optical illusions, but to internal blindness.” — Renato Poggioli, “Storytelling in a Double Key,” an essay on Anton Chekhov’s short stories
Posted in communication, culture, literature, short fiction, short stories, spirituality, storytelling
Tagged Anton Chekhov, characters, Chekhov, communication, literature, morality, Renato Poggioli, spirituality, writing
Storytelling in the gaming world —
Games can now tell a story on par with your average film. Okay, that’s not saying much, but the medium has certainly come a long way since its humble roots. There is now a focus on delivering not only fun gameplay but also a deep and layered story. Sometimes the gameplay drives the game, its fun mechanics enticing gamers to play “just one more level.” Other times the story drives the game, its complex characters and plot drawing players in to play “until the next cutscene.”
Film writers are now getting in on the action. David S. Goyer, famous for helping write the Dark Knight trilogy and the latest Superman film Man of Steel, helped give the Call of Duty series a decent story in the two Black Ops installments. Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta is one of several people who brought the world of the Walking Dead
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While my six-year-old son screamed, Christ appeared to my eyes. The Lord was behind my son, bare feet on the asphalt beside the jackknifed bicycle, staring down at the boy. God’s punctured skin pulsed like tidal rivulets. Now on my son’s broken forehead, little snakes of red slithered downward. My hand moved in small degrees, as if through heavy petroleum, to my son’s face. Christ vanished. The bicycle tire still spun at a racer’s pace.
© 2012 Colin Foote Burch
Posted in art, Christianity, creative writing, culture, fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, spirituality, story, storytelling, writing
Tagged art, Christianity, faith, fiction, Jesus, parenting, religion, Short story, spirituality, writing