Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The storyteller's work
Brian Lanahan sent me this exchange between Bill Moyer and Oregon writer Barry Lopez, part of an interview from Moyer's final show.
BARRY LOPEZ: I was in Japan. I was with a novelist, a man named Kazumasa Hirai. And everywhere I've gone in the world, I've said-- he was a storyteller, you know? We call him a novelist. But he was just a storyteller. He's like me.
And I would ask him or anybody I was with, "What do you mean when you say you're a storyteller? What do you do?" Because I want to know what I'm listening for is, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we can talk about the structure. I'm not interested in structure of sentences. What I want to know is who how do you know how to behave? How do you know what to do as a person for other people? How do you know? What do you do?"
BILL MOYERS: As a storyteller?
BARRY LOPEZ: As a storyteller.
BILL MOYERS: Right.
BARRY LOPEZ: And Kazumasa San said to me, "Your work is to take care of the spiritual interior of the language." And he said in Japanese this word we use, kotodama, means that each word has within it a spiritual interior. The word is like a vessel that carries something ineffable. And you must be the caretaker for that. You must be careful when you use language to look at every part of the word and make sure that you're showing respect for it in the place that you've given it to live in the sentence.
But I see all of us engaged in the same thing. And that is the invention of the story. And the story to me is the brilliance of storytelling is that it's the only and the best protection we have against forgetting.
I think, what is at the core of every story. I mean, how many novels have you put down and said to yourself, "Oh, I never knew that." Mostly you know it all, but you forget it. And you close a book and you say, "I knew that, but I'd forgotten it. And I am so glad to be reminded of what I intend to do and who I am. And what-- and how I want to conduct myself in the world."