Saturday, February 18, 2006

narrative & voice

our dear friends here at school had the incredibly bright idea of hosting an evening of oral interpretation of literature, where everyone comes to their house in the evening, brings a "theological beverage of choice" (meaning whatever they want to drink that may help them wax eloquent now and then...) and a scarf (to look scholarly and literary), and we read j.d. salinger's "franny & zooey." excellent. (they read the first half a few weeks ago but we couldn't be there.) (i think at least half of this post so far is in parentheses [but that makes it more fun, doesn't it? {or am i just a nerd like that?}])

anyway, so there were about 15 people in their little apartment living room, the lights were low, there was a podium with a reading lamp and a stool, and we took turns (by drawing names from a bowl) reading out loud to each other this story. it's amazing to me how oral tradition has been part of so many cultures before us--it's a part of the very fabric of our beings, i think--and yet we don't do it anymore. when was the last time you sat around reading out loud or intentionally telling a story to other people you don't know very well? (or people you do know well, for that matter!) in this culture we watch a lot of movies and tv, which are stories, but they don't often engage the imagination in the same way. you don't get to know the people you're with when you're watching a movie. there's no sense of intimacy or sharing any piece of yourself or having to be vulnerable. but with reading aloud you share an experience, you share part of yourself, your very voice, that which communicates who you are to the world, as you communicate another's text in your own interpretation.

storytelling is an art that's really pretty much lost on our culture. so it was cool to have the experience of coming together with people and enjoying the kind of community that's built from simply being together and sharing experiences on a dark winter's evening.

(going back to my topic from the other day about the popularity of blogs, i think maybe this is a key part of the reason--we're storytellers by nature, with no one with whom to share our stories...a sad and lonely society caught up in our pretense of perfection. but our humanity has its way of leaking through in the most unexpected places, even the technological world of the internet. hmm...)

photos courtesy of our new friend nolan.


Liz Opp said...

Some of my most memorable times with friends and family have been when I've offered or risked to suggest that we read passages from a favorite book or author.

Highlights of those "I-can-count-them-on-one-hand" times include:

My father reading a tender poem by William Auden--and openly talking about Auden's homosexuality.

A 12-year-old young Friend excitedly reading to me from her beloved science fantasy book of the week. She seemed so desperate to be given that sort of attention for something she loved.

My own reading from Abraham Joshua Heschel's Man's Quest for God, which gave me a forum to talk with my family about my spirituality and my hunger to have a relationship with God.

As you might be able to tell, I'm a fan of these sorts of events: I think they let us peek into one another's depths without imposing religion, values, or homework assignments on one another.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

cherice said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Liz. It's great to hear about the narrative tradition staying alive and being meaningful in other people's lives as well!