Friday, October 24, 2008

Storytelling

Like I previously said, I've been reading The Hakawati in fits and starts, which is a problem for this book because it has so many characters and stories floating around that I get confused who is who and what's going on. But oh well.

This book is very much centered on storytelling - every section is an addition to some other tale, be it the storyline that's pushing us through the present, the story of how the grandfather came to be, memories of the narrator's childhood, an overarching myth of a slave named Fatima, or one of the many different stories within stories/myths/fables/fairytales that are told by one of the many hakawatis in the book. It's confusing at times, which can be off-putting, but because it's interesting enough, I forgive the author for the most part.

Anyway, I recently finished a chapter in which the grandfather, who is a known hakawati (or storyteller) is explaining his childhood, and how he studied legendary hakawatis before him for their techniques. He tells how two stories, told by two different hakawatis can be completely different.

And then he says:

"Do you know why I'm telling you this, Osama? It's because you should know that, no matter how good a story is, there is more at stake in the telling."
--[pg. 96, The Hakawati]


Rings so true, especially to a writer, right? I just finished taking a midterm where I babbled a little bit about why form is important, how form equals content, etc. And so this totally speaks to me. As writers, having a good story isn't enough. What makes a great book separate from a good book is in the telling. The technique. How we choose to craft it. Anyone can tell a story, but it's how that makes the story worth telling.

Just thought I'd bring that in.

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